Ever since we moved back to Pittsburgh, Ohiopyle has been at the top of hiking wishlist. Only about an hour and half south of Pittsburgh, it’s a perfect day time for these long summer days! Just be sure to get there early as it can get pretty busy. Afterward, as you’re heading back to the Burgh, stop by Bloom Brew in West Newtown for a refreshing pint. Being right on the Yough river with a kayak launch and steps away from the GAP trail, Bloom Brew is an outdoorsy dream!
THE HIKE: Ohiopyle Great Gorge Trail
Length: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 955ft
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Park by natural slides; Go early!
Ohiopyle State Park covers over 20,000 acres of land in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania. Its converging rivers and rocky landscape make it a popular destination for hikers and rafting enthusiasts. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources estimates that over 1.4 million people visit this park a year! The main draw of the park is the mighty Youghiogheny River that has carved through the landscape, creating areas of plummeting water and deep gorges.
The name Ohiopyle comes from a Lenapi word meaning “to turn white”, in reference to the foamy water as it cascades over the rocks. In prehistoric times, the area was settled by the Monongahela tribes who disappeared before extended contact with Europeans. As colonists began to settle along the eastern coast, it forced other tribes like the Lenapi, Shawnee, and Seneca peoples, further inland to areas like Ohiopyle. Eventually even these people were forced off the land by the French and Indian War.
After the war and the following Whiskey Rebellion, industry moved into the Ohiopyle region and trades like lumbering became a major production, followed by mining, tanning, and other smaller industries. With the rise of railroads, Ohiopyle became accessible to tourists, and soon became a popular destination for Pittsburgh travelers, prompting the building of hotels and other attractions. Eventually, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy purchased the land and allowed the trees and land to regenerate. In the mid 1960s, it was sold to the state and has been maintained as a state park ever since!
There’s no shortage of things to do in Ohiopyle and you definitely won’t be able to see it all in one day! For our day visit, we wanted to do as much as possible so we took a long hiking loop that hit most of the major sights. Following the Great Gorge Loop trail from Alltrails, we parked at the Natural Water Slides parking area which was still fairly empty at 10am on a beautiful Saturday. We left the slides to some more prepared families in bathing suits and hiking along the waters following the yellow blazes. I loved how this trail immediately plunks you in another world full of raging waters and rock scrambles. After heading under the bridge, the trail will meet up with the Youghiogheny River where I highly encourage you to wander out on the rocks to take in the view and watch some rafters taking on the rapids. This first section of trail was probably my favorite. I loved following along the river and then clambering up the rocky path to head towards the famous Cucumber Falls. This waterfall was well worth the hype and we scrambled all the way to the top and even behind the falls! There’s also a parking lot at the top with stairs down for those with limited abilities.
The rest of the hike follows the Great Gorge Trail along quiet wooded trails until it takes a sharp turn up. On this section of trail, we never saw another person and definitely got our workout on the incline! We were a bit disappointed though because the midpoint (turn around) spot was just a confluence of several trails. With all of the incline, we were hoping for a viewpoint! If you do this trail, I would skip the incline and turn around where the trail forks to head to the campground.
At this point, we added a bit to this route so that we weren’t just backtracking. We got on the Great Allegheny Passage and took the bridge over to the Ferncliff Peninsula. From there we meandered through the trails on the peninsula, coming back on the Ferncliff Trail which borders the river and offers fantastic views of the waterfalls and rapids. This area is very popular though so be sure to be mindful of other hikers! Finally, we walked through the town which would be a great time to stop for lunch either at a restaurant or to have a picnic along the river. There’s plenty of space to relax or take a dip in the water! We also checked out the Visitor’s Center which has some great exhibits about the wildlife and geology of the area. From there, we walked on the sidewalk back to our car. For a big loop of 6.5 miles, we got to see a lot of highlights in Ohiopyle. There’s still plenty left to explore and we’ll definitely be back!
THE BEER: Bloom Brew
Address: 100 Riverside Dr Suite A, West Newton, PA 15089
Distance from Trail Head: 43 mi, 55 mins
Food?: BYOF & Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly & Kayak Launch!
H&H Rating: 5/5
So guys. There is a much closer brewery to Ohiopyle. It’s brand new and it’s called Yough River Brewing and it’s been on my list for a while since it’s one of the only brewery taprooms in the area! But. It’s good to check a business’s hours before driving 30 minutes out of the way! Sadly for us, they were giving their employees the weekend of July 4th off so we had to come up with Plan B. That just means that we’ll have to come back!
We decided instead to check out Bloom Brew in West Newton. It was a bit of a drive but it was heading back towards Pittsburgh. Bloom Brew is located behind the Fire Department and has a large outdoor only seating area with covered picnic tables. The day we were there, they had live music and a food truck so we were set! Probably the coolest thing about Bloom Brew is that because they’re right on the Yough River, there’s a kayak/canoe launch onsite! I don’t know how many breweries can say that they’re kayak friendly!
Bloom Brew has been around since 2014 and by now they really know what they’re doing! They specialize in barrel-aged sours, but offer a wide selection on their taplist. I couldn’t believe that they had 24 different taps! Through local partnerships, they also offer gluten-free beer, cider, mead and wine, so there’s really something for everyone! And you cannot beat this location, I could have spent all day lounging on the banks of the river, enjoying a cold brew. The winner of the day was the Hoptimus Pine which was a hazy DIPA with a perfect balance of hops and sweetness. That 8.5% is a real kicker though!
- Hoptimus Pine – DIPA – 8.5%
- Raspberry Wheat – Wheat Beer – 4.5%
- Shweat – Pineapple Habanero Fruit Beer – 6.6%
- YRT Sabra – IPA – 5.6%
SUM UP: Ohiopyle is a very popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts of all types. The winding Youghiogheny is highly sought out by white water rafter and kayakers and the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150 mile bike trail, runs through the park. There are 79 miles of trails for all levels of hikers! We combined the Great Gorge Trail with the Ferncliff Peninsula for a “greatest hits” of Ohiopyle. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat in town or stop at Bloom Brew on your way back towards Pittsburgh. If you still haven’t gotten enough outdoors, you can put in your kayak right at the Brewery and spend some more time on the Yough!