Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
|Laurel Ridge State Park|
|Pennsylvania State Park|
|Natural Monument (IUCN III)|
One tree grows from the rotting stump of another at Laurel Ridge State Park
|Named for: Laurel Ridge|
|Counties||Cambria, Fayette, Somerset, Westmoreland|
|Location||Park Office |
|- elevation||2,759 ft (840.9 m)|
|Area||13,625 acres (5,514 ha)|
|- location||St. Clair Township|
|- elevation||1,310 ft (399 m)|
|Managed by||Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources|
Location of Laurel Ridge State Park in Pennsylvania
Location of Laurel Ridge State Park in Pennsylvania
|Website : Laurel Ridge State Park|
Laurel Ridge State Park is a 13,625-acre (5,514 ha) Pennsylvania state park that passes through Cambria, Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties, Pennsylvania in the United States. The park is home to the 70-mile (110 km) Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail that runs through the park from the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The park was approved by the governor on July 10, 1967, and construction started on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on July 7, 1970.
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is 70 miles (110 km) long, begins at Ohiopyle State Park and ends at Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The trail goes through state forests, state parks, state game lands, and some privately owned lands. Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is open year round. The trail is marked with yellow blazes. Connector trails are marked with blue blazes. These trails connect the main trail with parking and shelter areas. The trail is marked with large wooden signs at every major highway crossing. Six parking lots at the highway crossings provide starting points; some have access to drinking water.
There are eight overnight shelter areas on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. These shelter areas are located about every 6 miles (9.7 km) to 10 miles (16 km) along the trail. The shelter areas each have five Adirondack style shelters. There are two outhouses at the rest stops and a water supply. There is room for up to 30 tents at each stop. Firewood is provided. Hikers using the shelters are required to make reservations for use of the shelters with the park staff before setting out on their hike. A fee is charged to users of the shelters.
The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail mileage starts from the southern trailhead in Ohiopyle State Park. The trail runs east through the park and parallel to the Youghiogheny River within Stewart Township in Fayette County for the first 6 miles (9.7 km). Just past mile 6 the trail comes to the first overnight shelter area (with potable water), where it turns northeast. At 7 miles (11 km) the trail leaves the park and Fayette County, and enters Lower Turkeyfoot Township in Somerset County and Pennsylvania State Game Lands No. 111. Just before 15 miles (24 km), the trail enters Laurel Ridge State Park for the first time, where it continues northeast. Just past 17 miles (27 km) the trail turns north, and crosses back into Fayette County (now Springfield Township), where the second overnight shelter with potable water is found.
The trail runs generally northeast and passes the Laurel Ridge State Park office near 19 miles (31 km), enters Saltlick Township, Fayette County at about 23 miles (37 km), then leaves the park and enters Forbes State Forest just before 24 miles (39 km). Shortly after this the trail returns to Somerset County (Middlecreek Township) and passes the third overnight shelter area with potable water. Between 25 miles (40 km) and 26 miles (42 km) the trail follows the border between Laurel Ridge State Park and Forber State Forest, then leaves public land for private property. It crosses the borough of Seven Springs and runs just west of Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Laurel Hill State Park. Just before 29 miles (47 km) the trail crosses into Donegal Township in Westmoreland County, and shortly after enters the state forest and then Laurel Ridge State Park again. At about 31.5 miles (50.7 km), the trail crosses back into Somerset County (Jefferson Township), and just past 32 miles (51 km) passes the fourth overnight shelter area, with potable water. It runs west of Kooser State Park and continues for several miles just east of the county line, crossing the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 70/76) before 37 miles (60 km). The pedestrian bridge over the turnpike was closed in December 2009, when it was deemed to be in such poor condition that it was too unstable to use. The bridge was reopened in January 2012. This stretch of trail runs through the state forest and three separate small tracts of Laurel Ridge State Park.
At 38 miles (61 km), the trail crosses from the state forest into Laurel Ridge State Park and Lincoln Township in Somerset County, then crosses briefly into Cook Township in Westmoreland County. It crosses back into Somerset County and comes to the fifth overnight shelter with potable water, then reaches Laurel Summit State Park at 39 miles (63 km). Continuing through the state forest, the trail crosses into Jenner Township in Somerset County just past 41 miles (66 km), and back into Laurel Ridge State Park at 43.5 miles (70.0 km), passing east of Linn Run and Laurel Mountain state parks along this section. The trail crosses U.S. Route 30 just before 46 miles (74 km) and reaches the sixth overnight shelter with potable water just after. It continues through the state park to 50 miles (80 km), then enters State Game Lands No. 42, then crosses into Ligonier Township in Westmoreland County. The trail leaves the Game Lands at 53 miles (85 km), travels through Laurel Ridge State Park for 1 mile (1.6 km), crosses back into the Game Lands, and into Jenner Township in Somerset County again. Just before 55 miles (89 km) the trail again passes through the state park where it enters Conemaugh Township in Somerset County, then enters private land at about 55.5 miles (89.3 km). The trail enters another tract of the state park before 57 miles (92 km), where it crosses Pennsylvania Route 271 and the seventh overnight shelter with potable water is located. Just after this the trail enters State Game Lands No. 42, then at 57.5 miles (92.5 km) crosses into Upper Yoder Township in Cambria County.
The trail continues through State Game Lands No. 42 and crosses back into Westmoreland County (Fairfield Township) just before 59 miles (95 km). At about 60 miles (97 km) the trail enters St. Clair Township in Westmoreland County, and between here and 62 miles (100 km) it crosses twice into Lower Yoder Township in Cambria County. It finally leaves the State Game Lands and enters Laurel Ridge State park for the final time before 63 miles (101 km), crossing back into Cambria County (Lower Yoder Township) shortly after that. The seventh and final overnight shelter with potable water is past 64 miles (103 km) and the trail continues northeast until just before 67 miles (108 km), where it turns north and then crosses into Westmoreland County (St. Clair Township). The trail now runs parallel to the Conemaugh River with several vistas of the river valley, and finally ends at 70 miles (110 km).
Hunting is permitted on almost all of Laurel Ridge State Park. The most common game species are Ruffed Grouse, turkey and White-tailed deer. The hunting of Groundhogs is prohibited. Hunters are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
There are 35 miles (56 km) of trails open to cross-country skiing during the winter months at Laurel Ridge State Park and over 70 miles (110 km) of trails open to snow mobiles.
Nearby state parks
- Blue Knob State Park (Bedford County)
- Keystone State Park (Westmoreland County)
- Kooser State Park (Somerset County)
- Laurel Hill State Park (Somerset County)
- Laurel Mountain State Park (Westmoreland County)
- Laurel Summit State Park (Westmoreland County)
- Linn Run State Park (Westmoreland County)
- Ohiopyle State Park (Fayette County)
- Yellow Creek State Park (Indiana County)
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