Exploring the Beauty of Laurel Hill State Park
Just a couple hours from Pittsburgh, located in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Laurel Hill State Park is a breathtaking natural haven spanning over 3,935 acres of land. Nestled within Jefferson and Middlecreek Townships, this park offers visitors a truly unforgettable experience in the heart of nature. With its diverse range of attractions, from the stunning Laurel Hill Lake to the historic Jones Mill Run Dam, Laurel Hill State Park is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers of all ages.
Embracing History: From Lumber Era to Revitalization
To truly appreciate the beauty of Laurel Hill State Park, it is important to understand its history. The park’s story begins during the lumber era in the late 19th century when the surrounding forests of hemlock and white pine were stripped by loggers. The devastating impact of this industry left the area barren, with wildfires ravaging the landscape and wildlife scarce. However, the arrival of the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression marked a turning point in the park’s history. These dedicated men worked tirelessly to restore the forests, clear streams, and build the foundations of what would become Laurel Hill State Park. Thanks to their efforts, the park now thrives as a second growth forest, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.
Unveiling Natural Wonders: Must-See Attractions
Jones Mill Run Dam: A Cascading Waterfall
One of the most iconic features of Laurel Hill State Park is the Jones Mill Run Dam. Constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this dam showcases a beautiful cascade waterfall. Visitors can witness the mesmerizing flow of water as it tumbles down the dam, creating a picturesque scene that is perfect for photography or simply soaking in the beauty of nature.
Laurel Hill Lake: A Serene Oasis
At the heart of Laurel Hill State Park lies Laurel Hill Lake, a 63-acre man-made lake that serves as a focal point for recreational activities. The lake was created by the CCC during the Great Depression and offers a tranquil setting for boating, fishing, and picnicking. Adventurous souls can explore the lake’s perimeter on the surrounding trails, while those seeking relaxation can lounge on the beach and soak up the sun. Please note that pets are not allowed on the beach.
Hemlock Trail: A Journey Through Ancient Forest
For nature enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in the park’s natural wonders, the Hemlock Trail is a must-visit destination. Accessible from the boat launch at the northern end of Laurel Hill Lake, this approximately 1.5-mile trail winds through a grove of ancient hemlock trees. These majestic giants, some of the oldest in the park, provide a sense of awe and tranquility as visitors walk along the trail. The Hemlock Trail offers a unique experience, showcasing the resilience and beauty of nature as it thrives in this protected area.
Outdoor Adventures: Hiking, Hunting, Fishing, and More
Hiking Trails for All Levels
Laurel Hill State Park boasts a diverse network of hiking trails, catering to all levels of hikers. Whether you are a seasoned trekker or a beginner looking to explore the outdoors, there is a trail for you. The trails at Laurel Hill State Park range from easy walks to more challenging hikes, allowing visitors to tailor their experience to their fitness level and interests. Some notable trails include the Pumphouse Trail, Martz Trail, Water Line Trail, and the Tram Road Trail. Each trail offers its own unique scenery and highlights, ensuring every hike is a memorable one.
Hunting: A Thrilling Pursuit
For those seeking a thrilling outdoor adventure, Laurel Hill State Park provides hunting opportunities on approximately 2,100 acres of designated hunting areas. Common game species found in the park include rabbits, pheasants, raccoons, squirrels, turkey, and white-tailed deer. However, it is important to adhere to the rules and regulations set by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and obtain the necessary permits before embarking on a hunting expedition.
Fishing and Boating: Cast a Line
Anglers will find themselves in paradise at Laurel Hill State Park, with ample fishing opportunities available. Laurel Hill Lake, Jones Mill Run, and Laurel Hill Creek are stocked with trout, providing a rewarding experience for fishing enthusiasts. Other species such as catfish, sunfish, perch, crappie, bluegill, and bass can also be found in the park’s waters. Please note that gasoline-powered boats are prohibited on Laurel Hill Lake, but non-powered and electric-powered boats are welcome with proper registration.
Winter Recreation: Embrace the Snow
Laurel Hill State Park offers an array of winter activities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. With a 10-mile snowmobile trail system that connects to 60 miles of trails in Forbes State Forest, snowmobilers can explore the winter wonderland at their own pace. Ice fishing and ice boating are also popular pursuits on Laurel Hill Lake during the colder months. Additionally, the park features 20 miles of trails for cross-country skiing, allowing visitors to glide through the snow-covered landscape and appreciate the serene beauty of winter.
Overnight Stays: Camping and Cabins
Campground: A Nature Retreat
For those wishing to extend their stay and immerse themselves in the natural surroundings, Laurel Hill State Park offers a campground with 262 tent and trailer sites. Among these, 149 sites are equipped with electrical connections. The campground provides modern washhouses with flush toilets, showers, drinking water, and sanitary dump stations for added convenience. Additionally, there is a walled tent available for rent, accommodating up to six people and featuring amenities such as a refrigerator and bunk beds.
Cottages: Cozy Retreats
For those seeking a more comfortable retreat, Laurel Hill State Park offers eight cozy cottages available for rent. These cottages feature electric lights, outlets, and electric heaters, ensuring a pleasant stay regardless of the weather. Each cottage can accommodate up to five people and includes wooden floors, glass windows, and a screened-in porch. The cottage yards are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings, perfect for enjoying a meal or gathering around a campfire under the starry night sky.
Group Tenting and Cabins: Unforgettable Bonding Experiences
Laurel Hill State Park offers organized group tenting areas and cabins for large non-profit groups. These camping facilities provide a unique opportunity for bonding and creating lifelong memories. The group tenting areas feature a large space for camping and require group registration. Campfires are to be built only in designated fire areas, and standing timber must be left untouched. Trailers are not permitted in the group tenting area. The cabins, originally built by the CCC, are still utilized today and offer a comfortable and rustic camping experience. Each cabin area features a centrally located shower house with flush toilets and a spacious dining hall with a kitchen.
Laurel Hill Lodge: A Modern Retreat
For a more luxurious getaway, Laurel Hill State Park offers the Laurel Hill Lodge. This modern two-story lodge features a large fireplace and cathedral ceilings, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere. The lodge is equipped for winter recreation, with racks for skis, snowboards, and drying gloves and boots. It boasts five bedrooms that can accommodate up to 14 people, along with three bathrooms, 1.5 kitchens, a recreation room, and laundry facilities. The private deck offers stunning views of the park and Laurel Mountain, providing a serene retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Nearby Attractions: Exploring the Laurel Highlands
While Laurel Hill State Park offers a wealth of attractions, there are also other natural wonders and parks in the surrounding area that are worth exploring. Some nearby state parks within a 30-mile radius of Laurel Hill State Park include Casselman River State Park in Maryland, Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County, Kooser State Park in Somerset County, Laurel Mountain State Park in Westmoreland County, Laurel Ridge State Park spanning Cambria, Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties, Laurel Summit State Park in Westmoreland County, Linn Run State Park in Westmoreland County, New Germany State Park in Maryland, and Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County. These neighboring parks offer additional opportunities for outdoor adventures, ensuring that visitors to the Laurel Highlands have an abundance of natural beauty to explore.
Plan Your Visit to Laurel Hill State Park
The Park welcomes visitors year-round, offering a myriad of activities and attractions for all seasons. Whether you are seeking a peaceful lakeside retreat, a thrilling hiking adventure, or a cozy camping experience, this park has it all. Before visiting, it is recommended to check the park’s official website for any updates on operating hours, park regulations, and current amenities. With its rich history, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes, Laurel Hill State Park is a true gem in Pennsylvania’s State Park system. So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the natural wonders of Laurel Hill State Park.