Western Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle State Park is an all-access pass to outdoor adventure. Located an hour and a half southeast of Pittsburgh but feeling like worlds away from the Rust Belt, the 20,000-acre park is the gateway to the craggy Laurel Mountains, featuring over 120 miles of trails for hiking and biking. The park also features the most exciting sections of the Youghiogheny River, which holds the busiest section of whitewater east of the Mississippi. Add 10 feet of annual snow in the cold months, and you get to add some of the best cross-country skiing in the Appalachians to the park’s resume of recreation.
Whitewater for Everyone
The Youghiogheny (called the “Yock” by locals) has different stretches of whitewater for all skill levels of paddlers and rafters. White Water Rafting (wwaraft.com) has an outpost within the park boundary and leads trips on the Upper, Middle, and Lower sections of the river. The Upper Yough’s relentless stretch of IV-V whitewater is a well-reputed playground for advanced boaters. Only open for weekend dam releases, it attracts paddlers from all over the country to its steep, fast, and technical rapids like the raging Triple Drop and Meat Cleaver. The Middle Yough is for those who would rather spend an afternoon taking in the Western Appalachian scenery with a mellow class I-II float. The Lower Yough, which starts just past the popular 20-foot Ohiopyle Falls, sees the most whitewater rafts of anywhere on the East Coast. The occasionally wild class III-IV stretch runs 7.5 miles of the Youghiogheny Gorge through the boat-flipping Dimple’s Rapids, the aggressively churning Double Hydraulic, and the sneaky big drop of River’s End.
Pedal the Park
Those looking to spend a day on two wheels can ride the Youghiogheny River Trail. The 70-mile rail trail runs for 27 miles inside the park. It is also part of the larger 152-mile Great Allegheny Passage, which connects Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md. Fat-tire freaks get 14 miles of designated trails in the Sugarloaf Mountain Bike Area.
Run the Highlands
Ultra addicts should run the 70-mile Laurel Highlands trail race, which takes place on June 13. The 30-year-old acclaimed individual or team relay race traverses the entire Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Runners following the yellow blazes endure rocky and rugged singletrack with steep grades, log crossings, and a good bit of mud.