Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Quick Backpacking Trip on the Laurel Highlands Trail

More than a month ago, we scheduled a backpacking trip for this past weekend and crossed our fingers that the weather would cooperate. I did some research and we wound up picking the Laurel Highlands Trail in western Pennsylvania. The whole trail is 70 miles long and has shelters along the way, similar to those on the Appalachian Trail. We did 18.5 miles of it.

We started at PA route 653 and hiked south towards Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. The first day, we hiked 12 miles under overcast skies. The trail was pretty easy. It is well-maintained and stays mostly on the top of the ridge. We kept a pretty quick pace because we wanted to make sure we reached our shelter before sunset. There are actually stone mile markers, which made it easy to track our progress.
Stone steps and moss on the trail.
Rhododendrons and boulders. The trail wound its way through the boulders like a little bit of a maze. We passed through a number of areas like this. It was one of my favorite things about this area.
The trail (on the right side of the photo) along the edge of an area that had been logged. It looked like they had logged everything except the oak trees.
A little pond.
Fallen oak leaves in the pond.
Moss on a log. The overcast skies made the bright green moss stand out.
One of the stone mile markers.
 A split log bridge. Even the smallest gullies on this trail have split log bridges.
An overlook of the Youghiogheny River valley before we began our descent into Ohiopyle State Park. The last half mile of the day was a tough, switchback-less descent to the shelters in the state park. It was rocky. Many of those rocks were loose and all of them were covered in a few inches of leaves, providing many opportunities to trip. We were all pretty happy when the side trail down to the shelters came into view.
This was home for the night. The shelters ostensibly sleep five, but we were pretty snug with four and a dog. As far as backcountry camping goes, this was pretty luxurious. There are bathrooms, a water pump, and trash cans. The park also provides firewood. We had a nice fire, a dinner of black bean and squash tacos, hot chocolate, and smores.
After the fire went out, it got chilly. Our friend's dog cold and couldn't sleep, so our friend put her down vest on her. The dog warmed right up and went to sleep, but she was unimpressed with having to wear a vest.

We woke up to a sunny sky on the second day. We lingered over breakfast and coffee, finally starting out around 9:30 a.m. The terrain was much tougher in the last six miles of our hike than the first day's walk. Instead of keeping to the ridgeline, the trail took us up to the top of the ridge and then down into the valleys several times. The scenery was just as nice as the day before and we got several nice views of the river valley below us. One final steep climb took us to the lot where backpackers are required to park.
The Youghiogheny River from the trail
Red oak leaves.
Club moss.
A hole in a hollowed out tree.
One of the more elaborate split log bridges, complete with a stone footing.
Crossing one of the roads.
One last overlook of the river. This was such a nice trail. We talked about coming back sometime and hiking the entire 70 miles.

A quick note about the Laurel Highlands Trail: There is no fee for dayhiking. Backpackers are required to register and reserve shelters in advance. The fee is $5 per person per night. Permits and reservations can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice trail! For some reason, I stopped reading here:
    Our friend's dog cold and couldn't sleep, so our friend put her down