Located in Western Pennsylvania alongside the National Road, Ohiopyle State Park is one of the jewels of the Keystone State. The 20,000-acre park offers up spectacular gorges, waterfalls, and plenty of recreation opportunities, including whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking, and biking. A few minutes’ drive outside the park gives you access to caverns, wineries, historic battlefields, and even iconic Frank Lloyd Wright homes. It’s perfect for a long weekend or, even better, a long week.
You can get to Ohiopyle in three to four hours from major cities such as Columbus, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., but the most obvious jumping-off point would be Pittsburgh, only an hour and a half away. If you fly into Pittsburgh, give yourself an extra day and check out the Steel City’s many highlights, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Fort Duquesne, and the Grandview Overlook.
If you’re the camping type, you’re in luck, as Ohiopyle offers more than 200 campsites. For those not interested in roughing it, no worries—there’s plenty of cabins and rentals available in the area. Another option would be to stay at the Historic Summit Inn, opened to the public in 1907. Even if you don’t stay at the inn, make sure to stop by for a meal on its grand porch. On a clear day, you’ll see all the way to Pittsburgh.
Here are our five favorite things to do in and around Ohiopyle State Park:
Whitewater adventure tours
First things first, the river that runs through Ohiopyle is the Youghiogheny [yawki-gay-nee], but, like a boss (or a local), you’ll want to call it the “Yough” [yawk].
The Yough caters to just about everyone from the most timid beginner to the seasoned whitewater boater. If a leisurely float is what you’re after, hop aboard one of the rafting tours that travel along the Class I and II rapids of the Middle Yough. Adrenaline seekers can head instead to the upper and lower sections, which range from Class III to Class V+ rapids. The Lower Yough (Class III), completed by more than 250,000 kayakers, canoers, and rafters annually, is the busiest whitewater stretch east of the Mississippi.
Natural water slides
A popular stop for tourists, the Meadow Run natural water slides are sheets of sandstone that, over the course of 300 million years (give or take a few), have smoothed into a chute. How fast you slide through the rocks depends on the water level at the time.
It’s a great way to cool off on a hot summer’s day—not to mention get your blood pumping. To be clear, though, this is not a designated swimming area, and you slide at your own risk. At best, you might come away with a few scrapes and bruises. If you’re not thoughtful and haven’t first checked on the latest safety reports in the area, it could be much worse. This one’s not for everyone, so please be cautious and proceed at your own risk.
Iconic Frank Lloyd Wright homes
These two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes are both just a few minutes’ drive from the park.
Designed in 1935 for the Kaufmann family and built partially over a waterfall, Fallingwater is one of the most iconic structures in American architecture. Tickets are available for those who just want to stroll around the grounds, but the indoor guided tour is highly recommended. You’ll come to understand how and why Wright designed certain indoor features, as well as how the Kaufmanns used the home.
Kentuck Knob was one of Wright’s last projects. He actually developed the plans without even seeing the site. Built into the side of the hill, the one-story crescent-shaped home was constructed using native sandstone, tidewater cypress, and copper.
There are multiple tour options, but we recommend the in-depth outing that includes a walk through the nearby woodlands as well as spectacular views of the Youghiogheny River Gorge.
The most photographed waterfall in Pennsylvania
Cucumber Falls is a must-see destination for photographers in particular. Take the trailhead located just off Chalk Hill Road, and, within a minute, you’ll arrive an overhead lookout with classic views of the 30-foot bridal waterfall. From there, you can scramble down to ground level and walk right up to—or even behind—the rushing waterfall.
There are so many great vantage points to enjoy—no wonder why Cucumber Falls is the most photographed waterfall in the Keystone State.
A real bat cave
One of the largest—if not the largest—sandstone caves in the world, Laurel Caverns opened for business in 1968.
There are a few different ways to experience the caverns. You can take a 60-minute guided tour and see all the highlights with minimal effort. There also are advanced tours, including the two-hour Upper Caving and three-hour Lower Caving jaunts. Both can get a little extreme — you’ll be crawling, climbing, and squeezing your way through very tight passages. If you get claustrophobic (or don’t like to get dirty), these options may not be for you.
It’s worth noting that Laurel Caverns closes in the winter, out of respect for the countless bats that hibernate there. For those who aren’t fans, fear not — the bats typically don’t hang around the rest of the year, so you’re not likely to see one while you’re there.
It’s hard to limit our list to just five attractions. Whether you’re a solo adventurer or you’re bringing the family along for a taste of nature and history, there’s no shortage of amazing things to do in and around Ohiopyle State Park.