All of Armstrong County lies entirely within the Western Allegheny Plateau (Pittsburgh Low Plateau) section of the Appalachian Forest ecoregion. Enjoy EXPLORE-ing these wonderful places.
Location: Ford City, PA
Description: Crooked Creek Lake Recreation Area is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers administered site surrounding Crooked Creek Lake. The reservoir was created by the construction of the Crooked Creek Dam.
There are numerous hiking trails and several interpretive trails at Crooked Creek Lake. One interpretive trail focuses on upland plants and animals, while another is designed to give the visitor exposure to a variety of songbirds. The Shrub Swamp Trail, located in the Outflow Recreation Area, provides a gentle walk along the outflow of Crooked Creek Lake and provides a great opportunity to see a wide variety of birds, flowers, and wildlife.
The 141-mile-long Baker Trail passes through the Crooked Creek Lake recreation area. Armstrong County’s premiere hiking trail, the Baker Trail, extends from Freeport, Armstrong County to the Allegheny National Forest. This hiking trail follows forest paths, old jeep trails, and dirt roads through woods, game lands, and farmlands and is marked by yellow blazes. 18 miles of the trail share a footpath with the North Country Scenic Trail. The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy maintains this hiking trail.
Armstrong Trail south of Templeton:
Location: Templeton, PA
Description: The Armstrong Trail south of Templeton was created on a railroad bed paralleling the Allegheny River, passing between a steep wooded hillside and a large wetland complex. The north-facing wooded slope contains a rich plant assemblage characteristic of a sugar maple-basswood forest. The large trees and north-facing aspect of the slope provide a cool moist habitat that supports a rich spring wildflower community. Among the rich diversity of plants at this location is a large population of the PA-threatened plant species of concern, harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa). This small, delicate plant is one of the earliest-blooming wildflowers in Pennsylvania, with the flowers generally appearing from March into early April. The Templeton parking area for the Armstrong trail is at mile marker 53.9.
From turkeys, turkey vultures, tiny finches to majestic bald eagles, Armstrong Trails provides the opportunity to see and study dozens of native bird species. In 2020, several eagle nests were spotted, keep an eye to the sky.
Location: New Bethlehem, PA
Description: Owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mahoning Creek Lake is situated among steep-sided valleys and forested hillsides. There are wondrous views along forested pathways and small inlets along the lake’s shoreline.
Canoeists, fishermen and persons using small boats will appreciate the more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere that is characteristic of the lake and upstream sections of the creek. Boaters will especially enjoy floating Mahoning Creek as it meanders in the steep-sided valleys on its way toward the Allegheny River, and exploring the small inlets of the lake.
Mahoning Creek Lake is blessed with clean water and a varied, thriving fish population. In addition to trophy-sized pike, anglers will find abundant walleye, muskie, channel catfish, crappie and bass inhabiting the lake.
Location: Armstrong County, PA
Description: Keystone Lake comprises 850 acres stretching 5.5 miles and is the largest lake in Armstrong County. The lake contains shallows and wetlands, and gets as deep as 90 feet. The northern end of the lake has emergent vegetation that provides suitable breeding habitat for wetland birds including species of concern, Sora (Porzana carolina), and Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola). Both of these secretive species return in the spring to use wetlands with cattails and other emergent vegetation for breeding. Virginia Rails and Soras build nests over the water supported by wetland vegetation, while the shallow areas are used for foraging for seeds and invertebrates.
Keystone Lake provides an excellent warm water fishery with large and small mouth bass, walleye, musky, perch, crappies, bluegills, sunfish, and trout (stocked).
Location: Kiski Township, PA
Description: The Roaring Run Recreation Area (RRRA), consists of 650 acres of former coal mining land and an abandoned railroad. It now includes 7 miles of rails-to-trails and 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. The Blast Furnace trail winds through Roaring Run valley and joins with the Kiski-Conemaugh trail at the confluence of Roaring Run and the Allegheny.
A native grass wildflower meadow was completed on 15 acres of the reclaimed coal wasteland area. 10,000 starter tree shoots, including a number of 95% American chestnut, and other hardwoods were planted adjacent to the meadow. The Indiana bat and Pennsylvania fence skink, as well as bald eagles, coyotes, black bear and blue heron can be found.
A canoeing/kayaking launch for Kiskiminetas River access is located at the Roaring Run trailhead. The Kiskiminetas River makes up the entire southern border of Armstrong County. The Kiski is a great destination for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. It is now officially designated as a key link in the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Mainline Canal Greenway.