Looking to visit Oil Creek State Park? Read on for the best things to see and do in the park and how to maximize your visit!
Visiting Oil Creek State Park
This post focuses mostly on trails in Oil Creek State Park. If you’re looking for more history, check out Jim Cheney’s post about the best things to do in the park.
As always, follow the principles of leave no trace when you're exploring the wonderful trails of Pennsylvania! Pack out all trash, stay on trail, and leave it better than you found it. For more information, check out the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
Hiking In Oil Creek State Park
Oil Creek State Park is home to the Gerard Hiking Trail. This 36 mile loop goes encompasses the park and is marked by yellow blazes. Most of the hiking to visit the below waterfalls was on the Gerard Trail. It has many spurs and connector trails. The trail was named after state park volunteer Ray Gerard, who developed most of the trail in the 1970s. The Gerard Trail is also a great backpacking trail! To learn more and find other places to backpack, check out my post on the Best Backpacking in Western Pennsylvania.
There are two camping areas off this trail – Cows Run and Wolfkiel. Each area has six shelters, accommodating, tent areas, plus restrooms. Reservations must be made to use the shelters and tent areas. For more information on the trail, visit the Friends of Oil Creek State Park site.
Don’t worry! AllTrails has some shorter loops of the Gerard Trail for those who don’t want to have an extended hike. For your best experience, get AllTrails Pro and download the maps. I also highly recommend getting a park map from the ranger station.
- Geology, Forestry, and Wetland Trails Loop – 2.5 miles
- Lower Eight Loop – 8.9 miles
- Drake Loop – 4.9 miles
Oil Creek was a dream for hiking. Even though we visited on a holiday weekend, we saw very few other people. It was a little muddy in parts, but overall very well-marked and well maintained trails.
Looking to visit more Pennsylvania State Parks? Check out my post listing all of my PA State Park guides for tips on visiting some of my favorites!
Waterfalls in Oil Creek State Park
Did you know that you can visit three waterfalls in Oil Creek by hiking under six miles? (You do need to drive between trailheads). In only a couple of hours, we visited three waterfalls!
Plum Dungeon Falls
This waterfall is definitely in the running for one of the weirdest waterfall names! You can’t see these falls close up, as you’re at the edge of a ravine looking about 100 yards away. This was still a short enough hike (1.8 round trip) that I thought it was worth it to visit the falls.
This was the only hike of the three that was a loop, which was a nice change from the out and backs. I would say this was also the weakest of the waterfalls. Even though there was a decent amount of water, this is just a pretty small waterfall. But if you want to do all three, it’s such a short hike you might as well! Note: The offshoot of the Gerard trail to see Millers Falls is small and not blazed at all. Be careful not to lose the trail! (Though if you do, you can just backtrack to your car and end up with a 3ish mile hike instead).
This was my favorite of the three. Unlike Plum Dungeon, you walk right up to the top of the falls. There is a small bridge going over the falls and you can look down onto the cascading water. Apparently these falls don’t run very well when it’s been dry but we visited after a lot of rain. The tradeoff was that the trail to the falls was often more mud than trail.
There was one additional waterfall on the park map that I did not visit – Boughton Falls. However, given the trail reviews, I am glad we skipped this one as it seems to be a lackluster falls.
Other Activities in the Park
The creek is rated as a beginners creek for those interested in learning how to safely use canoes and kayaks. It is also popular with fisherman, as Oil Creek has both bass and trout.
The park is open to hunting. Hunters must follow the rules of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Hunting of groundhogs is prohibited.
Frequently Asked Questions About Oil Creek
About Oil Creek State Park
Oil Creek State Park sits on 6,250 acres in Venango County, Pennsylvania. The valley is the site of the world’s first commercial oil well. The park follows Oil Creek, between Titusville and Oil City, and is on Pennsylvania Route 8.The park contains a museum, three tableau, and trails to help visitors understand the history of the oil industry there. The park also features an excursion train.
How to Get to Oil Creek State Park
Oil Creek State Park is about 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Pittsburgh, 2.5 hours from Cleveland, and 80 minutes from Erie.
I highly, highly recommend visiting the park office first to pick up a map. There was zero cell reception in any piece of the park. I had downloaded all the trail maps off AllTrails (the Pro version was worth it for this trip) and we would have struggled to get around without the paper map from the ranger office. And you need to go there anyway to get the sticker for your PA State Park Passport!
When is the best time to visit Oil Creek State Park?
The best time to visit depends on what you’re looking to get out of the park. If, like me, you want to visit waterfalls, then you will need to go when the water is flowing. The best time to visit to see water would be late spring, after a rainfall. This park was not busy at all. We visited the Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend and only saw about six other people total. If you don’t like crowds, this is the park for you!
Are dogs allowed in Oil Creek State Park?
Yes, dogs are allowed in Oil Creek State Park, but must be on a leash. Since a lot of the trails here have steep cliffs and overhangs, I highly recommend only bringing your pet if they are well behaved (and won’t drag you over a cliff!)
What state parks are close to Oil Creek?
Oil Creek doesn’t have a partner park like some of the other parks do. However, I visited Oil Creek during a weekend when I also visited Cook Forest and Clear Creek. Maurice Goddard State Park is about 50 minutes to the west of Oil Creek or Chapman State Park is a little over an hour east. If you’re coming up to Oil Creek from Pittsburgh, you could always visit McConnells Mill or Moraine on the way up or back.
If you, like me, are trying to visit all the Pennsylvania State Parks, I recommend staying in Knox, PA and doing Cook Forest, Clear Creek, and Oil Creek all in one visit. It is possible to do all three in two days.
Have you visited Oil Creek State Park? What did you like best about it?
Updated June 10, 2023