Trip Report: Kooser State Park in Pennsylvania
By Jill & Russ on April 26, 2020
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Kooser State Park in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania offers a great introduction to hiking and camping because of its small, manageable size.
Unlike our visit to Ryerson Station State Park a few weeks ago when we were the only car in the parking lot, there were a small group of people fishing on the main lake and on the lower trail and a few families hiking.
History & Location
Kooser State Park is located in Somerset, Pennsylvania, right in the middle of the Laurel Highlands and just a few miles from Seven Springs and Hidden Valley Mountain Resorts.
The park covers 250 acres, and began as privately owned land that was sold to a lumber company. When the lumber dried up in 1920, the state bought it back and made it part of Forbes State Forest.
In the ’30s, Civilian Conservation Corps stepped in to create the lake, picnic areas, and campground along the beautiful Kooser Run creek in the park, before the state finally took over in the early 1960s.
Besides hiking and camping, you can also enjoy fishing at Kooser State Park.
We had our very first weekend RV trip at Kooser State Park (and another one since then), but this is what it looks like right now amidst the COVID-19 mitigation efforts:
On the day we visited, the state had plans to reopen May 14, but please check the park’s main page to get updates.
This visit was for hiking only. The park office, restrooms, campgrounds, and cabins were closed, and there were social distancing signs posted on the bulletin areas.
We decided to hike into the campground to re-visit our first RV weekend campsite ever on foot, and had Franklin and Hazel strike a pose.
Our first spot was at Site 12E, which is smack-dab in the middle of the park. We liked the openness of this spot and also recommend any site from 14–26.
Speaking of Franklin and Hazel, the whole campground is pet-friendly and has 35 sites (28 are electric). There are 9 rustic cabins, and 2 of those are pet-friendly, too.
There is one main bath house with hot showers that DO NOT have timer buttons (applause! applause!).
Trails & Wildlife
You are not going to hike your life away at Kooser State Park.
There are only two trails that total a mere 1.5 miles… but they are really dog- and family-friendly!
You can also walk to and around the lake area, but you’ll still only clock in at around 3 miles or so for the day- but you won’t mind.
Kincora Trail takes you up and around the middle of park, fitting in a nice uphill and gradual downhill to get your blood flowing.
We saw different wildflowers in bloom, including this Yellow Trout Lilly.
And, of course, I scoped a few wild mushrooms along this trail, too.
At the end of Kincora Trail, we made our way to the lake and then wrapped back around onto Tree Army Trail.
But not before stopping to scale the hillside to pick up some litter! 3 Rivers Outdoor Company has been having a social media contest encouraging its followers to pick up litter in local parks, and we weren’t missing an opportunity for an entry!
Stepping onto Tree Army Trail, you get some gorgeous views of clear, cool Kooser Run.
Tree Army Trail winds right along Kooser Run, making for a perfect sipping — or wading, depending on the weather — opportunity for your dogs!
In its short distance, Tree Army Trail has some really impressive scenery — especially during springtime as everything comes to life!
Hazel even managed to fit in a quick game of hide and seek.
While you won’t get in the mileage you might at other parks, if you connect these two trails using the main park road, you’ll create a giant, scenic loop for yourself.
The Last Word
These are crazy times, and even though we need to social distance and stay close to home, we appreciate having beautiful state parks nearby to hike and bike through. Thank you to those keeping our state parks in working order!
We hope to see you around a campfire soon!
This can’t go on forever. Maybe get started planning your next Pennsylvania State Park adventure!
Some parks were made for social distancing. Like this one.