Camping at Keystone Lake

Photo: Keystone State Park

Explore the low-key western PA state park that offers lakeside campsite options galore with outdoor activities for all.

Looking for an unassuming, family-friendly gem as your next go-to camping spot? 

Keystone State Park, just under an hour east of Pittsburgh, offers a low-stress outing with maximal return. Named for the now defunct Keystone Coal and Coke Company, Keystone Lake was used to wash bituminous coal and quench coke for Pittsburgh steel production in the early 20th century. Remnants of this industrial past can still be found in the 1,200-acre park today at the James A. Kell Visitors Center (formerly the coal company’s hunting lodge), which features mining artifacts and historical displays. 


Keystone State Park offers an extensive menu of overnight options from tent and RV sites to cottages, cabins and yurts, most with at least one ADA-accessible site. Each overnight option is within view of the lake, with the exception of the Hillside Campground (tent/RV) which is tucked slightly farther back—more remote by design, for those camping with pets.

The 100 tent/RV campsites are typical crushed gravel affairs with a fire ring, picnic table and a place to park a vehicle. The trio of camping cottages sleep five a piece, offer electricity, heat, a fire ring and picnic table. A pair of yurts can sleep up to five and offer guests electricity, stove, microwave, refrigerator, and heat and in addition to the ubiquitous fire ring and picnic table. Each of these overnight options lack running water and internal plumbing, but are a short walk to modern bathhouses and potable water.

For those wanting a bit more of a home while away from home, 11 year-round modern cabins offer all the amenities one might expect (think: running water, full bathroom, kitchen, stove, refrigerator), though bedding, flatware, utensils and other kitchen appliances are not included. See pricing, details and reservations at

Photo: Keystone State Park

On the Water

Boating is permitted for non-motorized and electric-only watercraft on the 78-acre Keystone Lake. A readily accessible and well-maintained Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission boat launch requires watercraft users to have proper permits, which can be obtained at Visitors can also rent single or double kayaks, standup paddleboards, plus (electric) motorized and non-motorized rowboats and canoes from Two Dam Kayak Rentals, located in the boat concession building, which also provides live bait, tackle, ice, firewood, drinks, snacks and sundry camping supplies.

A designated swimming area and sandy beach in the northeast corner of the lake is open from late May to early September—ideal for families with young children. While food and pets are not permitted on the beach, the concession is nearby with both hot and cold treats.

Keystone Lake, despite its relatively small size, is home to many warm-water fish species including largemouth bass, crappie, tiger muskellunge, perch and various species of catfish. It is also stocked with trout throughout the year. 

While fishing is not permitted near the boat launch or swimming areas, both of which are on the north side of the lake, the south shore and the space between the two restricted areas have an abundance of overhanging cover, brush and downed trees for anglers to peruse. A valid Pennsylvania fishing license (available at Public Lands) is required for anyone over the age of 16. More Info:

Hike and Learn

Some 8 miles of easy hiking trails take visitors through a spectrum of habitats from abandoned beaver dens, to conifer tunnels, wetlands, mature hardwoods, and Keystone Coal and Coke Co. building remnants. An abandoned mine drainage (AMD) treatment system is in place below the lake’s eastern dam, near McCune Run. A self-guided tour explains the various stages of the rehabilitation system which allows visitors the opportunity to see the cleanup efforts in effect.

Worthy Stops Nearby

The small city of Greensburg, Pa., lies a short drive south of Keystone State Park and is worth an afternoon, or more. 

White Rabbit Cafe and Patisserie - Fuel up on coffee and pastries at this quirky cafe. Enjoy any one of their handmade sweet or savory pastries and wash it down with a locally roasted brew. If coffee isn’t your thing, they have a plentiful selection of tea and soda options as well.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art - With a permanent collection spanning American art from pre-Revolution to present day, this small yet exhaustively comprehensive museum punches well above its weight. Admission is free, though donations are welcome.

El Diablo Brewing Company - Unwind with a cold pint of crafted brew or a glass of wine and enjoy a near-gourmet wood-fired pizza, made to order.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.