There are no fewer than 8 Pennsylvania state parks in the Laurel Highlands. Including Federally-managed property in our area, the state parks in PA Laurel Highlands encompass nearly 120,000 acres of majestic, laurel-covered mountains and deep, water-carved valleys. And in the last 50 years, another 22,000 acres have been preserved as PA state parks by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
If your vacationing tastes run toward the outdoorsy, the rustic, the unstructured, and the adventurous, you certainly have plenty of options in the Laurel Highlands. In truth, no two state parks in PA Laurel Highlands are alike. And the differences go well beyond expected amenities like cabins, tent and RV sites, and the increasingly-popular yurts.
Ohiopyle State Park provides access to both the tranquility and the excitement of the famous Youghiogheny River. It's your natural starting point for canoeing, kayaking and (especially) whitewater rafting. Wildly popular, this Pennsylvania state park welcomes over 1.3 million visitors each year, and encompasses nearly 20,500 acres of protected woodlands and waterways. And it provides access to some of the best Class I-IV whitewater rafting in the East.
Then, there's something you might not expect in our neck of the woods: a beach. At Laurel Hill State Park, the sandy strand stretches nearly a quarter of a mile. So pack your swimsuits, towels, sun block... and cameras. Depending on when you visit, this PA state park also features spectacular fields and hillsides full of wildflowers.
Laurel Ridge State Park centers around the spectacular Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The 70 winding miles of this PA state park are part of the Potomac Heritage Trail. They pass through a number of Pennsylvania state forests and game lands, making it ideal for hikers and hunters. And it offers eight dedicated overnight areas, each offering Adirondack-style shelters, tent pads, comfort stations and fresh water. The camping areas in this Pennsylvania state park are conveniently distributed along the trail at intervals of no greater than 10 miles. It's perfect for extended hiking adventures.
Without a doubt, we expect that deciding won't be easy. So here, to help you, is an at-a-glance listing of 8 PA state parks, 2 state forests and their key highlights. Consider all your outdoor options: hiking; biking; swimming; snowmobiling; cross-country skiing; downhill skiing; fishing; hunting; bird watching; or simply basking in the beauty of our natural wonders. Then...enjoy making up your mind!
Keystone State Park in PA Laurel Highlands
This park offers a wildlife observation deck for viewing area flora and fauna. Kris-crossed with hiking trails, it also provides a variety of camping facilities, including modern cabins, as well as safe swimming locations.
Kooser State Park
A favorite of anglers, Kooser State Park is a renowned trout fishing site. It's also a good starting point for exploring the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. In all, it encompasses some 250 acres.
Laurel Hill State Park
Here's where to go if you want to make a splash. The 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake affords all kinds of aquatic recreation, including swimming, kayaking, canoeing - even sailing in small boats and catamarans. The park also includes hiking trails, as well as the majestic beauty of old-growth hemlock stands.
Laurel Mountain State Park
The scenery is the attraction here. With an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level, this park is home to some of the most spectacular vistas in all the Laurel Highlands.
Laurel Ridge State Park
Winter sports lovers flock here, and for good reason. This park boasts a well-earned reputation for outstanding for cross-country skiing. Its elaborate and well-maintained trail system accommodates novice skiers, experts, and every level in between.
Laurel Summit State Park
When you visit here, you'll want to pack a lavish cooler of sandwiches, snacks and beverages. It's an ideal picnicking spot with outstanding views of Laurel Ridge and surrounding scenery. During your visit, don't miss taking a short walk to the 28-acre Spruce Flats Bog. There, you'll find large numbers of cranberry plants... insect-eating plants like pitcher plants and sundews... plus cotton grass and other plants not usually found in territory this far south.
Linn Run State Park
The emphasis is on activity at this site, with options encompassing everything from trout fishing (in season) to horseback riding - with plenty of space to park your vehicle and trailer. Plus, you won't want to miss spending time at Adams Falls, the park's gorgeous scenic waterfall, and taking in the spectacular view at Wolf Rocks. For those who prefer "roughing it" to be a little less rough, cabin rentals are available. But book early - they are very popular and in demand.
Ohiopyle State Park
This park's national reputation as a whitewater lover's paradise is well deserved. After all, 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River churn through the park, offering some of the best Class I-IV rafting and kayaking in the eastern U.S. Experienced outfitters are available to provide gear and guides. Ohiopyle is also the site of the 30-foot Cucumber Falls, as well as the Ferncliff Peninsula - a 100-acre botanical reserve registered as a National Natural Landmark.
Forbes State Forest
Mount Davis, at 3,213 feet, is the highest peak in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and it, is located right here. This park offers visitors the choice of plenty of locations to enjoy this magnificent 60,000-acre forest.
Prince Gallitzin State Forest
With a section located in Somerset County, this attraction's 15,000 forested acres extend beyond the Laurel Highlands. Known for an outstanding selection of hiking trails, Prince Gallitzin also features easy road access, making it a very popular "stop, unload and ride" destination for off-road bicyclists.