The varying terrain of the Laurel Highlands creates an incredible array of natural and man-made wonders throughout the region, from the expansive overlooks along the ridgeline and the highest point in Pennsylvania to pristine waterfalls and preserved natural landscapes. These were our picks, in no particular order:
Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle State Park (pictured above): This 30-foot waterfall in Ohiopyle State Park is one of many in the Laurel Highlands, but it is one of the region’s most recognizable. Nestled in the trees just a short walk from the parking area, Cucumber Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls to access in the park with some steep and uneven stairs that lead to the bottom of the falls. Go see it for yourself, but be careful! The rocks around the falls are often more slippery than they appear.
Blue Hole, Forbes State Forest (Rockwood): As the name suggests, this deep hole within Blue Creek runs turquoise and crystal blue. Just off Blue Hole Road, the picturesque pool is easily accessed. Even on the hottest summer days, the water is freezing, so you should opt for a camera over your swimsuit.
Spruce Flats Bog, Laurel Summit State Park: Home to unique plants not usually found in this region, Spruce Flats Bog is shrouded in geological mystery, most likely created by glacial activity in the last Ice Age. The less than a half a mile stroll from the parking area at Laurel Summit ends at a deck overlooking the 28 acres of swampy and moss covered land. This region is a great place for bird watching.
Mount Davis, Forbes State Forest (Deer Valley): At 3,213 feet above sea level, the highest point in Pennsylvania, Mount Davis, sits on the gentle crest of the surrounding Laurel Highlands ridgeline. The surrounding mountains and rolling hills make the height less obvious, but that doesn’t take away from the picturesque beauty of the surrounding landscape. There are several hiking trails around the summit, which also features a lookout tower, a wonderful point to view fall foliage.
Laurel Caverns, Farmington: A natural calcareous sandstone cave, Laurel Caverns is a three mile labyrinth with ceilings anywhere from 10 to 50 feet high. The largest cave in Pennsylvania, Laurel Caverns sits beneath a private 435 acre geological preserve. The cave is also the largest bat hibernaculum, which is why the caves are closed for the hibernation period, November through April.
Fallingwater®, Mill Run: Named one of 50 places of a lifetime by National Geographic, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, is one of Wright’s most widely acclaimed works. The house was commissioned by the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, the owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store, which is now part of the Macy’s chain. The Kaufmanns loved to vacation in the Laurel Highlands. Both Edgar Kaufmann and his wife Liliane loved the outdoors, and Frank Lloyd Wright decided to make the waterfall that they loved, Bear Run, part of the home. Take a tour of the dramatic cantilevered vacation estate, the only Frank Lloyd Wright home with its original artwork, furniture, and setting still intact.
The Youghiogheny River: A tributary of the Monongahela, The Youghiogheny runs through the Laurel Highlands creating the state’s deepest river gorge, a source of so much activity all year long. The Lower Yough offers class I-IV waters that run from Ohiopyle to Bruner Run with fantastic whitewater conditions, attracting rafters, kayakers, and boaters from all around making it the busiest section of whitewater east of the Mississippi River. The Yough gets its name from its northern flow as Youghiogheny is an Algonquin word meaning a stream flowing in a contrary direction.
Narrowing down the list of wondrous places in the Laurel Highlands to just seven was a daunting task. Be sure to tell us your favorite natural wonders in the region.