By the time stone road construction began in 1811, making it one of the first improved highways to be built by the U.S. Federal government, the Historic National Road was already a pathway of history. Initially a trail carved by native Indian tribes, it was adopted by pioneers, fought for by soldiers, exploited by rugged adventurers, and finally transformed by Industrial Revolutionaries into a vital commercial route. It might be said that this is where America took its first steps toward independence... and kept right on walking.
From the Addison Tollhouse near the Mason-Dixon line to the village of Brownsville, the Historic National Road meanders northwest, unrolling, scroll-like, to reveal significant places and moments from the early decades of our nation. Key battles of the French and Indian War were fought here. George Washington traveled this route, and assumed his first command at Fort Necessity.
Later, as the U.S. expanded westward, the Historic National Road became a key access way to new, untamed territories. It opened up valuable new resources-first for hunters, trappers and farmers, and soon after for industrialists capitalizing on the area's rich deposits of coal and iron ore and its vast woodlands.
Today part of U.S. Route 40, the 90-mile Historic National Road Heritage Corridor gives visitors the opportunity to relive the full scope of American History. All of it set in some of the most beautiful landscapes this nation has to offer.
The Lincoln Highway (also known as U.S. Route 30) easily predates the great superhighways as America's first transcontinental road. Beginning in New York City and ending in San Francisco, it boasts some 3,142 miles of roadway-well over 100 of which pass through the Laurel Highlands.
Heading west and starting near Bedford and passing through Jeannette and Irwin before moving on to Pittsburgh, our section of the Lincoln Highway Heritage winds up, down and through the countryside. With just a pair of lanes, bordered by breathtakingly beautiful vistas and fascinating points of interest on this route, there's "something for everybody," which isn't a cliché; it's a mile-after-mile reality.
Because the highway was, first and foremost, a thoroughfare for early motorists, many of its attractions are right along the roadway. And we're not just talking "scenic overlooks" (although we have plenty.) Everything from Revolution-era fortresses to quaint "Main Street" communities with abundant shopping, amusement parks, live-performance theaters, fine restaurants, the Big Mac Museum. All just a turn off the highway. You'll even spot public works of art, the "Roadside Giants," created for your pleasure by local students.
In this case, the route is the destination, and the journey is one to be savored. Take it slow, and let the wonderful, ever-changing nature of the Lincoln Highway delight you as you go.
The Laurel Highlands is known for its scenery, and the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway never disappoints.
Running roughly 68 miles southwest from Seward, through historic Ligonier, Donegal and Ohiopyle, and ending just south of Farmington (where it intersects with Rt. 40, also known as the Historic National Road), the Byway follows Pennsylvania Routes 711 and 381. Along the way, it fills the senses, sparking and rewarding natural curiosity with each turn, new vista, and passing point of interest.
In terms of geography, the scenic byway provides a concentrated dose of everything the Laurel Highlands was endowed with by nature. You'll see rolling hillsides, weathered but majestic Allegheny peaks, and farmlands so lovely, they almost seem created for beauty rather than function.
You'll also find plenty of history and art along the way. Near its northeast boundary, the Byway offers easy access to Fort Ligonier. Near its southern end and its intersection with the Historic National Road, it either accesses or places you within a short connecting drive of all these points of interest: Braddock's Grave, the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, and all three Frank Lloyd Wright sites in the region-Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob and the Duncan House.
Use the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway for your own explorations on foot, bicycle, raft, or rails. And by all means, check out the other scenic routes our region offers. Beautiful memories are waiting to be made.
The Laurel Highlands is a great place to put your car to excellent use. Along essentially every highway and byway in our region, you'll find endless beauty. Places of great historic or artistic interest. Moments of surprise and sheer delight. Lots of opportunities to get out, stretch, and breathe in the beauty of our land. And, ultimately, a lifetime of memories.