10 best places to see Pa.'s mountain laurel in full bloom
There is still time. Pennsylvania's official state flower, the mountain laurel is in full bloom throughout the region.
Although most people are familiar with the laurel's relatives — rhododendron and azaleas — the official state flower is plentiful but in select environments, mostly rocky, moist hilltops and hillsides.
Resembling a rhody, but generally smaller with dark leathery green leaves, the laurel's flower clusters are star-shaped, ranging in hues from white to varying shades of pink and red.
In southwestern Pennsylvania, visitors should head to the Laurel Highlands for the best views of mountain laurel, according to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and not surprisingly, the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.
Visitors should stick to higher elevations and mountain tops for some of the most beautiful displays, said Charles Bier, senior director of conservation science at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
A number of state parks, forests and game lands are open and accessible and open to the general public.
Here are picks for the best places, not in any particular order.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's Bear Run Nature Reserve in Fayette County.
Some less-traveled roads in the Laurel Highlands are a good option as well, according to Bier, including: Skyline Drive, which runs along the spine of Chestnut Ridge just east of Uniontown and south of Rt. 40 starting at the Summit Inn.
Bier also suggests a trip to Mount Davis , Somerset County, "another winner for this wildflower, and given that we are approach the end of the peak of its bloom, going to this highest point in the state will provide a good chance to still catch fresh flowers in a cooler habitat."
Wolf Rocks , Forbes State Forest, is a little side stop near Mt. Davis.
Edward Callahan, district forester with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources suggests:
Quebec Run Wild Area , Forbes State Forest, Hess and Tebolt trails.
Laurel Mountain Trail System , Wolf Rocks, Summit and Fish Run trails in Forbes State Forest.
Laurel Ridge State Park, Cambria, Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties.
Ohiopyle State Park, Ferncliff Peninsula .
The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau recommends many of the same areas already mentioned earlier in the article, but they added Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece Fallingwater , which is in the Bear Run Nature Reserve, which was one of Bier's picks.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, email@example.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.