- 124 Main St., Ohiopyle, PA 15470
- 39.868434, -79.494072
Where is Ohiopyle State Park?
Ohiopyle US State Park is in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half drive south from Pittsburgh, in Fayette County. From a distance perspective, the park is about 68 miles from the city. It is not far from the border of West Virginia, and that is not surprising, given its mountainous terrain. No matter the direction you come from, Pennsylvania’s Route 381 will probably lead you pretty close to this state park. Drive a couple of hours west, and you’ll find yourself in neighboring Ohio. For those who are eco-nerds, the park is part of the Appalachian mixed mesophytic forests ecoregion!
How Big is Ohiopyle State Park?
The park is large, at 20,500 acres, with its highest peak being the 2,667-foot high Sugarloaf Knob. From this elevation, the park descends into the extraordinary Youghiogheny River Gorge, known for offering 14 miles of some of the best whitewater boating in the Eastern United States.
Ohiopyle State Park Weather
The weather at this state park is fairly typical of the weather in the Northeast as a whole, with the exception that the Appalachian Mountains get more snow and are a bit colder than the lower elevations of western Pennsylvania. Thus, winters can be in the teens during January and February, but are usually closer to the upper 20’s during the season. The park is known for its winter beauty but the website cautions visitors to heed warning signs and notifications, and to dress warmly. Surprisingly, summers can get extremely hot, (into the 90’s), in July and August. Falls are gorgeous with changing leaves, blue skies, and the hilly backdrop of the area. The park is open year-round, and the activities and wildlife vary according to season. The warmer months are better for spotting a variety of snakes, like copperheads and timber rattlesnakes—that is, if you want to spot them. Other animals you may see throughout the year are black bear, fishers, and otters.
When did Ohiopyle become a National Park?
While the park has been open to the public since 1965, it was not officially recognized as Ohiopyle State Park until May 28, 1971.
Things to do in Ohiopyle State Park
There are lots of fun things to do in the park that are hard to come by elsewhere, like snowmobiling, whitewater boating, sledding, cross-country skiing, and seeing six waterfalls in one day! Of course, these activities are seasonal, helping the park provide diversions all year long. Below, our State Park Visitors Guide outlines some of these activities for you to consider:
This is a main draw of the park, especially in the warmer months. Check the website for levels, as you’ll want to be sure that your abilities match the challenge. The river is 14 miles long and one of the best places to whitewater boat in the eastern section of the country.
Fishing & Hunting
The park has an all-tackle trophy trout program, stocks fingerling trout in a 9-mile section of the Yougiogheny River, and provides anglers with small-stream fishing as well. There is a section that permits only artificial lures, so check out the rules first. The park also offers hunting, trapping, and even dog training. You can hunt squirrel, small game, deer, turkey, grouse, and more.
The Pressley Ridge Trail and the Sugarloaf Trail System provide mixed-use trails for horseback riding. A horse trailer parking area, a fenced paddock, and fresh water are all available for your hooved mates. There are 11.6 miles of trails.
The Kentucky Campground has plumbing and some electric hook-ups and is ADA accessible. It has 200 campsites, which open in April and stay that way until nearly Christmas! Every campsite comes with a parking spot, a picnic table, and a fire ring. The campground has showers as well as a sanitary dump station.
There are six lovely waterfalls at the park. They include Cascade Falls, the Ohiopyle Falls, Cucumber Falls, and Jonathan Run Falls. The Meadow Run Waterslides are ADA accessible. The Cucumber Falls has a 30-foot bridal veil fall with a nearby trail, and parking on SR 2019.
Next to the parking lot is a snowmobiling section. Heed the cautionary signs for any dangerous snow, ice, or temperature information. When the snow melts, this area is used for mountain biking.
Since Ohiopyle State Park is known for its winter glory, cross-country skiing here is a fabulous way to get some exercise and take in the pretty surroundings. There are many miles of trails, so bring water and dress warmly.
The park has 27 miles of trails. Dedicated bike trails prohibit motorized vehicles. However, bikes must share the path with hikers and cross-country skiers. Furthermore, the park features ADA accessible paths. For mountain biking, there is a specific area next to the parking lot. When the snow melts, park-goers use it for mountain biking.
Check out the great sledding available at Sugarloaf Snowmobile and Mountain Bike Area, next to the parking lot. Dress warmly with waterproof gear, as you’ll be a goner if snow seeps through your mittens and socks and melts on your skin.
Osprey, mergansers, and kingfishers as well as bald eagles soar through Ohiopyle. The park’s Ferncliff Peninsula is a National Natural Landmark and the valley around the gorge there is warmer than other areas in this region. This gives shelter to birds that thrive in warmer temperatures.
When to go to Ohiopyle State Park
What you want to do in the park will dictate the best time to go. For instance, the dog training offered in the hunting area is not permitted in spring or summer. Camping, on the other hand, is mainly open in spring, summer, and fall, ending mid-December. The best time to view eagles is November through January, and for whitewater boating you’ll want to go when it is relatively warm. The park is open all year round though, and winter activities are bountiful. So, don’t shy away just because it’s cold and snowy. This is one of the best times to visit the park for snowmobiling, sledding, skiing, and the beauty it’s known for.
Must-Have Things to Bring to Ohiopyle
Much of what you’ll need to bring to Ohiopyle State Park has to do with staying warm and dry at a place that is often snowy, icy, and cold. However, don’t rule out the sun, nor the heat, come July and August. List of Parks highlights some of the items you may want to consider bringing to the park.
Whitewater Boat and Helmet
If you’ve got your own kayak, be sure to bring it. Or, book a private trip and rent a boat for several people. Don’t forget your oars, helmet, and life vest. The class III and IV rapids can be dangerous, even deadly, so you’ll need to be as safe as possible.
Definitely bring a few items, especially water, if you’re heading out on a long trail. Twenty-seven miles of biking can dehydrate even the most athletic folks. Some nuts or trail mix can also give a quick jolt of protein and calories to hold you over till you get back.
Whitewater Boating Guidebook
Unless you’re an expert, you may want to review basic safety for this sport before getting into the boat. Changing water levels and unsuspected weather could make for treacherous conditions, so you should be as prepared as possible. Experts should take in the fun of the challenge but put safety first.
Whitewater rafters commonly sport full dry-suits, which are great when it’s cooler, but not necessary when it’s hot. Those with young sledders will want waterproof gloves or mittens, and footwear. A snowsuit, or at least snow pants, will also keep you and the little ones comfortable. Because you may end up sitting in the snow, pants should not only be warm but water-resistant.
Ohiopyle Park gets very cold in its northeastern mountain home. Layers will trap heat, as will wool hats and scarves. Gloves or mittens are essential.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Don’t forget that reflections of the miles-long river will expose you to more of the sun’s rays! Likewise, you’re closer to the sun in mountainous regions. You’ll burn more quickly, even in winter. Don’t forget protection in the form of baseball caps, shades, and a high SPF.
A pair will come in handy for viewing bald eagles in the winter. Though they are massive from a bird perspective, they typically will not come close or low. Field glasses will help you appreciate their majestic look from afar.
Black bears do live in the park, so it won’t hurt to carry some bear spray. Try to avoid the fierce animals though, by making noise as you move throughout the trails and terrain. This will give them the chance to avoid you first, which they prefer too!
While many state parks provide horses for riding their trails, not all of them are as well-equipped as Ohiopyle to keep your horse should you want to ride your own. Your horse will love the ample enclosed field and water supplied at this state park.
Camera & Zoom Lens
Since this is a park well-known for its appeal to the eye, take advantage and capture some scenery as well as wildlife. Birds especially, are present at the park in their many-splendored varieties. A zoom lens will help you get a good shot of a blue jay or even an eagle.
Where to Stay in Ohiopyle State Park
If you don’t want to sleep in a tent, or you are visiting during the frigid months of January or February, other options exist as well. Glampers can still get the camping experience at the parks camping cottages. Those who want a traditional hotel have choices too. Try the Historic Summit Inn, the Lodge at Chalk Hill, or even one of the many chain hotels nearby, like the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. The region is relatively well-populated, and all of these places are a short drive, as are so many others. From B&B’s to chain hotels, to rentals of private homes through VRBO, AirBnB, and the like, options are plentiful.
Food Nearby Ohiopyle
For those who don’t want to join the many who swear by picnicking in the park, there are loads of great places to eat near it. Try Ohiopyle Bakery and Sandwich Shoppe, or the Ohiopyle House Café. Locals regard Paddler’s Pizza highly. Overall, you won’t be short on choices for food in the general locale of Ohiopyle.
Airports Near Ohiopyle State Park
At only about an hour and a half drive, Pittsburgh International Airport is an excellent choice for those flying into the area. It’s large enough to have many flights. Moreover, it serves a vast area of domestic and international regions. Airports for small crafts are another possibility for fliers to Ohiopyle State Park. Very close is the Hager Airstrip in Farmington—for those with small planes this might be the best choice.