A Last Minute Decision, And My First Visit To Beautiful Ohiopyle State Park

A Last Minute Decision, And My First Visit To Beautiful Ohiopyle State Park

Ohiopyle (21 of 49)
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I awoke Friday morning thinking about hiking somewhere different this weekend. For years I have heard about the beauty of Ohiopyle State Park. Many of my  friends who hike and enjoy the outdoors  told me it was one of their favorite state parks. It is located in Fayette County in  the Laurel Highlands of  Southwestern Pennsylvania.  It is also close to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous  Fallingwater. My niece Cassidy is an attorney in Pittsburgh  and I texted here to see is she wanted to visit Ohiopyle  State Park and Falling water on Saturday. When she replied she did I left  my office early and began  the 4 hour drive to the Laurel Highlands  for the weekend. 

It rained for most of my 4 hour drive to western Pennsylvania. However, the rain stopped just when I arrived at Ohiopyle State Park around 2 p.m.  The center of  20,ooo acre  park is located in the quaint town of Ohiopyle.  The fast flowing Youghiogheny River flows through the town. I parked my Jeep and was soon walking along the rushing waters of the scenic river.  

Soon  the beautiful Ohioplye Falls came into view.  What a spectacular first impression of the park. I watched and listened to the roaring waters as the rushed over rocks. It was not too crowded because of the rains. There were just a few visitors along the river  but one  of them was an acquaintance from  near my hometown. A small world it is.  In addition to it’s beauty there is so much history here. A young George Washington rafted  down this river  and explored this region.

I walked along the river  and enjoyed it’s beauty. On the street across from the river where many small  shops. It reminded of  the river tourist town near my home in eastern Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe. 

I only briefly read about the hiking trails in the park but I  quickly decided I wanted to hike the famous and historic  Ferncliff Trail. This trail is located on a peninsula created by the looping Youghiogheny Trail. The peninsula is a Registered  Natural Landmark because of it’s unique habitat  with many plants not found elsewhere in Pennsylvania. I had to explore this area.  

The trail is accessed by a an old railroad bridge  on the Allegheny Passage Trail that crosses the Youghiogheny River. As  I walked toward the bridge the sky started to clear and the the  sun appeared briefly in the still overcast sky . Almost instantly it seemed crowds of people appeared  and the trails across the bridge became crowded.

On the other side of the bridge  I took some steps down to the  Ferncliff Trail. It was  lush and green, 

with many tall oak, maple and beech trees towering over the trail. 

The trail lived up to it’s name.  I saw many different species of ferns growing along the trail including eastern hay-scented ferns,

New York ferns,

and these Canadian lousewort ferns, a species I have never seen before.

The trail soon took me along the western shore of the Youghiogheny River. There were already quite a few people wading  in the shallow waters along the shore. 

The trail continued over some slippery rocks. I thought I saw what looked like bicycle tire tracks on some of the rocks.

I soon learned they were the  fossil remains of the plants that grew in the swamps and inland seas that  covered this region of Pennsylvania 300 million years ago. 

There were also a lot of  wildflowers growing along the trail near the river including  joe-pye -weed

wild morning glories, 

fringed loosestrife, 

cut leaf coneflowers and two of my favorite, 

cardinal flowers, and

Turk’s cap lily. 

The wildflowers, especially the Joe-pye-weed attracted dozens of butterflies including, I believe tiger swallowtail butterflies, 

spicebush swallowtail butterflies,’ 

meadow fritillary  butterflies and 

a sliver-spotted skipper butterflies. 

I made my way on the slippery rocky trail and, after about a 1/2 mile I came to the western side of Ohiopyle Falls. The rushing water were a a bright white color  in the afternoon sun.

Ohiopyle is a Native American word for “white frothy water” and it surely described the waters at the falls. 

I watched the roaring waters and the many rafters that were now entering the river below the falls. 

After enjoying the beauty of the falls I returned to the trail and it  took me away from the river and into a deep old hardwood forest.

The afternoon sunshine filtered through the thick canopy of trees. 

The ground was moist near the river and  moisture in the Summer means mushrooms will be growing and sure enough they were some . I found this old edible chicken of the woods near the start of the trail

I also found these  similar looking, but poisonous, jack o’ lantern mushrooms growing near a  decaying tree stump. I learned to pick a few species of mushrooms from my dad, and I now pick dozens of edible species. It took years to properly identify them . You have to be 100% sure before  you consume any wild mushrooms. As you can see many are similar looking. And an improper identification can make you sick and some wild mushrooms can kill you. 

Aside from their edibility they are beautiful and come in may shapes, like this amantia mushroom, it may even be a deadly destroying angel.

And colors, I believe this is a type of cort. 

These are coral mushrooms 

and I am not sure what species  these fragile mushrooms are.

The trail continued  in the deep woodlands. You could still hear the roaring of the Youghiogheny River far below the trail  as it looped around the peninsula. It was peaceful walking under the old hardwood trees  with a few hemlocks and pines growing in the beech, oak and maple forest. 

Many moss covered fallen trees were strewn throughout the forest. 

I only encountered on other hiker on the two mile walk  and the only other mammal I saw was this chipmunk. 

The sounds of  cicadas, and a few birds, mainly   red-eyed vireos echoed in the forest. I was only able to capture one poor image of the vireos. 

The trail took me to this trestle on a large bridge which I saw spanned the river. 

The Ferncliff trail  left the river and took me back up to the Allegheny Passage Trail.  This trail follows the old railroad right -of way that  brought tourist to Ohiopyle from the  Pittsburgh area  in the 19th century. It was a wide well maintained trail and had many hikers and bikers enjoying the now sunny July afternoon weather.

I followed the trail and it took me to the old railroad bridge that spanned the river, 

where I enjoyed the spectacular views of the river.

I continued  across the bridge and followed the trail for about a 1/2 mile. It took me through a new growth forest of mainly beech trees. 

Along the trail was a stream and here I saw this green or bull frog, It would be the last critter other than humans I would see on my hike.

There weren’t many wildflowers growing on this trail but I did see the  berries of the false Solomon’s flowers, 

and the silky dogwood trees. These berries are signs Summer is passing it’s peak and longer nights and cooler days lay ahead. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the ferns, butterflies,  wildflowers and mushrooms I saw on my hike. Ohiopyle State Park butterflies July 30 2022. 

It was late afternoon and I had walked over 3 miles when I decided to start back. The trail was now crowded and I encountered dozens of hikers and bikers on my hike back. Ohiopyle State Park is one of the most visited parks in the Commonwealth. I could see why during the short time I was here. The natural beauty of the falls and river is spectacular. 

I finished my hike in the small tourist town walking  through some of the alleys and side streets past the many food and tourists shops.

Once again it reminded me of the river tourist town of Jim Thorpe   near my home on the eastern side of the state. It was after 5 p.m. when  I finished my 5 mile hike. I had dinner reservations at the historic Summit Inn , about 15 minutes from Ohiopyle State park.  (More about this historic Inn visited by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in another blog post.)  I wished I could have stayed and explored more of this park I already was falling in love with. But I was hungry, and tired, and planed to return early the next morning.  Here is a link  to another gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my five mile hike Qhiopyle State Park hike July 30 2022.

“Why not restore Penn’s Woods? Why not let these mountains contribute once more as they have done in the past to the wealth, prosperity, and beauty of Pennsylvania?” -Governor William Sproul, 1921

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