Hiking in southwest Pennsylvania

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Hiking in southwest Pennsylvania
Question: Currently I am attending college in southwestern Pennsylvania and am wondering if there are any good camping areas close by where I could go on a weekend backpacking trip or do day hikes.

Janice Teasenfitz
Cape May, NJ
jteasen@eagle.ycp.edu

Adventure Adviser: There are plenty of decent multiday through-hikes and overnights just screaming to be noticed along the two major trail systems in your area, Janice. The nearby Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail cuts an impressive and unquestionably rugged 70-mile path along 2,700-foot Laurel Ridge. Refuel on a near-constant diet of spectacular views and wildlife viewing. Pick up the route at its northern terminus off Pennsylvania 56 in Seward and follow it south for as many days as you can spare before turning around and retracing your steps to its start. Or leave a second car at the southern trailhead, off Pennsylvania 381 in Ohiopyle, and shoot for polishing off the 70-mile stretch in a week or so. There are eight Adirondack-style lean-tos along the trail, each with a pit toilet, generous supply of firewood, and hand-pumped water. You'll need to call Laurel Ridge State Park (412-455-3744) no more than 30 days in advance to reserve a shelter ($2 per person, per night).

If you make it to the southern end, you might as well kill some time in Ohiopyle State Park, with its 18,000-some-odd acres of steep ravines, towering waterfalls, and 40-plus miles of hiking trails. Car camp at Kentuck Campground ($12 per night) and hoof it along a bite-size section of the Southern Youghiogheny River Trail, a Rails-to-Trails-type multiuse route that extends south for 24 miles from Confluence, just north of the park off Pennsylvania 381, to Pennsylvania 281 in Connellsville. Horse- and mountain-bike-dodging skills are required, as the hard-packed, crushed limestone trail is a magnet for weekend warriors. There's no camping along the River Trail, so limit yourself to there-and-back day trips. Call Ohiopyle State Park at 412-329-8591 for additional camping and trail info.

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