Each Fall, J and I try to make time for a weekend leaf peeping trip in mid-October. We always try to plan it juuuuust right to see peak foliage. This year, life got a little crazy so we ended up sticking to a day trip. But there are plenty of incredible spots to see fall foliage in the area surrounding Pittsburgh! For this hike we drove out to Westmoreland County to do the very popular Wolf Rocks Trail. This trailhead is in Laurel Summit State Park and is very close to several other beautiful state parks, so you should definitely make a day of it!
THE HIKE: Wolf Rocks Trail & Bog Trail
Length: 5.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 270 ft
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Trail use: hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot with bathrooms and picnic tables
I have a new goal of going to as many Pennsylvania State Parks as I can thanks to my trusty new PA Parks Passport from the Friends of PA Parks & Forests. It’s a nifty little book that has all the state parks and forests and you can get stamps when you visit them! Well a great place to start from Pittsburgh is the Laurel Mountain region. There’s a cluster of so many beautiful parks! For this hike, we started out in Laurel Summit State park, hiked into Forbes State Forest, then drove through Laurel Mountain and Linn Run State Parks. Four in one day?! But we’ll definitely be back to actually do some hiking in the latter two. Linn Run was absolutely gorgeous to drive through and I definitely want to come back and camp or stay in a cabin.
Okay, back to this hike. The trailhead for the Wolf Rocks trail is in Laurel Summit State Park, one of the smaller parks in the state. This area is best known for having access to this trail and the Spruce Flats Bog. Laurel Summit State Park encompasses 6-acres and offers a picnic area, a pavilion, and restrooms. We started our hike out in the morning, hoping to beat some of the crowds as this is a fairly popular hike. Be aware that Google Maps is only so good in this area so have an idea of where you are going first. Our app took us on a logging road to get to the trailhead for some reason, but there is a main road we should have taken.
One of the great things about this park is that it is already over 2,000 ft above sea level and the parking ridge is up on the ridge. So unlike a lot of overlook hikes, you don’t actually have to do a lot of uphill climbing! The trail is a little rocky at times, but we encountered plenty of kids and elderly folks on the trail so it’s a good one for all ages! We loved hiking this during peak fall colors but it would also be beautiful in late spring because the beginning of the trail is surrounded by mountain laurels and rhododendrons. It would be magical to walk through them when they are in full bloom!
As I mentioned, this is a pretty popular hike which was evident when we got to the overlook. It was pretty full of families and hiking groups, although there was still plenty of room for everyone. If you like to have the scenic point to yourself, try to get up early or go on a weekday! It was totally understandable why so many people were visiting the overlook; the colors were simply stunning. It was an incredible day to be out hiking, so warm for late October! We had a lovely time sitting on the rocks and chatting with strangers. It’s beautiful to see how nature brings people together!
This loop clocked in just under 5 miles, which is the perfect length for us weekend hikers. When we got back to the considerably fuller parking lot, we headed over to the Spruce Flats Bog boardwalk. This quick 0.25 mile path takes you out to one of the most unique features of the Laurel Highlands area. A bog is a type of wetland that gets all of its moisture from snow and rain, rather than runoff or groundwater. The Spruce Flats Bog is so unique because it is 2,700ft above sea level on a mountain depression! Bogs end up being highly acidic so only specific types of plant life can survive there. Look closely when you visit this bog to see if you can spot carnivorous plants like pitcher plants and sundew!
We highly recommend this trail and next time, we’d probably stay the weekend and check out the other trails and parks in the area. Add it to our very long list of places we need to go!
THE BEER: Helltown Brewing (Mt. Pleasant Taproom)
Address: 13 Henry C Frick St, Mt Pleasant, PA 15666
Distance from Trail Head: 26 miles, 40 mins
Food?: Food Trucks/ BYOF
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly
Helltown has been kicking it around the Burgh since 2011. The Mt. Pleasant taproom is actually the original location and the namesake of the brewery. I love this little tidbit: the area that is now Mt. Pleasant was a hotbed of violence and protest during the Whiskey rebellion in the 1790s that became known as Helltown. When Mt. Pleasant was incorporated as a borough, it was given the zip 15666 as a nod to its historical roots. Since the name Helltown Brewing and the devil imagery.
These days Helltown is quite a staple in the region. They have 4 taprooms, including the original taproom in Mt. Pleasant, one in Houston, The Strip District, and Export. They’ve grown so much that they now also export throughout PA and selection counties in WV and MD. Helltown makes some “devilishly good” beer and their taprooms are definitely worth a visit! I’ve been to all but the Export location and each place has a great atmosphere with outdoor seating.
When J and I visited Mt. Pleasant, there was a cornhole tournament going on which made for some fun entertainment! Also I shouldn’t have been surprised, but Helltown goes ALL OUT with Halloween decorations! After a day of gorgeous fall colors, settling in with some spooky beers was the perfect way to spend a late October weekend!
- HFK – Kolsch – 5.1%
- Eve’s Fall – Marzen – 6%
- Sin – IPA – 6.8%
- Headless Wylie – Pumpkin Beer – 8.1%
SUM UP: Wolf Rocks is a popular trail with gorgeous views of the Laurel Highlands. The trail starts in the small Laurel Summit State Park and travels through Forbes State Forest. The trail doesn’t have a lot of incline, but it is rocky in sections so bring your ankle support boots! The rocky overlook is a great spot to rest and take in the views. I also highly recommend adding the short boardwalk trail out to Spruce Flat Bog when you finish the Wolf Rocks Loop, to see a unique high elevation bog! We really loved hiking and driving thru this area, so try to make a day of it! Then, as you’re making your way back towards Pittsburgh, stop for a brew at Helltown in Mt. Pleasant. They got great beer, plenty of cozy outdoor seating, and usually have a food truck!