A network of short trails here makes it easy to get as much—or as little—hiking as you want before heading to the lake. The reservoir was built more than 75 years ago, to prevent flooding in the Allegheny River Basin, including Pittsburgh. It’s managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, but it still functions much like a state park, with camping, boating, hiking, swimming, and even a nine-hole disc golf course.
Want a short, kid-friendly hike? Head to the Laurel Point Trail, a 2.5-mile loop on the south shore of the lake. (There are even shorter loops for toddlers.) For a longer outing, do an out-and-back trek on the Baker Trail. This lesser-known trail extends 134 miles, from Freeport to the Allegheny National Forest, crossing public and private property on a combination of singletrack, doubletrack, and paved roads.
It’s easy to access Baker Trail from the Spillway Area parking lot. Head northeast on Crooked Creek Dam Road and keep an eye out for Baker Trail signs. Yellow blazes mark the trail. Follow it past lake views and, at mile three, arrive at a covered bridge built for the trail. This is a good turnaround point, as continuing farther heads into a more residential area.
Whatever route you take, head to Paradise Beach after hiking. The beach is clean, often empty, and there’s a large population of great blue herons in the area.
Crooked Creek Lake is an hour from most of Pittsburgh. The fastest way (usually) is to head up PA 28 to 488 East and then PA 66 south to Crooked Creek Dam Road.
Heading out of the park, keep an eye out for Ryan’s Creekhouse. This huge, timber-framed building houses 72 taps, plenty of seating, and a giant menu. It’s worth stopping just to admire the massive Douglas fir beams and old-school construction.