09/15/2013 | Sara DiBello
Just north of Pittsburgh are beautiful rolling hills and refreshing opportunities. Butler County, Pennsylvania is easily accessed via the PA Turnpike, I-79, I-80 and Routes 422, 19 and 8. Discover Moraine State Park, a 16,725-acre hot spot for activity. During autumn, take in the crisp breeze and the colorful scenery during a cruise on the Nautical Nature pontoon boat. Moraine has a 3,225-acre lake, great for sailing, swimming, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. You can experience a plethora of land activities as well, including biking, bird watching, disc golf, geocaching and hiking. By the way, the disc golf course is exceptional!
If you prefer a more passive experience, a relaxing picnic by the lake is always an excellent option. The North Country Trail, the country’s longest National Scenic Trail, winds throughout the county and through Moraine. You’ll find beautiful wooded landscapes blazed with blue to mark the trail. Moraine State Park also has one of the top most technical mountain bike trails in the world! For fishermen — and women — you can expect to find northern pike, largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, bluegill, muskellunge, walleye, channel catfish and hybrid striped bass. You can even borrow fishing equipment if it’s not in use for an educational program. In fact, you don’t need to bring your own equipment for many activities. You can rent a bike or even a boat!
Sports enthusiasts love Butler County because there are golf courses galore! Beginners and pros alike find courses to give them a fun challenge. Racing fans will love Lernerville Speedway, one of the best tracks in the entire country for DIRTcars! The great thing about Butler County is that it’s not far from Pittsburgh. If you want to see the big leagues — Penguins, Steelers, Pirates — it’s just a 20-minute drive from Cranberry Township. Cranberry has tons of hotel options, and you don’t have to worry about the stress or cost of parking. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you busy.
One restaurant you’ll definitely want to include during your trip is North Country Brewing Company in Slippery Rock. From amazing food to craft brews and an atmosphere too cool for words, “The Brewery” has won over the hearts of many. On the menu, you’ll find some offbeat items like frog legs and elk burgers. Ingredients are locally-sourced and tasty as can be. Oh, and did I mention beer?! You can even take home a really nifty-looking growler. And there’s homemade root beer for the kids.
If your taste buds are craving some fair treats, you’re in luck. Numerous fall festivals fill the local calendar and offer fun for your whole family. Several farms offer hayrides and let you pick your own pumpkin straight out of the field! The Portersville Steam Show is something you won’t find anywhere else, featuring a Vintage Village, flea market, homemade ice cream and antique steam equipment.
Another way to enjoy the rustic autumn scenery is the Butler County Barn Trail. This drive-it-yourself tour features more than a dozen of the area’s most interesting barns. Each barn has a unique history and the backroads leading you to them are so gorgeous in the fall. You could also follow the Washington’s Trail drive-it-yourself tour. This tour leads you in the direction our first president traveled when he was only 21 years old. The Washington’s Trail brochure outlines the path of this dangerous mission, providing interesting history all along the way. This trail is also a wonderful idea to take in the fall.
Butler County’s history also includes the birth of the Jeep. Thousands of “Jeepers” make a homecoming journey each year over Father’s Day weekend to celebrate that fact at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival. Fan favorites include the off-road trails at Cooper’s Lake Campground and the mud pit, which is a blast for Jeepers and spectators alike. The event also includes a Little Jeepers Playground for the kids, a history exhibit and a WWII encampment. It’s a great way to pay tribute to our forefathers and learn more about the vehicle that represents American troops.
Now that you have all of these ideas, you’re going to need a place to stay! Camping is one option. You can choose to “rough it” in a secluded campground or relax in a cabin with modern amenities. Most of the campgrounds in Butler County offer a ton of scheduled activities and fun opportunities for the whole family. For those who don’t do camping, there are a lot of great hotel options — full-service, pet-friendly, some with swimming pools, some with free breakfast.