Get outdoors, and soak up the sun on a trail this summer! The Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania is home to more than 700 miles of hiking and biking trails. Every trail varies in length and difficulty, from a family-friendly walk with a stroller to an epic adventure.
One of the longest trails in the region is the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, which stretches from Ohiopyle State Park to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The backpacking and hiking trail is meticulously maintained by the Laurel Ridge State Park Complex team to keep the path open and clear year-round. The trail runs through numerous state parks in the Laurel Highlands, including Linn Run, Laurel Ridge and Laurel Summit. On your journey, you will see beautiful wildflowers, large rock formations and maybe even a white-tailed deer. You can start from anywhere, and regardless of where you start, you will find an overnight area every 8 to 10 miles, where you can rest and recharge among the towering trees with fresh water and shelter. The Adirondack-style shelters are equipped with tent pads, wood and pit privies. Reservations and a small fee are required per night. Where there is a shelter, there is a connector trail, marked with blue blazes, that leads to and from a parking area.
Hiking 70 miles is definitely not a cake walk. To see some of the best spots on the trail without big changes in elevation, take our advice with this day hike path. Park at Laurel Ridge State Park, just off of Route 30 between Ligonier and Jennerstown. This will have you at about mile 46 on your LHHT map. Head south on the trail towards Forbes State Forest to Mile 40 where you’ll be able to take in the breathtaking view at Beam Rocks and Spruce Run, two of the most popular stops on the trail. Short detours from mile 40 will take you to Spruce Flats Bog, home to insect-eating plants; Laurel Summit, which features a commanding view 2,739 ft. above sea level; and Wolf Rocks, a great spot for rock climbing. When you’re done, hop back on the trail to hike back to where you parked, or call Wilderness Voyageurs or Maple Outfitters to come pick you up and take you to your car. If you’re an expert hiker, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail has plenty of ways to challenge you. See how well you can pack for an out-and-back and conquer 140 miles of terrain. Try trail running, where visitors run as much of the LHHT as they can in one day with little to no equipment.
Every year, the LHHT is host to a variety of unique events to challenge expert hikers or teach beginners how to get started! The Laurel Highlands Ultra is an annual 70 and a half-mile run for both individuals and relay racers. The Crucible is a three-day extreme journey through the LHHT with a gull gear pack through all 70 miles, with proceeds benefitting veterans.
Don’t forget your camera! The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail offers some truly unforgettable sights. Hike to the appropriate mile marker to check them out!
- Between miles 7-8:
Take in the view from Sugarloaf Knob, the third highest point in Pennsylvania.
- Between miles 12-13:
See 112-acre Cranberry Glade Lake with a stunning view, especially in the fall.
- Mile 21.5:
Check out the rock outcropping at Middle Fork for a beautiful panorama of the Laurel Highlands.
- Mile 24.5:
Cool off with a quick dip in the stunning Blue Hole Creek.
- Mile 27:
Snap a photo of the highest point of the LHHT at 2,961 feet.
- Mile 29:
See a spectacular view of Seven Springs Mountain Resort as you cross the slopes.
- Mile 36.5:
Take the bridge crossing the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
- Near mile 41:
Here you can find Beam Rocks, a favorite spot for rock climbing that rises 90 feet above the trail.
- Miles 67-69:
There are multiple locations where you can see the Conemaugh River and Johnstown.
Plan Your Trip…
For more information about the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and the Laurel Highlands region:
- Visit LaurelHighlands.org or call (724) 238-5661
- Visit www.dcnr.pa.gov/Recreation/WhatToDo/Hiking/LaurelHighlandsHikingTrail
- Call Laurel Ridge State Park at (724) 455-3744 to make shelter reservations
- Contact Wilderness Voyageurs (800) 272-4141
- Contact Maple Leaf Outfitters (814) 701-8080