Tucked away in the remote stretches of Southwest Pennsylvania, the Laurel Highlands span 3,000 square miles of Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties. Whether you’re looking for extreme adventure on class IV whitewater rapids, a meandering day on the area’s famed bike trails, spectacular natural scenery, or world class resorts, this mountainous region of Southwest P.A. definitely deserves a spot on your list of places to visit in 2017. This is how you do 48 Hours like a local.Day One
Your first day in the Laurel Highlands should start with a cup of Linn Run Coffee Bean Roastery coffee at the Pie Shoppe in the quaint town of Laughlin, PA. From there head out for an early morning mountain bike ride at Laurel Mountain State Park. Take a quick side hike to enjoy the sunrise at Beam Rocks en route to the biking trailheads. Once you’re up on two wheels, head for the Spruce Run Trailhead.
This one starts out with a technical downhill leading into a log rollovers and other optional features before you get to challenging rock gardens. The ride will mellow out as you ride towards a spruce hollow which is adorned in moss, sandy creek banks, and mountain laurel lined trails.
After you get your fill of mountain biking, take the Laurel Highlands Scenic By-Way to Donegal, PA and grab lunch at Out of the Fire Cafe where the smoked salmon chowder is a local favorite.After lunch, hop back on the Laurel Highlands Scenic By-Way to Ohiopyle State Park. Along the way, consider a detour for famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater.
Once you arrive at Ohiopyle take a hike through Ferncliff Peninsula and explore the unique habitat of rare plants. Because of the diversity of the plant life, the Ferncliff Peninsula was named a National Natural Landmark in 1973. The Ferncliff Trail circles the outer loop of the Peninsula and passes by the Ohiopyle Falls. There are three other trails that branch off the Ferncliff Trail. The Fernwood Trail passes the remnants of the old Ferncliff Hotel.
When you’re done exploring the park, grab a gourmet wood-fired pizza from the Brownstone Oven food truck. They’re known for their apple, goat cheese, and bacon pie as well as the s’mores with chocolate spread, marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate drizzle for dessert.
If you’re looking for a night life option after a long day of hiking and mountain biking, grab a seat at Falls City Pub for a cold brew, live music, and corn hole to round out your day. The pub has 24 beers on draft and a cooler full of other craft and domestic bottles and cans.
When the day is over you can rest your head at one of the many guesthouses in Ohiopyle or pop up a tent at the state park’s campgrounds. You’ll need to recharge and gear up for a big day of class IV paddling on the Youghiogheny River and biking on the Great Allegheny Trail. Day Two
Your fuel for an action-packed day two should be acquired at the Ohiopyle Bakery and Sandwich Shoppe, where you’ll find a great cup of coffee and a menu full of hardy breakfast sandwiches. Don’t be afraid to customize your own breakfast sandwich. The bakery features a large array of top notch homemade breads.
After breakfast, head out for some whitewater fun on the famed Youghiogheny River. The morning is the best time to be on the water as crowds tend to be smaller and you can catch the wildlife waking up as you paddle through Class IV rapids in Pennsylvania’s deepest river gorge.
If you’ve still got it in you after all that whitewater excitement, it’s time to pedal the Great Allegheny Passage. This beginner friendly 11-mile trip will take you slightly uphill towards Confluence, PA. All the while you’ll be taking in the sights of the Youghiogheny River, so keep an eye out for bald eagles, blue heron, river otters, and other wildlife critters. If you’ve packed your fly rod, cast a line at the outflow of the Youghiogheny River at dusk. When your paddling, biking or fishing excursion is done, pull up a seat at the Lucky Dog Café in Confluence and enjoy a bite to eat along with some local live music.
Since you likely burned some serious calories while paddling class IV rapids and biking 10 plus miles along the scenic Great Allegheny Trail, you won’t have to feel guilty about enjoying a heaping plate of nachos and a margarita while you take in the tunes and relaxed atmosphere along the sleepy banks of the Middle section of the Youghiogheny River.
For night two lodging, Confluence offers an array of guest houses and B&Bs where you can rest up before heading back to Ohiopyle in the morning to grab your car and hit the road.