Staycation: Plenty of year-round activities at Ohiopyle
Ohiopyle State Park is home to a plethora of outdoor activities any time of the year.
Pennsylvania’s largest state park, it attracts millions of visitors annually and is centered around the tiny town of Ohiopyle in Fayette County, which had a population of 57 people in 2018, according to census figures.
One look at the park’s beautiful natural resources, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. In about an hour’s drive from Greensburg, visitors can take a bicycle ride, raft on the river and get a hearty meal followed up with a couple scoops of ice cream enjoyed on a bench at the water’s edge.
On the water
A popular attraction is the waterfall on the Youghiogheny River, where the waterway winds into town outside the visitor’s center. The river is home to whitewater rapids perfect for a variety of skill levels, and several outfitters offer guided trips or rentals for use on different sections of the river.
There are plenty of places to cool off on hot days — take a dip in the river from its banks or be more adventurous and check out the park’s natural water slides nearby on Meadow Run, a short walk away from the visitors center. Cucumber Falls — a short drive from town — also is a great spot to cool off.
But to get away from the crowds guaranteed to be at both locations on warm days, go a little farther along Meadow Run. A trail alongside the stream leads to huge rocks and small pools. The Cascades area and Flat Rock offer wading opportunities, or just a spot to take a break and listen to the water.
In the woods
There are miles of hiking, bicycling and mountain biking trails, including some that have been recently built. Two longer trails have segments that run through Ohiopyle — the Great Allegheny Passage and the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
Many hiking trails offer stunning overlooks as a reward for tackling the tough terrain. Catch a view of Ohiopyle and the surrounding hills from Tharp Knob Picnic Area at the start of Kentuck Trail.
An uphill hike to Baughman Rock Overlook starts on the Baughman Trail just off the Great Allegheny Passage. There is a parking lot off Sugarloaf Road for motorists to catch the same view.
Maybe you want to hit the trails and the water on the same day. Local outfitters offer rental options for bicycling east on the Great Allegheny Passage and rafting the river back to town.
In the winter
The park’s beauty doesn’t end when winter arrives.
“People flock to Cucumber Falls because, if it’s really cold, it’ll just freeze solid, and it’s gorgeous,” said park manager Ken Bisbee.
Park officials light up the falls on the Yough River at times during the holidays for a more special view, he said.
“People still love to come and see the falls, even in the wintertime,” he said.
There are plenty of outdoor activities to work up a sweat during the cold months, too. A sledding hill off Sugarloaf Road and nearly 16 miles of snowmobiling trails are accessible from the same spot. A couple trails were created for cross-country skiing, and the Great Allegheny Passage can be used for that purpose in heavy snowfall.
The park has an annual Winterfest in the Sugarloaf area, and the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing programs are scheduled “as long as we have snow,” Bisbee said. Those events will be posted on the park’s website. Snowshoes are available for rent at the visitors center.
“People kayak all winter long,” said Bisbee.
Where to stay and eat
There are campgrounds, cottages and yurts available on state park grounds. There are several rental options in town and the outskirts, but many fill up quickly. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, about 10 minutes away, has campgrounds, RV spots and cabins.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is about 15 minutes away for some pampering after a day in the outdoors.
Maybe the weather isn’t great during your visit or you’re looking for something indoors. Two of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces are within a 10-minute drive from Ohiopyle — Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater.
Both homes offer tours. Bear Run Nature Reserve is close to Fallingwater for additional hiking and camping options.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .