Ohiopyle State Park: The Complete Guide

Flume Waterslide, Ohiopyle State Park
Howard Grill / Getty Images

Gateway to the Laurel Mountains, Ohiopyle State Park encompasses over 20,000 acres of rugged national beauty in southwestern Pennsylvania. The focal point of Ohiopyle is the more than 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River Gorge (pronounced yawki-gay-nee), which is more commonly referred to simply as the Yough (yawk). Hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, river rafting, natural waterslides, and a state park natural area round out the gorgeous package.

Things to Do

In the center of Ohiopyle State Park, the Ohiopyle Falls Day Use Area is the starting point for many visitors with parking, restrooms, a gift shop, and several overlook platforms. Within other areas of the park, there are rugged trails for hiking and mountain biking and crushed limestone trails for walking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Pack a picnic along for your trek to spend a full day enjoying the nature of Western Pennsylvania.

Most of the top activities revolve around the Yough and the most important one is whitewater rafting. In fact, Ohiopyle is one of the premier whitewater rafting spots in the Eastern U.S., so it's the place to try it if you're curious about this extreme sport. You can also see several scenic waterfalls throughout the park and even jump in and slide down some of them. For the anglers, fishing in the river is also available.

For architecture fans, right at the edge of the park is what is widely considered Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, his famous home Fallingwater. The building is open for guided tours and is worth seeing while you're in the area.

Best Hikes & Trails

Twenty-seven miles of the Youghiogheny River Trail run through Ohiopyle State Park, excellent for walking, hiking, biking, and even cross country skiing in the winter months.

  • Meadow Run Trail: This 3-mile easy hike starts and ends near the natural waterslides, which are one of the most popular attractions in the park.
  • Great Gorge Trail: For springtime hikes, this trail passes through an area that is known for its wildflower blooms as well as an old tramway that was used back in the coal mining days. The trail is 2.6 miles and is considered moderately difficult.
  • Baughman Trail: One of the more difficult hikes in the park, this trail is steep and rocky for 3.4 miles. However, your hard work is well-rewarded when you get to the summit at Baughman Rock and get sweeping views of the park.

Whitewater Rafting

The Yough is one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the Eastern U.S. and the river provides opportunities for rafters and kayakers of all levels. Several outfitters organize tours out of Ohiopyle State Park, or you can rent equipment if you want to take it on your own. Rafting is best in the springtime, although fun during summer and fall as well.

The most popular—and dangerous—area is the Lower Yough, which begins after the Ohiopyle Falls and flows for 7 miles. These waters are the most extreme and should only be attempted by experienced rafters or visitors with a professional guide. The Middle Yough begins in the town of Confluence, Pennsylvania, and continues on until the Ohiopyle Falls; this section is much calmer and ideal for families or beginners.

Where to Camp

The Kentuck Campground is the only campground inside the park and has 200 campsites for tent camping or RVs. All campsites have a parking space, picnic table, and fire ring, and there is a communal bathroom with flush toilets and hot showers also available to use. This popular campground is only open from April to mid-December and reservations are necessary.

If you want to sleep in the park without sleeping on the ground, the Kentuck Campground also has a limited number of cottages and yurts available to rent. The cottages are more rustic but do have electric lights and heat, while the yurts include a small kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, and microwave oven.

Where to Stay Nearby

In the small towns around the park, you'll find options ranging from cozy inns to luxury resorts. If you want to explore the park but with the conveniences of a major city, then Pittsburgh is just over an hour away by car and offers all kinds of lodging options.

  • Summit Inn Resort: This seasonal hotel is just 11 miles from Ohiopyle State Park and sits on a mountain with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. The grand building dates back to 1907 and has been run by the same family for three generations.
  • Nemacolin Resort: You might not expect to find five-star luxury in rural Western Pennsylvania, but the Nemacolin Resort is about as glamorous as you can get. Everything from the guestrooms and decor to the restaurant and pool are designed with impeccable tastes, and all surrounded by the natural beauty of the Laurel Highlands. Plus, it's just 8 miles away from the state park.
  • Parador Inn: A bit further away in Pittsburgh is the historic Parador Inn, which dates back to the 1800s. The guestrooms feel like stepping back in time and are ornately decorated to evoke the rich history of the inn. It's located in the fun Allegheny West neighborhood of the city and is just over an hour away from Ohiopyle.

How to Get There

Ohiopyle State Park is 70 miles south of Pittsburgh and centered around the small town called Ohiopyle, not far from the state borders with West Virginia and Maryland. From Pittsburgh, drive south on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and exit at the town of Donegal. From there, it's about another 20 miles on country highways until you reach the park entrance.

The park is large and GPS apps may not always lead you directly to where you want to go. If you're unsure, search directions to the town of Ohiopyle. This is the best place to start and you can easily park your car and hike on from there.

Accessibility

One of the longest trails in the park, the Youghiogheny River Trail, is fully ADA-compliant. This 27-mile trail runs through the entire park and used to be the tracks for the Western Maryland Railroad, leaving behind a limestone pathway accessible to visitors in wheelchairs or with strollers. In addition, the picnic areas, visitor center, and restrooms at the park are all ADA-compliant. At the Kentuck Campground, there are campsites, a cottage, and a yurt that are accessible for all visitors, as well.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Entrance to Ohiopyle State Park is free, although some activities such as boat rentals or rafting tours will entail their own fees.
  • The park is open year-round and is truly an all-season getaway. In the winter months, bring a sled or cross-country skis to have fun on the trails.
  • There are two picnic areas in the park—Cucumber Run and Tharp Knob. Cucumber Run is more secluded but Tharp Knob has some impressive views of the gorge. Both of them have tables and grills available to use.
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