Our hiking holiday in Pennsylvania was in the Laurel Highlands, located about a one hour drive southeast of Pittsburgh. The region features two long distance trails along with numerous shorter walks.
Walking the Great Allegheny Passage
We stayed in Ohiopyle State Park which offers camping, cabins and yurts. Right from the campground take the bike hike trail to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) which is a trail for 335 miles between Washington and Pittsburgh. The first part is a rail trail which connects with the C & O Canal towpath at Cumberland.
From the campground walking into Ohiopyle takes about 30 minutes and we will cross the High Level Bridge and Low Level Bridge over the rapids of the Youghiogheny River.
Continue walking past the Ohiopyle Train Station (restrooms and tourist office) and you are sure to see some of the white water rafts as they challenge the rapids. We saw some hung up on the rocks. For a good walk head into the next town of Confluence, about 10 miles and then back.
When we returned to Ohiopyle we visited the waterfalls located right in the heart of this town before heading to the General Store for an ice cream. Should you want to cycle instead of walk there are three rental shops in town.
On the next day we drove to Meyersdale and parked at the train station which is now a museum. Again heading east for about 10 miles we crossed a long viaduct which curved through the hilly forested slopes.
A one point two deer jumped out onto the trail just in front of me. One kept knobbing his head up and down at me before running down the path.
And down we arrived at the Eastern Continental Divide with interesting painting a few other walkers out for the day. At 3,294 feet long the Big Savage Tunnel is fun, but do remember to take off your sunglasses. The sweeping view on the other side of the countryside is awesome and there are benches, picnic shelter and washrooms. This walk also included the Mason-Dixon Line.
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
This 70 mile trail crosses the Laurel Ridge from Ohiopyle to Johnstown with overnight shelters every 8 or 10 miles. Some sections are considered very strenuous but you do get some wonderful views of the region.
Ohiopyle State Park
The park has 79 miles on 12 trails for day hiking. Be sure to go on the easy trail through the Ferncliff Natural Area, mainly as it follows a giant elbow in the Youghiogheny River and you get to see Ohiopyle Falls plus plenty of rapids.
A really short walk that is well worth the worth is Cucumber Falls where the water falls into a grotto below amidst a tangle of rocks and trees. People like to swim in the cold waters and the whole scene looks amazing as beams of sunlight shine through breaks in the forest canopy.
You Must Also Visit
We also went for a visit of Falling Water, the famous house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright taking the one hour guided tour, but other tours are available. This is the home built right on top of a waterfalls surrounded by the forest. If visiting on a weekend make reservations in advance. You will visit the various bedrooms, living quarters and learn about the family that had it built.
Other area attractions include Laurel Caverns and Fort Necessity from the Indian Wars.
For meals when not using our campfire we headed into Ohiopyle where the specialty for most of the restaurants seemed to be a tasteful pulled pork sandwiches or BBQ chicken along with local beers. They all feature outdoor seating.
Click on the link for details on other North American Hiking Holidays. Southern Pennsylvania is not as well known for hiking holidays but add it to your list as a must see destination.