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Ryerson Station State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania has camping, hiking, swimming, and fishing, but is currently under construction with the lake drawn down.
If you plan to do more than hike, please contact the park at 724-428-4254 or visit their website to see how far along their projects are.
We visited this park on a day trip during Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, so all of the buildings, restrooms, offices, and campgrounds were closed.
We were the only car in the parking lot that day, and even the playground and pavilions were caution-taped off.
History & Location
Ryerson Station State Park is located in Greene County, close to the West Virginia Border.
The park is about an hour and 15 minute drive from the city of Pittsburgh.
Fair warning: it is DEEP, and I mean DEEP, in the heart of the natural gas and fracking country. We passed at least 50 water tankers and 10 giant trucks carrying various well pad equipment on our drive to the park. We also passed a lot of small businesses that have cropped up from the industry, whether they are heavy equipment and truck dealers or just small patches of property being used as temporary storage areas for pipes and other machinery.
It was sad to see all of this industry growth with so little attention paid to maintaining any of the natural beauty of the area. There was a lot of trash along the sides of the roads, and many of the roads were in very serious disrepair- some closed to just one lane of intermittent traffic.
As for the history of the park, the area it sits on changed hands many times in the 1700s between various Indians, European colonists, the British, Maryland, and Virginia, before finally becoming a part of Pennsylvania. Ryerson Fort (no one’s sure how it became Ryerson Station) was used until the late 1700s by rangers patrolling the area for Indians.
Ryerson State Park opened in 1967, complete with campground, lake, and dam; however, the lake is currently drawn because of safety issues with the dam. The park has also added a swimming pool and picnic pavilions.
When it is open, the Campground has 46 sites (22 with electric, 7 dog-friendly, 6 with full hookups) and bathrooms with warm showers. They also have 2 camping cottages and 3 deluxe camping cottages.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Campground was closed, so we were not able to scope the best spot or cabin this time around – or confirm the showers had timer buttons! – but you can check out the Campground Map for yourself.
Trails & Wildlife
Ryerson Station State Park has about 13 miles of trails to hike.
We tackled the ones nearest to the large parking lot in the Maple Grove Day Use Area, shown in the upper right of this map snippet:
To the right of the small bridge leading into this part of the park, we were unnerved to see a giant compressor station operating right next to the state park. But, onward.
We started on Fox Feather Trail and made our way onto Lazear Trail to make a loop.
Hiking was extremely smushy (read: dirty paws), as it had rained the past few days, and some parts of the trail had makeshift creeks alongside them.
About a quarter-mile after we passed the break for Tiffany Ridge, there was a large tree felled across Lazear with a note on it that said “THIS AREA CLOSED”.
We returned to Tiffany Ridge Trail and combined it with Orchard Trail to return to finish our loop on Lazear. Unfortunately, along most of Tiffany Ridge, we could hear the roar of the compressor station we mentioned earlier.
Overall, it was about 3 to 3 1/2 miles of gently rolling uphill and downhill- slightly noisy, but not too strenuous and easy for the dogs to navigate.
This was chilly spring hiking, so we all had on a few layers and made Hazel sport her snazzy plaid jacket.
As far as wildlife, we saw many deer as they hightailed away from Franklin and Hazel, who were frantic once they got the scent of deer nearby.
Ryerson Station State Park did not disappoint with the early spring mushrooms! Here are a few gems we spotted:
We also came across a bunch of moss-covered logs that were loosely in the shape of a stick figure.
Pit Stop: Gene and Boots Candy Store
Gene and Boots Candy is located on Route 51 near Perryopolis and was on our way home from Ryerson Station State Park.
All of Pennsylvania’s non-essential businesses will be closed starting on Monday because of COVID-19, and we know small businesses like Gene and Boots will suffer tremendously.
The sign on their door this weekend said that only 6 people were allowed in at the same time- when typically the store would be jumping because it’s almost Easter…all those chocolate bunnies!
Remember your local small businesses during this time if you are able to, and shop online with them if you can. Gene and Boots has plenty delish treats to choose from!
The Last Word
Unless you are looking for a just a quick hike in the area, you may want to wait until Ryerson Station State Park has finished more of their projects before visiting.