Sometimes, the daily grind gets us down. And we just need to get away for an epic weekend of outdoorsiness. You too, huh? Well, we have the perfect place in mind.
For a place that has such an uncool sounding name — Ohio…pyle — the PA state park in the Laurel Highlands is THE spot for Pittsburghers to take a badass weekend of adventure. A 75-minute road trip (without Squirrel Hill Tunnel traffic) on I-76 is all it takes for a great escape. And here, that means freedom to do pretty much every nature-bound activity you can think of. If you want advice, aim for Main Street first to stretch cramped legs and prep for the day.
Let’s start with the namesake. The native Lenape tribe didn’t name this land of beauty after our lame neighbors. Ohiopyle roughly means “white, frothy water”. And if you don’t know already, that means they’ve got some sweet whitewater rafting. If you and your crew want to tackle the raging rapids (not Kennywood’s), sign on with Wilderness Voyageurs. They’ll set you up with a raft and point you in the direction of the Class III and IV runs…with a guide to steer and shout orders.
If you went overboard during your rafting trip, you probably already got a taste (and a mouthful) of the force of the river. But you can’t leave before taking a dip in one of our favorite swimming holes. This isn’t a tranquil lagoon, though. They’re Ohiopyle’s famous natural rock waterslides. Here’s what you do: Follow the signs for the Meadow Run slides. Scramble to the top. Sit in the creekbed. Hold on as the water shoots you 100 feet or more downstream. Then you repeat, of course. Fitt tip: It helps if you cross your arms and keep your toes up.
While in Ohiopyle, you may notice there are a lot of bike riders with panniers (bike saddlebags) hooked up. That’s because Ohiopyle is a major waypoint on the Great Allegheny Passage, a famous rail-to-trail bikeway that connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD. While you don’t have to go the full 150 miles, biking here is glorious. You’ll experience dense woods, break on riverside benches, and cross a bridge that goes right over rapids (it’s necessary that you take a picture here).
Yeah, rapids are sort of like waterfalls. Uh huh, Ohiopyle Falls is front and center for you to ‘ooh ahh’ at too. But if you want real beauty (you do), take a hike on the Cucumber Falls Trailhead leading to none other than Cucumber Falls. After a good rain, Cucumber Run swells and falls 30ft. into the gorge below. And that, friends, is what makes a pretty waterfall. After you’ve had your fill, continue your hike on the beautiful 4.9-mile Great Gorge Trail for even more scenery.
But what if you’re more into problem-solving. Ohiopyle, you just have an answer to everything, don’t you? Meadow Run Climbing Area, Bruner Run Climbing Area, and a number of slabs you can access right from the GAP Trail are excellent spots for the experienced top-roper or boulderer. Though, if you’re an amateur rock scrambler, we’d have to recommend a guided session with Wilderness Voyageurs (real adventure pros). Bonus: They’ll even hit you with a sandwich at lunchtime!
If your stomach’s rumbling after all that adventure, you’re going to need to grub…hard. If you’re just looking to replenish snacks and be on your way, your best bet is Falls Market and Inn. Their general store and deli is clutch if you’re looking to stuff something in your backpack. But if nature got the best of you that day, we recommend winding down on the porch of Ohiopyle House Cafe for a craft beer and eats off of their farm-to-table menu.
You’re pooped. Everything hurts. Your dogs are barking. Your actual dog may even be cranky. It’s time to make camp and crash for the night. So, if you brought tents (or an RV), make for Kentuck Campground. They have countless sites both with and without electricity hookups, and a bathroom facility with showers. But if you’re more into glamping, you gotta yurt. Reserve one of these round, magical hippie tents for a bed, a stove, and a deck to drink your morning coffee on.
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