On a recent day off, Tom and I spent the day at Ohiopyle State Park. We are just starting to explore the area and getting to know the places people visit. Because Ohiopyle is the closest, it seemed like a good place to start.
We visited Ohiopyle State Park once before, but it was almost 20 years ago. And it was at the end of a very long, strenuous Boy Scout hike on the Laurel Highlands Trail. So the memory is somewhat blurred by time and fatigue. Plus, things change over time – even state parks.
We drove the six miles to Ohiopyle State Park over the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway (PA 381). This is a beautiful road, but a little twisty and up and down. When we got to Ohiopyle we drove through town. PA 381 is the main street of the town of Ohiopyle with just a few short streets branching off. PA 381 runs parallel to the Youghiogheny River, which is the main attraction of the area. The Great Allegheny Passage Rail-Trail goes over the river in town and the Laurel Highlands Trail ends in Ohiopyle. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwaters house is just north. You could say that everything you can do in the Laurel Highlands intersects with Ohiopyle.
Our first stop was the big parking lot at Ohiopyle Falls. This is just about the only place to park in town, so it runs most of the way through town. We stopped to admire the falls which were roaring with all the rainfall we have had lately. The falls aren’t any big deal on their own, but they make this part of the Youghiogheny unnavigable. George Washington got here on a raft and decided his army could not float around the falls and needed to continue working on their road.
We went to the state park visitor center. It is very nice and new and filters its water by running it through plants. The building is 100% ecofriendly. We asked the ranger about the trails and he said several of them were closed because they were so muddy and dangerous right now. We checked out the exhibits and got Tom a shirt.
Then we headed to the Ferncliff Trail, one of the flatter and less muddy trails. I’m glad we chose a less muddy trail because there was so much mud on it that my boots were a mess. This trail goes out on the peninsula made by a horseshoe bend in the Youghiogheny River. We were hoping to watch rafters going through the rapids, but couldn’t get close enough to the river for good views. The trail markings were a little confusing but we made it back okay.
We enjoyed our visit to Ohiopyle State Park and know that we will be back. We have a river, a bike trail, and a hiking trail to explore. Well, maybe not the hiking trail, but the other two are definitely on our to-do list.