For many, Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region is drive-by territory, a heavily forested blur seen through the car window as they barrel down the Pennsylvania Turnpike past the region’s exit signs (New Stanton, Donegal, Somerset) toward other destinations. But the area’s 3,000 square miles of glorious mountaintops, deep green valleys, winding rivers, stunning vistas, and bucolic towns deserve your time and attention.
Only three and a half hours from Baltimore, this slice of southwestern Pennsylvania offers a veritable wonderland of outdoor activities, including white-water rafting on the Youghiogheny River (probably the most popular white-water run east of the Mississippi), endless hiking through rugged mountains (the state’s highest) on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, and biking on the Great Allegheny Passage, a more than 150-mile trail that winds past spectacular and varied scenery. But the region is more than just a sportsman’s paradise. It is home to one of the most famous architectural landmarks in the world—Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater—plus several other lesser-known architectural gems either designed by or related to the maverick genius.
Add in luxurious resorts, pampering spas, quality dining options, numerous breweries, an amusement park, and even a casino, and there’s no reason not to stop.