Laurel Hill State Park - Pennsylvania

US National Parks and Monuments Travel Guide: US-Parks.com

Description

Laurel Hill State Park consists of 4,072 acres of mountainous terrain in Somerset County. The 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake is a focal point of the park. Laurel Hill is surrounded by thousands of acres of pristine state park and state forest lands. A trail system invites visitors to hike and explore the park and observe the diversity of plants and wildlife. Hemlock Trail passes through a beautiful stand of old growth hemlocks.

Recreation

Picnicking:

Three picnic areas have over 500 picnic tables. Picnic Area No. 1 has horseshoe pits, a large ball field and playground equipment. Picnic Area No. 3 is by the beach and has playground equipment, horseshoe pits and a sand volleyball court. Picnic Area No. 4 is at the upper end of the lake by the boat mooring and launching area.

Five picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. There are two picnic pavilions in Picnic Area No. 1 and three picnic pavilions in Picnic Area No. 3.

Swimming:

A 1,200-foot sandy beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. Please read and follow posted rules. Swimming is only permitted in the designated buoy areas. Maximum depth is five feet. The beach has an ADA accessible ramp to the lake and an ADA accessible restroom. A food concession is available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Boating: electric motors only

The 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake has 30 mooring sites and two boat launches. A boat rental at the beach has paddleboats, canoes and kayaks.

Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Fishing:

The 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake has bass, trout, catfish, sucker, bluegill, perch, crappie and sunfish. Laurel Hill Creek and Jones Mill Run are excellent trout streams. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. A fishing license, not available at the park office, is required for people ages 16 and older.

Hiking: 12 miles of trails

The hiking trails of Laurel Hill State Park are listed according to difficulty, arranged from the easiest to the most difficult. Most trails are wide, easily followed and, therefore, not color blazed. Where deemed necessary, blazes are yellow.

Pumphouse Trail: 1.6-mile, easy hiking

A slow, gradual incline leads from the Pumphouse Trail Parking Lot along a wide path to the Jones Mill Run Dam (pictured on the front of this brochure). Benches and large rocks provide a resting place where visitors can enjoy this scenic, historic site built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Martz Trail: 1 mile, easy hiking

This wide trail passes through a number of forest ecosystems and provides the widest variety of tree species during fall foliage.

Tram Road Trail: 1.7 miles, moderate hiking

This trail follows the general course of the logging railroad that traversed Laurel Hill State Park in the early 1900s and Jones Mill Run.

Waterline Trail: 0.6-mile, moderate hiking

An uphill grade from the Pumphouse Trail Parking Lot, this trail is perfect for viewing geologic features such as the lepidodendron fossils common to the park.

Hemlock Trail: 1.2 miles, moderate hiking

Narrow at times and running along steep banks at places, this trail loops through the six-acre nature area. Hemlock Trail Natural Area is a stand of old growth eastern hemlock trees surrounding Laurel Hill Creek.

Ridge Trail: 1.5 miles, moderate hiking

This wide, grassy trail is often used as a wildlife corridor. It offers the best opportunity for chance encounters with wildlife and viewing animal tracks and signs.

Bobcat Trail: 1 mile, difficult hiking

The most remote trail, this very steep path is not recommended for the beginning hiker. To avoid most inclines, hikers should start from Beltz Road.

Lake Trail: 1.75 miles, difficult hiking

This scenic trail winds along Laurel Hill Creek and follows the eastern shore of Laurel Hill Lake. This steep, narrow, sloping path is slippery in places and is the park’s most difficult trail.

For a Safe Hike: Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet. - Carry the proper safety equipment, like a first aid kit and a poncho. - Stay on the trail. If you hike off of the trail, you might get lost or damage the fragile habitat. - Carry drinking water. DO NOT drink from streams, springs or lakes without properly treating the water first! - Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

Stay the Night

Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups

There are 264 campsites, 149 have electric hook-ups. The campground has flush toilets, hot showers, sanitary dumping stations and drinking water. Pets are permitted in designated sites. Please follow all pet camping rules. Pets are permitted on designated sites.

One walled tent is available for rent. The tent sleeps six people and has a refrigerator, bunk beds with mattresses and electricity. Campers must bring bedding, camping stove, and cooking and eating utensils.

The campground opens the Friday before the opening of trout season in April and closes the third Sunday in October. Site occupancy is limited to one family unit (persons living under one household) or one non-family unit limited to five persons, including one responsible individual 18 years of age or older. The maximum camping period is 14 consecutive nights.

Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 1 host position

The campground host site amenities include 30-amp electric service and water and sewer hookup. Hosts are required to assist park personnel for 40 hours per week with a six-month minimum stay. A full season commitment is preferred. Contact the park office for additional information and availability.

Camping Cottages:

Eight cottages near the campground sleep five people in single bunks and double/single bunks, and have wooden floors, windows, porch, picnic table, fire ring and electric lights and outlets.

Laurel Hill Lodge:

Tucked away in a secluded area of Laurel Hill State Park, Laurel Hill Lodge is modern yet has much rustic charm. The large fireplace, cathedral ceiling, and large, private deck overlooking the park and the Laurel Mountains make the lodge cozy and spectacular.

The lodge is especially equipped for the winter recreation season, including ski and snowboard racks, and glove and boot dyers. The two-story lodge has five bedrooms, which sleep 14 guests in five double beds (pull-out couches) and six twin beds (bunk beds). The lodge has three bathrooms (two full, one ¾), one and one-half kitchens, recreation room and laundry. The hot water heating system keeps renters warm and cozy.

Organized Group Tenting:

Qualified, organized adult and youth groups may use the 120-person capacity area. This area is open year-round and has limited facilities with vault toilets, drinking water, fire rings and picnic tables. Reservations are required. Youth groups must have one adult leader for each 10 youths. Trailers are prohibited. Groups must submit a roster. Fires can only be made in designated locations. Standing timber cannot be cut.

Organized Group Cabin Camps:

Large, cabin camps are available for nonprofit organized youth and adult groups from the first Friday in June to October 1. Facilities include flush toilets, central shower house, large dining hall and kitchen, plus, small cabins for campers. Applications are only available at the park office.

Winter Activities

Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.

Snowshoeing:

All 12 miles of hiking trails are ideal for showshoeing.

Sledding:

A sledding hill is in the field loop area of the campground.

Snowmobiling:

The ten-mile trail system in the park connects with an over 70-mile trail system in Forbes State Forest. The trail system is open daily for registered snowmobiles after the end of deer season in late December. Trail maps are available at the park office.

Ice Fishing:

The 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake is open to ice fishing. Common species are bass, trout and perch. Ice thickness is not monitored. For your safety, be sure the ice is four inches thick and carry safety equipment.

Giftshop

Visit the volunteer-supported gift shop for clothing, books, educational toys, and Laurel Hill State Park complex souvenirs. Proceeds benefit the parks’ educational and recreational programs. The outpost is in the visitor center.

Environmental Education and Interpretation

The park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation and understanding of the park’s natural and cultural resources.

Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Programs are offered year-round. Contact the park office for a schedule of programs.

Wildlife Watching

The rich flora and fauna of Laurel Hill State Park make it a great place to watch wildlife year-round. The mixed deciduous forest is dominated by oak, maple, cherry and poplar trees with an understory of witch hazel, serviceberry, rhododendron and mountain laurel. Although most of the park was timbered in the early 1900s, for unknown reasons the Hemlock Trail Natural Area remains intact. The massive eastern hemlocks of this six-acre, old growth stand are now approaching the climax stage of succession.

Wildflowers are common and range from the early blooming snow trillium and spring beauties that grace the trail edges, to the goldenrod and sow thistles that color the fields and roadsides well into November.

Whether by sound or sight, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of bird species, both migrant and resident. Especially popular are the tree swallows and eastern bluebirds that inhabit the park’s twenty-box bluebird trail. This trail winds from below the campground to the wildflower field across from the Visitor Center. This relatively open area is also a popular hunting ground for diurnal raptors, such as the red-tailed hawk, and nocturnal predators such as the tiny screech owls that nest in the area each year.

In the spring and early summer, the calls of spring peepers, bullfrogs, and American toads fill the night, intermingled with the haunting calls of great horned and barred owls.Late in the summer, the chirps, trills, and buzzes of katydids, cicadas and tree crickets fill the night.

Small mammals like woodchucks, chipmunks, and gray, red, and fox squirrels are commonly seen throughout the park during daylight hours. White-tailed deer and eastern cottontail rabbits are most often seen at dawn or dusk in the more open meadow areas. The elusive mink, fox, black bear, coyote, bobcat and fisher have been spotted in the park. Familiar to every camper are the skunk, raccoon and opossum that frequent the park in search of carelessly stored camp foods.

Please observe wildlife only from a distance and do not feed wildlife.

Discover Fall - Scenic Driving Tour

Welcome to the beautiful Laurel Highlands, filled with scenic byways, picturesque overlooks, and unique, quaint communities. This area spans a four county region including Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria and Somerset counties. Beginning in October the ridges and valleys come to life with color, with the peak near mid October. The Discover Fall tour provides two distinct driving routes through the Laurel Highlands linking state forest and state park lands, small town community events and programs with scenic drives of fall color.

Northern Loop:

This approximately 125-mile loop is the quintessential “leaf peeper” road trip. The tour closely follows the ridge offering views at every turn. Highlights include a stop at the third deepest gorge in Pennsylvania, a ride on the world’s steepest vehicular incline, a walk to a bog and a pleasant drive through and past five state parks and a state forest. Allow a minimum of four hours to complete the tour. Laurel Hill, Laurel Mountain, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Summit and Linn Run state parks.

Southern Loop:

This approximately 70- mile loop offers meandering drives through the valleys between the ridges of the highlands. Highlights include stops within three state parks and views of the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania from both on top of the ridge and from the Youghiogheny River. Allow a minimum of 2½ hours to complete the tour. Laurel Hill, Laurel Ridge and Ohiopyle state parks.

Discover Birds and Blossoms - Scenic Driving Tour

April, May and June provide the perfect time to explore the Laurel Highlands as migratory birds return and wildflowers begin to bloom. The Discover Birds and Blossoms Scenic Driving Tour provides driving routes through the Laurel Highlands that highlight birding hotspots, state parks and forests, scenic byways and quaint communities.

History

The Laurel Hill Valley escaped the unbridled logging that swept through Pennsylvania—for longer than many areas of the state. The steep stream valleys and rugged hills made logging difficult until technology laid the tracks to enable the trees to be hauled to mills. Powerful, slow locomotives climbed the switchbacked tracks through Laurel Hill and hauled the logs to mills. From 1886 to 1940, logging companies clearcut the trees of the park, leaving behind a wasteland of brambles prone to forest fires and flooding. Only the area now called Hemlock Trail Natural Area escaped the loggers’ reach.

Beginning in 1935, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration began purchasing sub-marginal agricultural and forest land so that it could be converted to better use. In 1936, the National Park Service was given the responsibility of the Recreational Demonstration Areas. Laurel Hill was one of five areas in Pennsylvania and targeted for restoration and reforestation, and organized group camping and day picnicking.

Beginning in 1935, with cooperation of the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters, men of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began building roads, trails, bridges and recreational facilities.

Two CCC camps, SP-8 and SP-15 arrived in July 1, 1935 and began building camps for themselves (currently Group Camp 8 and Group Camp 5). The 200 young men in each camp worked year-round building park facilities like group camps, picnic areas, waterlines, roads, the beach house and Laurel Hill Lake. World War II ended the CCC.

In October of 1945, the Department of the Interior transferred the project to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and it became Laurel Hill State Park.

The Laurel Hill Recreational Demonstration Area Historic District includes all CCC-constructed buildings and structures that retain a significant degree of integrity. The district contains 202 buildings on 1,352 acres of land, which is the largest collection of CCC architecture in Pennsylvania State Parks.

Contact

1454 Laurel Hill Park Road, Somerset, PA 15501-5629

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