Attraction of the Week: Ohiopyle State Park
One of Pennsylvania’s largest and most popular state parks, Ohiopyle, is an easy daytrip from Pittsburgh. If you find yourself tiring of the congestion, crazy traffic and drivers, and urban scene, consider a relaxing drive out to Ohiopyle State Park. The 20,000+ acre natural oasis is one of the most visited state parks in the region with millions of tourists per year. Most notably, the Youghiogheny River Gorge runs through the center of the park and provides some of the best whitewater rafting conditions in the region.
This beautiful powerful 20 foot tall waterfall is located right next to the visitor’s center. What the waterfall lacks in height it makes up for in width. The serene setting on the Youghiogheny River creates a picture-perfect scene. There are numerous observation decks to take in this beauty. Best of all, no hiking is required! During the fall season, the colorful backdrop creates an even more picturesque scene.
Another gorgeous waterfall within the park, Cucumber, is accessed via a short hike (less than a half mile) which involves a fairly short trail followed by a few staircases. It’s worth the little effort to see this 30 foot tall single drop beauty. Pennsylvanians come from all over to enjoy one of the state’s most beautiful waterfalls. While far from the tallest waterfall in the state (Dingman’s claims that title at 130 ft), the easy accessibility and beautiful natural setting place this one high on any nature lover’s bucket list.
During the summer months, the Meadow Run natural waterslides turn the park into a popular swimming destination. The natural sandstone provides a smooth surface for sliding although injuries do occasionally happen. Be sure to check the warning sign before heading out. While the water appears quite rough during the fall and winter season, the water calms down during the summer months. For those seeking a cheap alternative to the waterparks, here’s a summer cool down that will cost you nothing. Note that water volume varies dramatically and slide conditions will depend on the current water levels. Do check the water quality report prior to your visit.
Other park activities
Biking – A 27 mile portion of the Great Allegeheny Passsage runs through the park. At Ohiopyle, this section of the trail called the Yougiogheny River Trail is also used for jogging and cross country skiing in winter. Bike rentals available.
Hiking – There are 79 miles of trails within the park hiking system. Hiking is a wonderful way to get in a workout while enjoying the beauty of the Laurel Highlands. Trails range from easy nature walks to all day adventures. Taek a look at this trail map to plan your journey.
Whitewater rafting – Class III and IV rapids. Learn more about guided tours.
Trout fishing, picnicking, winter sledding and snowmobiling, and horseback riding trails provide even more opportunity for year-round recreation in a beautiful setting.
For a full guide to park activities, visit the Ohiopyle State Park website.
The park is located at 124 Main St. in Ohiopyle. Parking is free and there is a large lot. Be aware that the park can get really busy, so arrive early especially during the summer season. If you are coming from Pittsburgh, the drive will take about an hour and 15 min.
There is a handy little map guiding you to major park attractions. Alternatively, you can stop in the visitor’s center and pick up a map. You have the option of driving or walking to various sites of interest.
As the park is located in the middle of nowhere, there is not much in the way of restaurants anywhere in the vicinity. I stopped by a cute little local coffeehouse called Stanton Daily Grind. It’s right on the route (about 30 min in) so super convenient. While the coffee was not spectacular, it was decent enough. The setting is cozy and the baristas friendly. They also offer a number of pastries and light breakfast fare to help fuel you through the morning.\
I recommend bringing with a picnic lunch to enjoy after your hike. If you prefer to wait until you get back to Pittsburgh to dine, Zuppa’s, Choolaah, Mike and Tony’s, and are a few of my recommended casual, easy accessible lunch destinations.