Duration: Two days and two nights
Western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region has more than its share of steep hills and thrills. It also has the kind of country markets, inns and dining places that make a roadtrip just about perfect. As well as one of the world’s most famous houses, and not just because it has a natural waterfall in the living room. So whether you’re a hill hiker or a mountain biker, you’re in for some serious trails. Not just any trails, the kind that are steeped in history, lush scenery, interesting side-routes and plenty of other excuses to take it all in, and fall behind in your itinerary (it’s worth it).
Sleep up, because the idea is to get out on the trails early. Exit the Turnpike in Donegal and fuel up at one of the many fresh produce stands. Then head to Ohiopyle, a not-so-sleepy little town where you can rent a great suspension bike, then get a taste of the Great Allegheny Passage. Park you car in the main lot, and from the trailhead, pedal in either direction – 1) North takes you across two bridges over the Youghiogheny River. That’s where you turn around at Bruner Run for a 12-mile round trip, about an hour and a half in length. 2) Or you can go South all the way to Confluence and back for 22-miles of uncrowded, peaceful trails, about two and a half hours in length. This 150-mile collection of hiking and biking trails eventually connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD. Not that you’ll go that far today, but it does something for the soul knowing how big the Great Allegheney Passage is.Read More >
If hiking is more your style, then head off to Ferncliff Peninsula for a two hour hike you won’t forget. Get a good walking stick, some trail mix, and explore this National Natural Landmark, rich with rare and unusual plants. These plants wouldn’t normally grow in PA, but the microclimate in the river gorge allows the plants to thrive. Keep going, and stop to smell the flowers – there’s nothing like pausing before a bubbling stream in a field of wildflowers. But go to the Ohiopyle State Park Visitor’s Center first, and snag a free hiking guide. Make friends with the ranger and ask if there’s anything special going on for the day. And remember to pack a camera for a few snaps of the Meadow Run Waterslides where the water’s carved amazing boulders and cliffs. They’re cool enough to get geologists from all over the world out here. As the day turns to dusk and you find your way back to the car, you start feeling all those muscles in your legs you didn’t know you had. Time for a good meal and a cozy room.
Fresh, good sandwiches and a bunch of backyard tables let you soak in the Ohiopyle while you nosh. They serve up cool wraps like the Summer Hummer (loaded with red pepper hummus and yumminess) and Thai Chicken with spicy peanut sauce. Don’t forget the fresh squeezed lemonade.Read More >
No snooze alarm needed. The promise of these great outdoors (and hundreds of songbirds) is a natural way of getting you up and at 'em. Good thing, because you’re headed to the Bear Run Nature Preserve just outside the Ohiopyle State Park. Check out the Lower Bear Run Trail – it lies along the west slope of Laurel Ridge, facing the spectacular Youghiogheny River gorge. As you traverse the Reserve's trails, you’ll see everything from the beauty and solitude of dense oak and hemlock forest, to the sparkling-clear waters of Bear Run and Laurel Run, to a spectacular view of the Youghiogheny River gorge. It’s a steep hill to our next destination, so we recommend jumping back in the car and taking a short drive to modern architecture’s gift to Pennsylvania – Fallingwater. Frank Lloyd Wright’s brilliant merger of house, hillside and waterfall (buy advanced tickets) offers an unexpected view via unique walkways and natural terraces.Read More >
Your drive from Mill Run to Donegal will take you along RT 711 and 381, one of our favorite portions of the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway. This 68-mile strip of road is like a moving postcard show, with rolling hillsides, sparkling waterfalls and picturesque farmlands. Plan on pocketing your car keys and getting a closer look at a few, and maybe even the Laurel Caverns, the Christian W. Klay Winery and Fort Ligonier.Read More >
Hop back in the car for an entirely new view of the terrain. This hiking trail is the gem of the Ohiopyle State Park, stretching atop the Laurel Ridge and going for 70 miles. Chances are that's a little more backpacking than you bargained for, but no worries, the day hikes are just as spectacular. Access the trails just off Route 30 near the Westmoreland/Somerset County line. You'll get some more ridiculously scenic views of your new favorite river, the Youghigheny (by this point you'll even known how to spell it), and traverse part of the storied Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. You’re sure to meet a few of the locals, like the ruffed grouse, hawks, beavers, minks, raccoons and foxes. And look for the large outcroppings of Beam's Rocks too.Read More >
Rejuvenate at this farmhouse with sweeping views of the Laurel Mountains. Lesley’s is a quaint country landmark, just rustic enough, and the perfect getaway. The pillows are as puffy as the Laurel Highland clouds.
Bring a notepad. This place is a cornucopia of cool information. Fort Ligonier built a rich history in a short, eight-year career as a garrison. It withstood a couple attacks from Native Americans, but was never captured. And it proved to be a vital link for British supplies and communications during Pontiac’s War of 1763.
What do you get when you combine 80 acres of Pennsylvania wilderness and an architectural genius? You get Kentuck Knob, one of the last homes completed by Frank Lloyd Wright. These days, this dream home is open to wide-eyed visitors looking to catch a glimpse of a masterpiece.