Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail: Ohiopyle to Seward
The Keystone State is laced with long-distance hiking trails that travel deep woods, stream valleys and high mountain ridges. The 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is thought by many people to be the finest. The effort to establish the trail was spearheaded in the 1960s by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, assisted by state trail planners, to create a scenic woodland route offering rare solitude.
One of the few pure backpacking footpaths within the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail network, most hikers experience the LHHT a few hours at a time. With several road crossings, there are plenty of opportunities to hike a few miles out and back, or stash a second car at the next crossing. A Hiker's Guide to the Laurel Highlands Trail, published by the Sierra Club, provides natural history and interpretation of the entire length. The book is recommended for planning an extended hike on the LHHT. Not only is it useful for logistical planning, but it also offers rich interpretation of the nature features and wildlife.
There are eight camps between Ohiopyle and the 1,000-foot Conemaugh Gorge at Seward. Each camp has shelters, tent pads, water and privies; advance registration is required, online through the Laurel Ridge State Park Web site and directly through the Reserve America site, at the Park office or by calling 724-455-3744. Along the way, whether backpacking or day hiking, there are hemlock groves, mountain streams, hardwood forests and the sounds of wildlife.
Except for the climb from Ohioypyle to the ridge, the terrain is moderate enough in many places cross country skiing and snowshoeing, presenting the options of winter backpacking/skiing trips.