Set an FKT: How to Run Around Racoon Creek State Park...Fast!

Want to know how to set an FKT? 

Check out Brynn Cunningham's mile-by-mile breakdown for running around Racoon Creek State Park to set a new record.

Before you try and run an FKT, you need to do a little planning...

Here's the data I gathered about Racoon Creek State Park before attempting to set an FKT record:

  • Date: Sunday, July 17, 2022
  • Distance: 19.72-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 3,704  feet
  • Elevation loss: equal to gain
  • Weather: The morning after an all-night thunder and lightning storm, cloudy, spurts of rain, 70s
  • Style: Unsupported, solo female
  • Trail conditions: Wet and slick with vegetation spilling into the narrow single-track and lots of thick spider webs across the trail - I was soaking wet and covered in webs afterward.
  • Recommended: Yes 
On July 17, 2022, Brynn Cunningham set a Fastest Known Time record running around Racoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania.

Where to Park, Start and Finish:

The route starts and ends at the Raccoon Creek State Park office just off of Rt. 18 on Cabin Road.

The office and parking area are visible from the road.

It’s the same parking area where visitors park to hike the popular Mineral Springs Loop (not part of the FKT) to the Frankfort Mineral Springs and grotto, which my family and I did the day before. 

The Racoon Creek State Park Loop in Pennsylvania is 19.72 miles long with 3,704 feet of elevation gain.

Miles Zero to One:

At around 9 a.m., at the edge of the parking lot, I:

  • Started the GAIA app
  • Put my phone in its protective plastic baggie, 
  • Stowed the phone in my pack
  • Said goodbye to Eric, my husband, and our sons
  • Started my Garmin watch
  •  And took off.  

From Cabin Road:

  • Turn left onto Route 18 
  • Run for a quarter mile or less
  • Turn right onto Forest Trail

As I turned onto Forest Trail, I quickly arrived at a three-way intersection with a sign for Lake Loop and one for Forest Trail.

Groggy from one hour of sleep, I misread the well-marked signs and took the wrong trail down a small hill to Lake Loop. 

Immediately realizing the mistake, I bolted back up to Forest Trail, adding on very little distance, perhaps merely five minutes, of wasted time and needless trail. 

Within half a mile, an Eastern Box Turtle sat at the edge of the single-track trail. 

Normally in a race or Fastest Known Time speed attempt, I wouldn’t be caught dead taking photos. 

But I was tired, had no time to beat since I was going for the first ever female record, and really love turtles.

Eastern Box Turtle, a half mile into the Raccoon Creek State park Loop Fastest Known Time on Forest Trail. (Photo/ author)

Miles One to Two:

Forest Trail stayed true to form, a smooth dirt, narrow path, wet and a bit slick from the previous night’s storm but manageable and not sloppy.   

By 1.5 miles, another Eastern Box Turtle was waddling down the trail.

Eastern Box Turtle, at about mile 1.5 into the Forest Trail, the second turtle sighting of the FKT. (Photo/ author)

Miles Two to Four:

 Forest Trail meandered along, rolling with short downhills and short uphills, through a thick, green forest, with rain-soaked vegetation leaning into the trail just enough to soak my legs, shorts, socks and shoes.

Miles Four to Five:

Forest Trail comes out onto a paved road, which runs along one side of Raccoon Lake for about a mile. 

Signs reading something like “Forest Trail Follows Roadway”  guide runners in the correct direction.

Miles Five to Eight:

After leaving the pavement, runners enter Heritage Trail, which has some wider sections than Forest along with interspersed pine stands.   

Trail markers guide visitors along the Racoon Creek State Park Trail.

Miles Eight to Nine:

At about 8.5 miles, runners will cross Route 18 at another Mineral Springs Loop parking lot, which is just a minute or two down the road from the start/finish area. After running through the parking lot, a climb takes runners above the Frankfort Mineral Springs (not visible from the trail). 

Miles Nine to 11:

 The terrain turns a bit rougher on this portion of Heritage Trail. One rock garden stands out here, with some wider yet more technical terrain. The creek crossings begin. I crossed ankle-deep streams and creeks so many times that I lost count.  

By now, with the innumerable creek crossings and sopping-wet vegetation, my shoes were water-logged and squishy. 

Miles 11 to 12:

The trail takes on an uphill/downhill pattern, and then travels along a creek, where the trail is muddy and not super overgrown but quite thick. The path is visible at all times, but the vegetation is lush in mid-July, though not the scary kind where you can’t see where your feet are landing. Many sections of shoe-sucking mud sit along the creek. 

A toad leaped up on the path in front of me, and by now, I was in a solid zone and did not want to break it by taking any more photos. Turtles, yes, but not toads, though they make me smile, too.

Around 8.5 miles, you'll cross Route 18 at another Mineral Springs Loop parking lot and make a short climb to continue on the Racoon Creek State Park Loop. Frankfort Mineral Springs became a destination place for a resort and health spa beginning in the 1790s.

Miles 12 to 14:

Somewhere in this mileage Heritage Trail comes to a “T” intersection with Appaloosa Trail. After consulting the state park map, I turned right.

Miles 14 to 15:

Appaloosa Trail was a nice, flowing singletrack. After a mile or so, a sign appeared that said “Pioneer Camp Shelters.” 

Not wanting to disrupt the nice flow I had, I reluctantly took out the map and laid it on the ground to ensure I was making the proper choices in the turns I was taking. Though at this point in the run, I did not like wasting time with such matters, I also relished the adventure in reading a map and figuring out a new-to-me trail. 

The map told me that in order to get to the detour described on the FKT site, I needed to make the right-hand turn through the shelter area. 

When I got to the shelters, I began to walk slowly, looking around for where the path came out at the other end of the shelters. I asked two campers if Pioneer Camp Road was in the direction I was pointing, and they said they thought so. I took it, and it turned out to be correct. 

Map of hiking trails at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Miles 15 to 16:

Pioneer Road is a dirt road that meets up with Nichol Road, which you follow until turning left onto Forest Trail. 

Miles 16 to 18:

Forest Trail is the narrowest of the two other trails, Heritage and Appaloosa, that create the Raccoon Creek State Park Loop. Christmas Ferns came up to my mid-thigh, and so did poison ivy, briers and other greenery. 

Miles 18 to 19:

It becomes clear that Route 18 is just off to your left. Vehicle traffic can be heard, and an open skyway can be seen through the treetops, indicating a main roadway. 

Author going to sit in the creek beside the start/finish line after cinching the first ever established female solo, unsupported Fastest Known Time on the nearly 20-mile Raccoon Creek State Park Loop on July 17, 2022. (Photo/ Eric Harder)

Mile 19 to the end:

Forest Trail comes out onto Route 18, where you turn right to run the short distance downhill back to the start/ finish area. 

Setting the first FKT record for the Racoon Creek State Park Loop

After completing the loop and submitting her results to www.FastestKnownTime.com, Brynn's FTK was approved:

👉Raccoon Creek State Park Loop, FKT listed here

Brynn Cunningham holds the FKT record for the 19.72-mile Raccoon Creek State Park Loop.

Gear used for the Raccoon Creek FKT

Fuel used for the Raccoon Creek FKT

More on FKTs

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, backcountry skier, yogi, mom and writer. www.inhaleexhalerun.com

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