BY: THOMAS SAUNDERS
About 80 minutes from Downtown Pittsburgh in Fayette County is the town of Ohiopyle and one of our area’s natural gems of rare habitats, dense forests, breathtaking scenic areas and whitewater for paddlers — Ohiopyle State Park.
Over the past year, visitation to parks, nature reserves and forests has increased dramatically, as people have sought respite in nature during the pandemic. At more than 20,000 acres along the Youghiogheny River, Ohiopyle’s hiking trails, trout waters and natural beauty made it one of the leading outdoor destinations in the region. The park turns 50 this year, but in 1951, 20 years before the park was dedicated, Ohiopyle was first established with a mere 100 acres protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. That portion, Ferncliff Peninsula, has unique geology and hosts many rare plant species along the river. Visitors can explore waterfalls and rhododendrons from the 1.7-mile Ferncliff Trail that circles the peninsula.