The population of Ohiopyle may barely number three dozen, but that number grows during the warmer months, when visitors congregate in Ohiopyle State Park, an outdoor playground with unspoiled rivers and streams. Undulating roads lit by dappled sunlight lead to Ohiopyle Visitor Center, where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the mighty Youghiogheny River. (That’s “yock-oh-ganey” to newbies.)
Located in the Laurel Highlands, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle features plenty of family-friendly activities, but the biggest draw is whitewater rafting. Enthusiasts travel from across the globe to blast through the Youghiogheny’s Class IV and V rapids. The experience is like a roller coaster of calm passages, light choppiness, and churning rapids that require furious paddling to steer the spinning raft over boulders and narrow passageways.
Ohiopyle outfitters White Water Adventures and Ohiopyle Trading Post run rafting trips for three different skill levels. Experienced thrill-seekers should choose the Upper Yough, with 10 miles of steep, tight, technical whitewater. The Lower Yough’s 7-mile journey is designed for intermediate paddlers and guided by a paddle captain. The Middle Yough is ideal for beginners seeking a fun day splashing in the river.
Wilderness Voyageurs offers the option of combining a half-day of rafting with cycling on the Great Allegheny Passage This adventure is self-guided but assisted by a handler, with the ability to upgrade from a raft to an inflatable kayak for the water portion.
When trout season begins in the spring, anglers flock to Ohiopyle to cast their rods into teeming streams. A half-day drift for two with Laurel Highlands Guide Services involves boating down the Youghiogheny with a guide who knows the best places to find fish.
In between outdoor adventures, one needs sustenance. Grab breakfast at Falls Market Restaurant, along with supplies for the day, though many outfitters do provide picnic lunches. Other popular options are the hand-tossed pies at Paddlers Pizza and smoothies and hot dogs at Ohiopyle Bakery & Sandwich Shoppe. Finish up your day at Ohiopyle Trading Post for a scoop of Hershey’s Ice Cream at Kickstand. The flavors change with the seasons, but Midnight Caramel River is a fitting tribute.
After an unforgettable weekend on the river, you’ll long for more time to explore the mountains and roaring streams of the undeveloped Laurel Highlands.
Although there are rustic vacation rentals like the Ohiopyle Treehouse, visitors seeking luxury accommodations should stay at Nemacolin, a five-star resort located amid 2,000 panoramic acres and just 10 minutes from Ohiopyle State Park. Options include the French-inspired Chateau, the comfortable Lodge, and elegant vacation homes for groups and families. Those staying on the property can enjoy all there is to do, like the Woodlands Spa, a fitness center and pools, ziplining, skeet shooting, off-road Jeep-riding, paint-and-sip classes, a petting zoo, and gambling at the Lady Luck Casino. The restaurants range from casual burgers at Mulligans to exclusive dining experiences at Lautrec and Aqueous.
Locals and visitors alike gather on the patio at Falls City Pub to savor craft beer on tap while being serenaded by live music and the sounds of the rushing falls. Located at the terminus of the Laurel Highlands hiking trail beside Wilderness Voyageurs, this pub is the perfect place to land in your grubby clothes and share stories of your day on the river. In warmer months, you’ll enjoy the mouthwatering aroma of barbecue emanating from the pub’s smoker, beckoning you to order ribs and chicken, but don’t miss the crispy wings.