One of the most popular and most consistently visited State Parks in Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle State Park is an outdoor lover’s dream. There are endless opportunities for fun things to do in Ohiopyle, suited for just about anyone at any age. Around 20,500 acres are just waiting to be explored.
Full disclosure: On one of our trips to the park, we ended up walking/hiking 16 miles in one day seeing everything that we could. While we might have gotten a little ambitious for some, Ohiopyle is a great place to explore.
So where are the best spots to visit? You’ve come to the right place! But first…
Where is Ohiopyle State Park Located?
Ohiopyle State Park and the town of Ohiopyle itself are located in the Laurel Highlands region of southwestern Pennsylvania.
About 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Ohiopyle is also close to both the Maryland and West Virginia borders.
The area is rich with both history and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Best Things to Do & See in Ohiopyle
Get outside and enjoy the surroundings no matter the season. The milder months, however, have a greater range of activities, but bring with them the crowds. From Ohiopyle waterfalls to scenic overlooks and history, there is something for everyone.
Without further ado, here is our list of all the best things to do in Ohiopyle.
Stop in at the Park Visitor Center
One of the first things that you may notice when driving into the town of Ohiopyle, the home base of all of the park activities, is the Visitor Center.
The Center has a great museum on the basement level, which will clue you into some of the history of the area prior to exploring.
Maps and guides can also be found here.
Also, if you are looking for any souvenirs from your trip to the area, this would be a good place to begin your shopping, as there is a small gift shop in the center.
You could spend nearly an hour exploring inside the Visitor Center here.
The most easily accessed and most powerful waterfall in the park is Ohiopyle Falls on the Youghiogheny River.
Viewing platforms have been built both outside and in the visitor center.
A short walk from the parking lot on paved sidewalks leads to spectacular views of the raging falls.
Plan to spend 10-15 minutes viewing and snapping photos of the falls, as well as reading a few of the informational signs posted around the walkways.
Hike the Ferncliff Peninsula
From the main parking area in town, take the GAP trail across the Youghiogheny River and head left down the stairs to begin the Ferncliff Trail loop.
You will hike 0.3 miles and end up at an excellent viewing point for Ohiopyle Falls. It seems that many hikers stop and turn around at the falls and do not continue on the path, as we didn’t encounter anyone else on this Trail until nearing the return point to the GAP trail.
On the rest of the Ferncliff Trail, you will find sneak peeks of the rapids through the foliage. The forest also has a very untouched feel, despite historically being the site of a popular hotel resort for vacationers from the city many years ago.
The trail is narrow with steep drop-offs to the side just past the falls. Otherwise, the trail is considered easy in difficulty.
The trail covers around 1.7 miles in total.
Cucumber Falls is probably the second most popular waterfall in Ohiopyle State Park, and for good reason. The 30 feet tall single-drop waterfall can be accessed from multiple points, making for an extremely short 5-minute hike or turning into an all-day adventure.
We hiked from the parking lot adjacent to the visitors center, across the Route 381/Main Street bridge, and turned right down something resembling a paved driveway to find the Meadow Run Trail.
The hike along this portion of the Meadow Run Trail was 100% worth the hassle of finding it. Sections lead you to spots where you can dip your toes in the Youghiogheny and other spots cross the rocky walls of the gorge for a lot of trail variation. You’ll also pass a short sandy section along the river– talk about variety!
Alternatively, park in the small lot off of Ohiopyle Road, where you’ll find a short path including a staircase down to the falls.
We’d choose the Meadow Run Trail section, as the scenery was worth the exercise unless you’re short on time.
After checking out Cucumber Falls, return on the Meadow Run Trail and continue underneath the bridge to find the natural waterslides area.
Alternatively, you can walk across route 381/Main Street and turn left to cross the road. You’ll find the parking area for the natural waterslides here.
A wooden staircase leads down to the rocky platforms surrounding the natural waterslides.
In the Spring and after heavy rain falls, the water flows quite powerfully but in the summer, this is a popular area for locals and visitors to adventure down the slides and swim in the pools.
I’ve heard that the ride down the slides is quite rough, so take caution when partaking in this activity.
Don’t miss a visit to this area. When the water is too cold for swimming, the area is much less busy but no less beautiful.
Meadow Run Trail to The Cascades
From the natural waterslide area, continue on the Meadow Run Trail.
You will need to navigate the rocky creek banks for a short distance until the trail turns up the side of the hill. Make a quick stop at Flat Rock to get views up and down Meadow Run. You might share the views with fishermen and women along the run, depending on the time of year.
Then, continue on to the Cascades.
It is possible to walk out on some of the rocks to get better views of the falls, as well as a couple of viewing areas a bit further downstream.
In total, the hike will cover nearly 3 miles roundtrip.
This is a beautiful and less visited area of Ohiopyle State Park, but one that should not be missed.
During the summer months, Ohiopyle is an extremely popular destination for whitewater rafting trips on the Youghiogheny River.
Multiple companies and outfitters offer guided whitewater rafting trip options on both the Middle Yough and Lower Yough.
The Middle Yough section offers a leisurely float appropriate for families and includes class I-II rapids. Beware, though, that during periods of lower water flow, you will get stuck on rocks and boulders. Your group may have to get out of the raft and walk in the river to get it moving again.
The Lower Yough Rafting Trips are for those more adventurous rafters and can include class III-IV rapids. We’d recommend taking the Lower Yough Trip if your group is up for an adventure and meets age requirements.
If choosing to take your own raft or kayak down the river, registration with the park is required.
An Upper Yough trip, located closer to Morgantown, WV, includes some class V rapids for those really seeking a thrill.
Typical rafting trips and tours last around 4 hours, depending on the flow of the river. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly river trip or a thrilling adventure, there is something for everyone on the river in Ohiopyle.
Bike the GAP Trail
The Great Allegheny Passage, or GAP, Trail, is a 150-mile bike trail that will take you from Point State Park in Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD. Continuing on from Cumberland on the C&O Canal Towpath, you can reach Washington DC for a 333-mile bicycle adventure.
The Youghiogheny River portion of the GAP trail provides excellent views of the river, and short pitstops at some of the side trails can provide a lot of bang for your buck.
One of the best routes to bike is beginning at Ferncliff Natural Parking Area or starting in town and biking across the GAP Bridge, heading along the trail to the town of Connellsville. After the 17-mile ride, take a break from your bike to explore the town before heading back.
A portion of the original section of the GAP from Connellsville to Confluence can be found in Ohiopyle State Park.
For those traveling without their bikes, several outfitters in town offer rentals.
Wander Through the Town
Walking down the streets of the town of Ohiopyle will feel like taking a trip back in time. The quaint shops lining the street feel like they have been unchanged for decades.
You’ll find outdoor outfitters, inns, and even a seasonal putt-putt course in town. If you don’t pack a picnic lunch, stop at one of the delicious restaurants for lunch or grab something to go for a stop on your next hike.
Grab an ice cream cone from the General Store or something to satisfy your sweet tooth from Ohiopyle Candy Co. Even catch a glimpse of a beautifully painted mural representing the town painted below the GAP bridge.
Jonathan Run Trail
Although the Jonathan Run Trailhead is one of the few locations that is not easily walkable from the main parking area in town, don’t let that stop you from visiting. The Jonathan Run Falls are beautiful!
The Jonathan Run Trail covers nearly 4 miles out and back for an easy to moderate hike, accessed by the small parking area and trailhead on Holland Hill Road.
For those looking for more adventure, head down the small single-track paths to get better views of the waterfalls along the creek. Remember, though, that if you walk down, you must hike back up!
Multiple waterfalls can be viewed from this trail or its side chutes, so there is a lot of bang for your buck here. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours hiking Jonathan Run and taking in all the waterfalls.
Begin Your Hike on the Laural Highlands Trail
Laurel Highlands hiking trail is a 70-mile backpacking endeavor, and the southern end begins in Ohiopyle. The trail leads through the hills and valleys and ends in Johnstown PA.
Portions of the trail are also for day-use as there are 6 trailheads along the route. Some of the terrain can be challenging due to the changes in elevation, so plan accordingly.
Spectacular viewpoints of Ohiopyle, as well as other State Parks and points of interest, can be viewed along the yellow-blazed trail.
Areas with overnight shelters are dotted every 6-12 miles along the trail, offering a safe haven from the sometimes unpredictable weather, but must be reserved in advance. An overnight camping fee should be paid at the time of reservation. There are 8 shelter areas in total along the Laurel Highlands Trail.
Wilderness Voyageurs does offer a shuttle for those wanting to do a thru-hike without the means to get from point A to point B.
Zipline at Ohiopyle Zipline Adventure Park
Located right in the town of Ohiopyle on Sherman Street, zipline adventures are offered by the Laurel Highlands River Tours & Outdoor Center.
Tours of different skill levels can be booked, but there are age, height, and weight restrictions for these activities. Children as young as 4 years old can enjoy the thrills.
Tickets are good for one hour of adventure through the trees.
If this location is closed or booked, check out the WVU Outdoor Education Center, just a 45-minute drive away into West Virginia. Tours here include 4 zip lines among other features and typically last 2.5-3.5 hours.
For the Adventurers – Rock Climbing
Like a few of the other State Parks in Pennsylvania, there are plenty of opportunities for rock climbing in Ohiopyle.
Two popular areas are Meadow Run and Bruner Run. Some other areas include scenic waterfalls.
You will find access trails to the rock climbing areas marked in blue.
Different from some other State Parks, guided trips where you can learn the ropes are offered by multiple outfitters in town.
Baughman Rock Overlook
There is a hike leading to this overlook, which covers 3.4 miles nearly straight uphill from the town, but it is mostly through wooded areas without many views. Your time could be spent better elsewhere if you are limited.
Instead, drive up the hill on SR 26116 from town for 2.5 miles and you will find a small parking lot on the left. From the parking lot, you’ll only have to walk about 50 yards to the overlook.
Although much more impressive during fall foliage peaks, the overlook does give a great perspective of the magnitude of the gorge.
A quick 15-minute stop will allow you enough time for some photos and to appreciate the landscape.
End the Day Catching a Sunset from Fire Tower Road
Though the trees have grown up a little more recently, slightly obstructing the view at the first pull off, Firetower Road is a great spot to view a beautiful sunset over the gorge.
The road looks like a small dirt path, and we missed it while driving by the first time. Head past the Baughman Rock Overlook, as well as the Sugarloaf Snowmobile and Mountain Bike area.
You’ll drive about 3 miles past Baughman Rock, and Fire Tower Road will be on the left. You won’t have to drive far, about 100 yards, to find the first pull off parking area.
Hang out in the small clearing and watch the sky light up. Check the sunset time and plan your arrival time accordingly.
Another note to remember- the temperature here at the top of the gorge can be quite different due to the wind. Come prepared with a windbreaker or a couple of extra layers… maybe even a hat and gloves, depending on the time of year you are visiting!
Other Things to do near Ohiopyle
The town and Ohiopyle State Park are not the only options for exploration in the area. With just a short drive, in some cases less than 15 minutes, these other adventures are possible on your visit.
Visit a Frank Lloyd Wright House
Frank Lloyd Wright was a very popular architect in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, designing over 1,000 structures over his 70 year career.
He believed in incorporating natural landscapes into his designs rather than disturbing them. One of his most popular and well-known designs is located just 10 minutes up the road on PA-381North/Mill Road.
The house is known as Fallingwater, and was designed for the family of Edgar Kaufman. Kaufman, a wealthy department store owner from Pittsburgh, wanted this to be his family’s summer vacation home.
The house has won many awards and is now a National Historic Landmark. The house and surrounding land was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963, and is open for tours daily.
Tours can be reserved in advance, as it can get quite busy in the summer. As a side note, when we visited first thing on a Saturday morning in March, we were the only two people on the grounds aside from the workers.
Kentuck Knob is another Frank Lloyd Wright house built less than 10 minutes from Ohiopyle in another direction.
This house, originally built for the Hagan family, owners of Hagan Ice Cream, offers only guided tours. Combination tours of both houses are also an option.
Wharton Iron Furnace
One of only two remaining restored iron furnaces in all of Fayette County, the Wharton Iron Furnace in Farmington is an odd sight nestled in the State Game Lands.
Restored in the 1960s the furnace adds scale and size to the iron industry that was once booming in the area. A few educational signs are posted around the furnace and provide photos and information about what it was like to work there.
The furnace is about 20 minutes from the town of Ohiopyle and can be combined with some of these other sites.
Just a word of caution: if navigating using Google Maps, “Wharton Iron Furnace” takes you to the wrong location. The furnace is actually located on Shephard Road at the intersection of SR 2003, about 2 miles from where the map plans to take you.
The map below shows the correct location you should navigate to.
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
The Fort Necessity National Battlefield, also located in Farmington, is an important site in the history of the US. The site is now known to be where the French & Indian War began.
As we learned on a very informative and well-designed tour through the Visitor’s Center, this site was also very important to George Washington. He later came back and purchased the land as a reminder, after he lost the battle.
A full-scale recreation of Fort Necessity can be found at it’s original location behind the Visitor’s Center. A short walk on a paved path will take you there.
Hiking trails weaving through the woods behind the Fort will also give you an idea of what it was like to travel through the area during the time period.
The site also includes the Mount Washington Tavern and Jumonville Glen, which are open seasonally, as well as the Braddock’s Grave monument. The area is worth planning at least a couple of hours to explore, and more time if you plan to thoroughly explore much of the hiking trails.
The main Fort Necessity Visitor Center at the Battlefield can be reached in 15 minutes from Ohiopyle.
Head out of Fort Necessity, turn right, and continue for 5 minutes west on the National Pike.
You will see a resort that looks more like an English Castle than something belonging in western Pennsylvania.
The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort covers 2,000 acres, and opportunities for activity are endless. Everything from golfing at Shepherd’s Rock, a Pete Dye course, to luxury spa and wine tasting activities, wildlife viewing and even Jeep off-roading adventures can be found at the resort.
Really, it’s even just a marvel to drive past on the National Pike, especially at night when it’s lit up, and admire the magnitude and beauty.
30 minutes to the southwest, you will find Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania’s largest known cave system.
There are 4 miles of caves to be explored, and both guided and self-guided tours. These tours typically last about one hour.
More rigorous tours are offered at certain times by reservation and can take 2-3 hours.
There are also opportunities for rappelling and a scenic lookout at the Caverns.
Where are the Best Places to Stay Near Ohiopyle?
If you’re looking for complete and utter luxury, head to the Nemacolin Resort. Just a room here will cost quite a few pretty pennies. I suspect, however, that this is not an option for many. On one of our visits, we found a great Airbnb condo at the back of the resort property for a much more reasonable price.
One of the best camping options around is the Ohiopyle State Park Kentuck Campground. Affordable and in close proximity to town, there is a walking access trail that leads you down to the GAP trail, and most of the park can be accessed from there.
A few small lodges and B&B-type accommodations are scattered throughout the small town, as well as a few Airbnb options, though not quite as affordable. The Falls Market even has a few rooms for rent in the heart of the action.
Where are the Best Places to Eat Near Ohiopyle?
- Falls Market Restaurant & Inn: wide variety menu includes sandwiches, burgers, and salads
- Falls City Restaurant & Pub: A great place for things like wings & beer across the bridge
- Ohiopyle Bakery & Sandwich Shoppe: Stop for lunch or grab sandwiches to go for a picnic lunch
- Paddlers Pizza: Self-explanatory. Family-owned serving pizza, stromboli, and pasta
- Braddock Inn Restaurant: Nearby in Farmington, right beside Braddock’s Grave. Chicken & waffles and country fried steak were both delicious
- Rockwell’s, Aqueous, or The Tavern: on Nemacolin property, for more upscale dining
Can You Swim at Ohiopyle?
There aren’t really any official swimming areas right in the town of Ohiopyle, especially in the Youghiogheny River. However, there is a natural waterpark, the Natural Waterslides, where you can cool off from the summer heat.
There are spots in the Youghiogheny River, but more in some of the small side creeks, runs and streams to cool off, too.
None of these are marked on any Park maps, and are all swim at your own risk. Remember, this is a whitewater destination, so don’t take the currents lightly. Dangerous situations can happen quickly.
Can you bring your dog to explore Ohiopyle along with you?
The short answer: YES! The hiking trails at Ohiopyle State Park are dog-friendly and welcoming.
Some of the businesses in town had water bowls set outside for thirsty pups to take advantage of, especially in the hot summer heat.
When we have visited, there were just as many people exploring with their dog pals as without.
Just be sure to keep them leashed in public areas and clean up after them.
Wrapping Up: Best Things to do in Ohiopyle
Ohiopyle State Park is an outdoor adventurer’s dream with opportunities to hike, bike, boat, and explore at every turn.
Though the area can get quite busy in the summer, that should not deter you from planning a visit. The early and late seasons will still offer many of the same adventures without the crowds.
Looking for other opportunities for more waterfalls, whitewater, and adventure in Pennsylvania? Head north to McConnell’s Mill State Park near Portersville, PA.
Have you visited Ohiopyle yet? What was your favorite part? Drop them in the comments below!