Hiking and Snowshoeing in the Laurel Highlands

Outdoors opportunities for hiking and snowshoeing make the Laurel Highlands and the areas surrounding Hidden Valley, PA a natural destination for outdoor enthusiasts.  The trails and areas that support hikers are all excellent snowshoeing venues when the snow flies.  Basically, you can hike, snowshoe (weather permitting) and, in some cases, backpack, the same areas and trails in the Laurel Highlands. The primary hiking opportunities in the Laurel Highlands are state forests, state game lands and state parks. These large tracts tend to lie on the major ridges—Chestnut Ridge, Laurel Ridge and the Allegheny Front.

The major public land area on the ridges is Forbes State Forest. Forbes State Forest was named for Gen. John Forbes, who, in 1758, ordered the construction of a road from Bedford to Fort Pitt for the British Army's attack on Fort Duquesne. The forest comprises 15 tracts totaling almost 59,000 acres in:  

• Fayette County

• Somerset County

• Westmoreland County

Forbes State Forest spreads across the high ridges of the Laurel Highlands, including 3,213-ft. Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania. DCNR's Bureau of Forestry District #4 manages Forbes State Forest through their main office located in Laughlintown. Rachael Mahony is the Environmental Education Specialist there and her contact information is: Phone: 724.259.2201 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Rachel runs various programs and hikes through the year.

The State Parks near Hidden Valley are managed out of the main State Park office located in Laurel Hill State Park. Kim Peck is the Environmental Education Specialist there and her contact information is: Phone: 814.445.7725 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In the winter you can even borrow snowshoes at the park office--just remember when you are snowshoeing to stay out of the tracks of cross country skiers; it really messes it up for them.

There are many hiking trails close to Hidden Valley; some of the major areas with marked trails are:

• Laurel Mountain

• Laurel Summit

• Linn Run

• Mountain Stream Area

• North Woods Area

• Jones Mill Run & Hidden Valley Area

• Kooser State Park

• Laurel Hill State Park

• Roaring Run Natural Area

• Laurel Ridge State Park

• Lower Indian Creek Valley

• Bear Run Nature Reserve

• Ohiopyle State Park

Information on many of the trails in the Laurel Highlands can be found in a book entitled the Laurel Highlands—A Hiking Guide published by the Allegheny Group Sierra Club.

One major trail through our area is the Laurel Highlands Trail, a seventy mile stretch of trail running through the Laurel Ridge. Detailed information on this trail can be found in A Hiker’s Guide to the Laurel Highlands Trail put together by the Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

You can also find out information about trails and events by going to www.dcnr.state.pa.us Trail maps are available on the DCNR website, at many trail heads and at the State Park offices located within the State Parks.  Another useful site, if you are snowshoeing, is the Pennsylvania Cross Country Skiers Association website www.paccsa.org which will give you webcam shots and also snow reports for several areas.

The intent of this information is to give an overview of hiking and snowshoeing opportunities that abound in this area. During the year, we will look at and review additional details concerning the various trails within the major areas listed above.

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