SLB Photography
Stream photography

Laurel Highlands Nature Reserve

For years when driving up to Ohiopyle State Park I’ve past a Nature Reserve. When I think about a nature reserve, I think about a place to bring your young kids to enjoy small trails and outdoor programs led by the volunteers and staff that work there. I also think about areas that are off limits for research, maybe it’s research about the ash borer or spotted lantern fly or various watershed programs. For years I wondered what this little place was and if it was open to the public. Much to my surprise, this little place offers 20 miles of remote trails and also welcomes backpacking on an 11 mile loop around the reserve.

The reserve is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and is on the same land as Fallingwater. The area provides vital resources for the region’s native plants, animals, and their ecosystems. It also provides peace and quiet with less crowds that Ohiopyle. Once I found out that the area was open to hiking, it’s been on my bucket list. I finally had a chance to hike this amazing place. Starting out on a relatively flat tract of land surrounded by Hemlocks. This beautiful area led across two gradient streams before ascending to the top of the ridge through hardwood forest. The trail descended again back in to thick hemlock forest, the sky turned dark and rain poured down. The cold rain was invigorating and inspiring. This was by far my favorite part of the trail. There were several stream crossings in this area and a small spring with crystal clear water, I was bummed that I didn’t bring the water filter! In this area the trail markers were hard to follow and we’d hadn’t seen on it a while, we started to wonder if we were still on the right trail. The trails here have marker posts and also colored blazes, but the blazes are hard to find and see at times. Soon enough though we came upon the numbered trail marker and knew we were good. We put in roughly 5.3 miles and this quickly became a favorite. I cannot wait to explore this area more. Here’s looking forward to a backpacking trip here soon. As with all outdoor nature areas please respect this place. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy works hard to maintain the property and does good work here. I’m thankful they allow hikers on the property. Please do not leave trash, pack out what you pack in. Please do not remove any vegetation, animals, rocks or anything else you find here.

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