Best Hiking in the Laurel Highlands

Looking to explore the Laurel Highlands via foot? Check out my roundup of the best hiking in the Laurel Highlands!

Table of Contents
Best Short Hikes in the Laurel Highlands
Best Medium Hikes in the Laurel Highlands
Best Long Hikes in the Laurel Highlands
The Laurel Highlands in all their glory!

The Laurel Highlands are one of my favorite places in Pennsylvania to visit. The region has so many natural wonders, from waterfalls to scenic overlooks to natural waterslides to a bog at elevation! There really is a hike for everyone in this area.

Below I’ve listed each hike out below from shortest to longest with a description and an insider tip to help you maximize your visit. I’ll also continue to update this post as I do more hikes in the area. Happy hiking!

Keep reading for reviews of the best hiking in the Laurel Highlands!

As always, follow the principles of leave no trace when you're out exploring! Pack out all trash, leave wildlife alone, and generally leave it better than you found it - for more information visit the Leave No Trace Center.

Best Short Hikes in the Laurel Highlands

I define a short hike as anything over two miles. These short hikes are great for beginner hikers, families with kids, or people who just don’t want to spend all day in the woods!

Cucumber Falls – Ohiopyle State Park

Hike Length: 0.3 miles to the Falls only (there is an extension that can make the trail 5 miles)

Hike Description: Who doesn’t love an amazing waterfall? Cucumber Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Western Pennsylvania and should absolutely be on the list of any Ohiopyle visitor. This waterfall with its 30 foot drop is one of the few in Western Pennsylvania that you can walk behind (similar to Buttermilk Falls in Indiana County PA!). It is accessible from a very close parking lot, making it great for visitors of all hiking skill level.

Insider tip: Cucumber Falls is one of the most popular attractions in the park, so if you want the falls to yourself, go early!

Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle on an unusually warm day in February 2023

Spruce Bog Trail – Laurel Summit State Park

Length: 0.5 miles

Description: This hike is friendly for literally all hikers – including wheelchairs and strollers! There is a short trail leading to a boardwalk over a scenic bog. This is a great hike in all seasons, but I recommend visiting in the winter. It’s beautiful with all the snow, there are no bugs (rare for a bog), and it’s a short enough hike that you won’t freeze!

Insider tip: Be sure to stay on the boardwalk! The bog is a sensitive ecosystem that shouldn’t be disturbed by humans.

boardwalk looking over trees covered in snow
Best thing about visiting in winter – no bugs!

Beam Rocks – Forbes State Forest

Hike Length: 0.9 miles

Hike Description: Do you love a scenic overlook, but don’t want to do a ton of work to get there? Check out Beam Rocks Overlook, a hike that is under a mile long with a great view! This easy trail has a beautiful overlook that looks out over the beautiful Laurel Highlands. Just be careful near the edge of the overlook, especially with small children. It’s a steep drop!

Insider Tip: This trail is super popular, so if you love solitude, go early in the morning or in the winter. I visited on an 11 degree day in January and didn’t see a single person!

laurel highlands hiking beam rocks
I was not about to get any closer to the edge in slippery conditions!

Hemlock Trail – Laurel Hill State Park

Length: 1.6 miles

Description: Don’t let the length fool you – this hike packs some elevation gain into a short amount of mileage. However, the hemlock grove is incredible and absolutely worth a visit. I really liked this hike in winter but it’s beautiful all year round.

Insider Tip: Like the video says, save this hike for stick season when you REALLY miss seeing greenery. The evergreen hemlocks are amazing, especially when covered with a light sprinkling of snow.

Adams Falls – Linn Run State Park

Length: 1.3 Miles

Hike Description: Adams Falls in Linn Run State Park is a waterfall that feels like it was transported from a fairy tale. This adorable waterfall drops into a rock pile and is surrounded by evergreens. I loved visiting in the winter. The whole loop is very rocky and it’s possible to just walk to the falls and back to avoid some of the more challenging hiking.This is a popular trail so go early if you want it to yourself!

Insider tip: If you want to see both Flat Rock Trail and Adam Falls, hike out to Flat Rock first, then retrace your steps back to the split point and then hike to the falls. It’s about the same length as the full falls loop with two cool waypoints instead of just one!

waterfall in winter
One of the cutest waterfalls in all of Pennsylvania

Ferncliff Penninsula Hike – Ohiopyle State Park

Hike Length: 1.8 miles

Hike Description: Ferncliff is a go-to any time I am showing someone new Ohiopyle. It’s a beautiful hike and is short enough to be relatively manageable for most levels of hiker. This hike has great views of the Ohiopyle Falls and the Youghiogheny River and some fun terrain change. I personally love visiting this trail in the fall best, but it is lovely all year round.

Insider tip: This hike can be muddy after rainfall, so make sure to wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty! In winter, the rocks can be slippery, so Yaktraks or microspikes are recommended (these are affiliate links – if you make a purchase through these links, all the money goes back to running the blog).

woman standing holding dog with rivder in the background
Ferncliff is incredible in the fall
Looking for more waterfall hikes? Check out the Best Waterfalls Near Pittsburgh!

Best Medium Length Hikes in the Laurel Highlands

I define this as anything between two and six miles. This length is very possible to do in half a day or if you’re running short on time.

Meadow Run Trail – Ohiopyle

Hike Length: Total hike is 3 miles, but if you just want to see the Natural Waterslides, you can cut it at about half a mile.

woman sitting on rock overlooking stream
Sitting and relaxing at the Natural Waterslides in Ohiopyle

Hike Description: The Natural Waterslides in Ohiopyle are one of the most unique features of the park! Here the water has carved through sandstone to create an almost waterpark-like attraction. This is the only place to cool off in the park on a hot day, as there is no pool or beach like other state parks. The slides are located about half a mile out of downtown Ohiopyle and are a short walk from the parking lot. However, I recommend hiking on Meadow Run trail that parallels the slides to see more of their beauty.

Insider tip: If you plan to slide, be very aware of water levels. If they are too high, it could be dangerous and if they are too low, sliding could be….painful.

Jonathan Run Falls – Ohiopyle State Park

Hike Length: 2.5 miles

woman looking at waterfall
One of the many waterfalls on the Jonathan Run Falls trail!

Hike Description: This is one of my favorite hikes because you get not one, not two, but three waterfalls all in one hike! This is a great trail to visit after a lot of rain as the falls can be amazing! Make sure you wear good shoes, because if the falls are amazing, the trail is muddy.

Insider tip: The last falls is only accessible by a rope built into the side of the hill. It’s tough to spot without help, so download the AllTrails map with the waypoints to guide your way.

Pump House Track – Laurel Hill State Park

Length: 5.3 Miles

Hike Description: This awesome hike in Laurel Hill shows off all the sites of one of the largest parks in the Laurel Highlands. It is great to visit in the summer (but will likely be crowded) or fall when the foliage is popping. I visited in winter and we had it all to ourselves!

Insider Tip: Jones Mill Dam is one of the highlights of this trail so I recommend doing the loop counterclockwise from the parking lot. This way you hit the dam on the back half of your hike!

Jones Mill Dam with human for scale!

Wolf Rocks – Forbes State Park

Length: 4.3 miles

Hike Description: Earn your vista with a hike at Wolf Rocks! This hike has one of the most incredible views in the area. While there is a bit of elevation gain, the trail actually loses elevation for the first half. In the second half, you retrace some (but not all) of your steps for an interesting return trip back to the trail head. I recommend visiting in the fall to see some of the famous Laurel Highlands foliage!

Insider Tip: This trail shares the same trailhead as Spruce Bog, which has bathrooms and picnic tables for after your hike!

Looking for more detail about each of the areas in the Laurel Highlands? Check out my guides to these Laurel Highlands parks below!
Laurel Ridge
Linn Run

Best Long Hikes in the Laurel Highlands

I define a long hike as anything over six miles. I know some might quibble with this definition but I think anything that is going to take a normal person over a couple of hours is considered long.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail – Laurel Ridge State Park

Length: 70 miles (but you can absolutely make shorter sections)

Description: The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a 70 mile long backpacking trail that runs from Ohiopyle to Johnstown. (Click here to read about my experience thru-hiking the Laurel Highlands Trail!) If you only have time for one section, I recommend only hiking five miles (2.5 each way) to the first overlook on the trail from Ohiopyle. It offers a beautiful view of the Youghigheiny River and is absolutely worth the work to get there.

Insider tip: This overlook is lovely in all seasons but is INCREDIBLE in the fall. Highly recommend visiting then.

Absolutely worth the elevation gain

Quebec Run Wild Area Loop – Forbes State Forest

Length: 11.3 miles for the outer loop, but there are other variations you could create within the trail system

Description: If you REALLY want to get away from people, Quebec Run is the place to go. It is very remote and there are no amenties (no bathrooms or shelters). But there are over 23 miles of interconnected trails located in the area so it is absolutely worth the visit. 

Insider tip: If you want to do a quick backpacking trip, Quebec Run is a great place for it! Coming from Pittsburgh, it’s super easy to drive out on a Friday night, hike 1-2 miles, set up camp, and then finish the rest the next day.

Primitive camping in Quebec Run Wild Area
Trying to figure out what gear to take on your long hikes? Check out my guide to must-have backpacking gear!

I think hiking the Laurel Highlands is the best way to explore this amazing area of Pennsylvania! Got any other favorite Laurel Highlands hikes? Let me know in the comments!

Updated February 22, 2024

Leave a Comment