By Jolene Hall and Kathy Hiett

Flight 93 National Memorial

The highway sign on the Pennsylvania Turnpike inspires many travelers to take an unplanned detour to visit Flight 93 National Memorial. The Memorial is a place to reflect and honor the 40 passengers and crew whose actions on September 11, 2001, thwarted hijackers' plans. Visiting the Memorial is a profound, powerful and humbling experience. Be sure to see the compelling exhibits in the Memorial’s new visitor center (opened September 2015) which recount the timeline of events and stories.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses, Fallingwater blends perfectly into its surrounding forest woodland along a mountain stream called Bear Run. The home, near the town of Mill Run, was listed on the National Historic Register in 1966 and embodies Wright’s organic style of architecture and character. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy manages the property and offers guided tours of the house and property.

Ohiopyle State Park

Whitewater thrill seekers come to southwestern Pennsylvania for whitewater rafting and kayaking at Ohiopyle on the Youghiogheny River, affectionately known as the “Yough” [pronounced “yawk”]. Youghiogheny is an Algonquin word meaning "a stream flowing in a contrary direction.” “Ohiopyle” refers to the whitewater and rapids, and originates from a Lenape word meaning “it turns very white.” Ohiopyle is also the name of the small town with the big international reputation as a base for whitewater adventure. Both places live up to their names by offering some of the best whitewater boating in the eastern United States. In Ohiopyle State Park rushing waters of the Youghiogheny River race through the state's deepest gorge before tumbling over Ohiopyle Falls’ exhilarating rapids. You can safely view the rapids through the large picture windows at the Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitors Center in Ohiopyle. Downstream (north) the "Yough" is chockfull of scenic, family-friendly flatwater through an area rich in history. Landlubbing adventures can hike the Baughman Trail, a 3.4 miles (5.4 km), difficult hiking trail from trailheads in Ohiopyle. The steep, rocky trail passes Baughman Rock, a spectacular overlook of the Youghiogheny River Gorge, one of Pennsylvania's most inspiring panoramic vistas. For an easier hike, try a legstretcher to Cucumber Falls, one of the most photographed sites in the state. The park also offers camping. Download the park’s excellent Recreational Guide (PDF) to help plan your trip.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

Discover the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail — one of the most renowned hiking trails in Pennsylvania — and revel in its varied terrain and astonishing beauty. The 70-mile (113 km) trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park through the Laurel Ridge State Park and other public and private lands, ending in the 1,000-foot (305 m) Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The Laurel Highlands Trail is a major segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, an extensive trail network between the mouth of the Potomac River and the Allegheny Highlands.

Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Rail Trail

The Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, or “GAP,” reaches 150 miles (242 km) from Point State Park in Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. The trail parallels the Youghiogheny River through the center of the Laurel Highlands, passes the falls at Ohiopyle and conveniently near the campground at Youghiogheny River Lake. In Cumberland, you can opt to connect with the C&O Canal towpath in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Historical Park and extend your hiking or biking trip all the way to the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C. for a total length of 334.5 miles (538 km).

Youghiogheny River Lake – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Spend time at Youghiogheny River Lake, a haven for bikers and hikers in search of a place to recharge in a quiet, family-oriented campground complete with showers and electrical service. Stay at the picturesque Outflow Campground which is conveniently located on a well-marked short spur off the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail, near Confluence (about halfway between Cumberland, Maryland and Pittsburgh). Visitors consider this lake one of the best for power boating and water-skiing as well as one of the best cold-water fisheries in the East. From the outflow area of the dam and extending for approximately 20 miles (32.1 km) downstream, the boulder-strewn stretch of the “Yough” is one of the most popular rafting and canoeing areas in the eastern United States and is often the scene of national kayaking competitions.

Mount Davis-Highest Peak in Pennsylvania

Stand atop the highest pinnacle in the state! Mount Davis, at 3,213 feet (979 m) is the highest peak in Pennsylvania but is easy to summit by car. From U.S. Route 40 near Addison, Mount Davis Road leads to the summit. Have a picnic below the high point or enjoy a 360˚ view from the observation tower at the top. The peak is within the Mount Davis Natural Area of the Forbes State Forest that offers this downloadable map (PDF) of the area.

Historic National Road (U.S. Route 40): America’s Road to Revolution

The Historic National Road (U.S. Route 40) was the U.S.’s first, federally funded highway, authorized by Congress and signed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806. Travel the road across six states, including a 90-mile (145 km) corridor through southwestern Pennsylvania and find out why it was key to some of the most important social, industrial and cultural events in U.S. history. Begin or end your trip on the National Road in the great historic town of Addison, not far from the Mount Davis Natural Area (described above). Main Street in Addison provides you a glimpse of what the original route would have looked like at the turn of the 19th century. As you head west from Addison, you will have easy access to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, the birthplace of the French & Indian War that ignited America’s fight for independence. Start your visit at the park’s Interpretive and Education Center in the town of Washington to see exhibits, a film and the park bookstore. Not far away, America’s first tax revolt started--the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion that tested the authority of the fledgling United States and George Washington, our first president. The road passes near the Ohiopyle area and Fallingwater. Learn more about National Road history or the fascinating timeline of the road. The National Road intersects with another beautiful drive, the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, at Farmington. The route runs about 68 miles (109.4 km) northeast to Seward and includes Ohiopyle.

Allegheny Portage Railroad and Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark and Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Travelers in the area visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial can experience two more national parks within an hour’s drive. These hidden gems tell lesser-known but important stories.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial commemorates the failure of the South Fork Dam on Lake Conemaugh and the Great Johnstown Flood on Friday, May 31, 1889. The flood brought the nation and the world together to aid Johnstown, and is the first significant disaster aided by the American Red Cross.

At Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site you will learn how in 1834, railroad engineers first circumvented the Allegheny Mountains to complete the first direct route between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Not far from Allegheny Portage see for yourself the challenge that the Pennsylvania Railroad workers overcame in 1854 when they laid tracks along the Horseshoe Curve. The curve, now a National Historic Landmark (operated by the private Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum), made the Allegheny Portage obsolete—allowing passengers to travel the entire route by rail and reducing travel time to 15 hours.

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