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Ohiopyle State Park- The Adventure Captial of Pennsylvania

Photo captured by Photographer Alex Byers @alexeditsphotos

Discover Ohiopyle State Park - An Adventure-Packed Guide To Ohiopyle, PA

If this is the first time that you’re hearing of Ohiopyle State Park – you’re in for a treat.

This charming little mountain town in Pennsylvania has even been named The Best Small Town in the Northeast by USA Today, and it’s easy to see why.

Ohiopyle is an adventure lover’s dream, nestled in the heart of the Laurel Highlands and spanning 20,500 acres of pure outdoor bliss.

Just an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh, PA, Cumberland, MD, and Morgantown, WV, Ohiopyle is a must-visit destination in the Northeast. Whether you’re into white water rafting with class II – III, and even class IV rapids, hiking scenic trails, chasing waterfalls, or camping under the stars, this place has it all. Plus, it’s a popular entry point to the Great Allegheny Passage for those who love biking and exploring.

I recently explored Ohiopyle in partnership with the Laurel Highlands Tourism Board and had the chance to pack in nothing but adventure over our three days retreat. 

Growing up just 45 minutes away, Ohiopyle is home to me. It’s my go-to spot for nature therapy, family fishing trips, and recharging my soul.

But during my recent trip, I was able to experience Ohiopyle in a whole new way, and see it from a first-timers point of view. From that perspective, my eyes reopened this charming town and park, full of unlimited possibilities. 

If you crave adventure, put Ohiopyle on your bucket list. I’ve got all the tips and tricks to ensure you have an epic time.

Before you head out, make sure to download my free Google Map of Pennsylvania. It’s packed with all the best hikes, viewpoints, outdoor activities, and more to help you explore PA like a pro. 

Adventure Activities in Ohiopyle State Park

Whitewater Rafting on the Youghiogheny River

Ohiopyle State Park is famous for its exhilarating whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned rafter, the Youghiogheny offers an unforgettable ride through the stunning Laurel Highlands.

Rafting Options for All Levels

  • Family Float: Ideal for families and beginners, the Middle Yough starts in Confluence and winds through Ohiopyle State Park, ending in Ohiopyle after a relaxing nine-mile journey. This stretch is perfect for a gentle, scenic float and can be done as a guided or unguided trip.

  • Lower Yough Thrills: For those seeking more excitement, the Lower Yough features 7.5 miles of Class III – III+ rapids. This “drop & pool” river offers thrilling rapids interspersed with calm pools, providing both adrenaline-pumping action and moments to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

  • Upper Yough Adrenaline Rush: For the ultimate challenge, the Upper Yough in Maryland offers Class IV-V rapids. Known as the “Dream Stream,” this section is for experienced rafters only, requiring precise navigation and expert guides. This 11-mile run through tight, technical passages demands skill and bravery, delivering an intense and rewarding adventure.

We knew we wanted a thrill, but wasn’t sure if we were prepared for the Upper Yough. This was a great place to start. It give us all of the drops, twists, sights and turns, but left us wanting more. 

Best Times to Go Rafting

The best times to go rafting on the Youghiogheny River are from late spring to early fall, when water levels are optimal and the weather is perfect for outdoor activities.

Safety Tips and Recommended Tour Operators

  • Safety First: Always wear a life jacket and helmet, listen to your guide’s instructions, and be prepared for rapid changes in water conditions.
  • Top Outfitters: Several experienced outfitters in Ohiopyle offer guided tours and equipment rentals. Popular choices include Wilderness Voyageurs, Laurel Highlands River Tours, and Ohiopyle Trading Post.

Biking Along The Great Allegheny Passage

One of my new favorite activities in Ohiopyle is jumping on the Great Allegheny Passage, otherwise known as the GAP. This ~150-mile bike and walking path runs from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland. It’s a clean path with options for bike camping along the way.

During our visit to Ohiopyle State Park, we decided to finally go for it and bike-pack for a night. This meant loading up our camping gear and biking to a camp-in campground along the trail. If you don’t wish to ride the full GAP or longer intervals, you can jump on and off and just ride a few miles at a time. I think one of the most beautiful parts of the path starts in Laurel Highlands, with the entrance at the train station. I was blown away by how nice, clean, and accessible these trails and campgrounds were, and I can definitely say it was worth the trip.

The Great Allegheny Passage biking is a perfect playground for day visits, overnight adventures, or thru-trips. You can tour a nearby trail town, find a quiet fishing spot, pause among wildflowers, or splash in a waterfall. From end to end, you can explore new territory, linger at a favorite spot, meet other travelers, or escape the crowds.

The Great Allegheny Passage traces America’s westward expansion and provides a rich journey with great views, hospitable stops, and all the makings of a perfect adventure. You’ll visit viaducts where railroads once cut across valleys and wind through trail towns where coal was once king. Winding over fourteen major bridges, through the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania, past dozens of colorful murals, and among countless sunny vistas, your trip will include photos at these perennial favorites.

Paddleboarding or Kayaking The Conflunce

For an unforgettable paddleboarding experience, head to Confluence, PA, the gateway to Paddleboarding the Youghiogheny River. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner, Confluence offers something for everyone. Start your adventure at Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle, where you can rent paddleboards and get expert advice on the best routes.

For a relaxed outing, paddle the upper dam section of Yough Lake, where you can enjoy the calm, boat-friendly waters and return to your starting point.

If you’re up for a bit more adventure, paddle downstream from the Confluence Dam to the Ramcat Access Point, soaking in the stunning scenery along the way. This route offers a perfect mix of gentle drifts and secluded spots, ideal for those looking to escape the crowds. Remember to plan your transport, as you’ll need two cars or a ride back to the start. 

For more details, read my full blog on this experience: Paddling The Confluence: A Beginner’s Guide To Paddling The Youghiogheny River. 

Photo captured by Photographer Alex Byers @alexeditsphotos

Hiking and Waterfall Trails

While it’s not quite “a hike”, Cucumber Falls is maybe the most photogenic and photographed waterfall in western PA! Getting there is super easy – the parking lot is located on Kentuck Road, and it’s a quick easy walk to the falls. 

This is my favorite waterfall in PA because it’s one of the only falls that you can safely walk behind! On a hot day, a little mist from behind the falls feels INCREDIBLE. Just be careful as the rock can get very slippery.

You can even add a bonus adventure and continue down the Meadow Run Trail to the Youghiogheny River to watch rafters paddling by.

If you’re looking to spend part of your day out on the Ohiopyle hiking trails, here are a few hikes I highly recommend, tailored to different distances and elevation gains:

Trail
Length
Elevation Gain
Route
Difficulty
Ferncliff Trail
1.8 miles
137 ft
Loop
Easy
Jonathan Run Trail
2.5 miles
193 ft
Out & back
Easy
To Bidwell via Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
11.6 miles
2,769 ft
Out & back
Hard
Baughman Trail and Sugarloaf Trail Loop
5.3 miles
872 ft
Loop
Moderate

Natural Rock Waterslides

The Ohiopyle Natural Waterslides are about a half-mile south of downtown Ohiopyle, with parking at the intersection of Main Street and Ohiopyle Road, easily found on my free map of Pennsylvania. A wooden staircase from the parking area leads directly to the slides.

When visiting, be cautious on the rocks; dry ones are fine, but wet ones get slippery. For those brave enough to try the slides, head to the large flat area at the top, hop in the water, and slide down into the pool about 200 feet downstream.

It’s a bumpy ride, often leaving scratches and bruises. I wasn’t brave enough to attempt the slides, but it’s also important to take a look at the water conditions. You’ll want to avoid the slides when water levels are high. Always take caution, and if you don’t know, don’t go. 

Unique Nearby Attractions

Visiting Fallingwater - Frank Lloyd Wright

Voted the most important building of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects, Fallingwater is an absolute must-see. This Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece was entrusted to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963 and is the only Wright house with its original setting, furnishings, and artwork still intact.

If you’re short on time, like we were, grab the Grounds Pass. It lets you soak in the iconic view of Fallingwater from the treeline and explore the grounds around the house. But if you have a bit more time, definitely consider the guided house tour. You’ll get to see the incredible architecture up close, learn about its history, and understand Wright’s genius in integrating the house with its natural surroundings.

Fallingwater is located in the beautiful Laurel Highlands, just a short drive from Ohiopyle State Park. It’s perfect for a day trip if you’re already exploring the area. Make sure to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak seasons, as tours often sell out. 

Exploring the Laurel Caverns

Welcome to the largest sandstone cave in America, Laurel Caverns, located just 15 minutes from Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. There are a few different tours that you can go on: 

Guided Tour:

    • Learn about the cave’s geology and evolution from expert guides.
    • No steps involved and covers 600 feet of the easiest trails in the lit portion of the caverns.

Self-Guided Tour:

    • Perfect addition to the guided tour.
    • Features about 100 steps and 800 feet of the most challenging trails in the lit portion.
    • Takes you to the prettiest parts of the cave, including a towering underground waterfall.

Cave Exploring Program:

      • Choose from an intro, half-day, or full-day exploration.
      • Explore untouched tunnels, perfect for those ready to get down and dirty.
      • Duck and crawl through parts of the cave that only a few have seen.

Our Experience:

We paired the Guided Tour with the Self-Guided Tour, enjoying a good mix of learning and personal exploration. In hindsight, we wished we had opted for the full-day Cave Exploration Adventure to see the untouched areas and get a little more adventurous.

Where To Eat Around Ohiopyle

While there may not be a ton of food options, the restaurants in Ohiopyle are definitely satisfying. Our favorites include the Falls City Pub and Restaurant (the salmon salad is a must-try if they still serve it), Paddlers Pizza, Ohiopyle House Cafe, and the convenient Falls Inn Restaurant.

If you don’t mind a short drive, I highly recommend Bittersweet Cafe’s main restaurant, Braddock’s Restaurant and Tavern, Fuel Coffee Works, The Summit, and Lucky Dog Café. These spots are well worth the trip!

Where To Stay In Ohiopyle

While partnering with the Laurel Highlands Tourism Board, we had the chance to stay at some unique accommodations near Ohiopyle State Park, and we loved every minute of it.

Our first stay was at the Ohiopyle Treehouse, an enchanting hideaway nestled in the trees on the outskirts of the park. At this one-of-a-kind treehouse, all you’ll hear are birds chirping as you relax on one of the three covered patios, soaking in the beauty of the surrounding hardwoods and ferns.

We stargazed in the hot tub and enjoyed a morning hike on a mile-long private trail, crossing a clear mountain stream, winding through mountain laurel canopies, and exploring a rock garden boulder field. This stay was truly magical!

Next, we moved to the Falls View Inn, right in the heart of Ohiopyle and within walking distance of nearly everything. Our 3-bedroom, 2-bath suite was spacious, clean, and fully equipped with everything we needed for a comfortable stay. The best part? We had a stunning view of the falls right from our living room! Located behind the Falls View Restaurant on Main Street, the Falls View Inn is the perfect spot if you want to be right in the center of town. I highly recommend it for a convenient and enjoyable stay in Ohiopyle!

Whether you’re looking to reconnect with nature, explore historical sites like Fallingwater, or simply enjoy the beauty of the Laurel Highlands, Ohiopyle has something for everyone. It’s no wonder it was named it the best small town in the Northeast.

So pack your bags, grab your gear, and head to Ohiopyle for an unforgettable adventure. For more information and resources, contact the Laurel Highlands Tourism Board or visit their website for detailed guides and maps to help you plan your trip. 

Contact Information: Laurel Highlands Tourism Board 

Website: www.laurelhighlands.org Phone: (800) 333-5661 Email: info@laurelhighlands.org

Explore, enjoy, and make memories in Ohiopyle!

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