Southwestern Pennsylvania is home to a number of stunning geographical phenomena.
And while water levels are high, and before greenery and brush take over, local outdoor officials say now is the best time to explore local waterfalls.
“After a long winter, you normally have spring fever. Now, trees are starting to bud and you can see the snow melting and turning back to the water, making its way through creeks and streams; it comes full circle,” said Anna Weltz, director of public relations for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.
The obvious hotspot for several waterfalls in the Laurel Highlands region is obviously Ohiopyle State Park, Weltz said. The main falls are a focal point and original namesake for the small town, and are accessible to anyone coming through the Stewart Township borough.
There are also a number of falls of varying size scattered throughout the park along several hiking trails.
Those up for a short hike can travel about a mile and a half off of the Holland Road parking lot down the Jonathan Run trail, or a short distance from the Great Allegheny Passage, to see an extensive ravine full of boulders and rushing waters. The upper and lower falls are a welcome site among hundreds of acres of trees.
Visitors can also visit Cucumber Falls with a brief walk, which is accessible from Ohiopyle Road.
Ohiopyle State Park environmental education specialist Barb Wallace said it’s one of the most popular visitor sites in the park, though some folklore surrounding its name is a bit inaccurate.
“We have a lot of visitors who think the falls are named so because copperheads smell like cucumbers, but that’s not true,” Wallace said with a laugh, noting that while copperheads can be found in the park, that namesake tale is false. “The falls are surrounded by cucumber magnolia, in addition to mountain laurel and rhododendron.”
Another notable water feature in the park is the cascades along the Meadow Run trail.
Rose Bando, another environmental education specialist in Ohiopyle, said the cascades are about three quarters of a mile down the trail.
“The waterfalls are great to view in the spring because the water is flowing more, and the foliage is down,” Bando said. “A lot of photographers especially come now; it’s easier to see the falls, and easier to get to them.”
Bando also said the falls in and around Ohiopyle are unique, thanks to the sandstone that surrounds them.
“That’s why we have the falls that we do, because the rocks are so hard,” she said, referring to the homewood sandstone in a Pottsville formation.
“Spring is the time to see them. On just about every trail, you’re going to find a lot of little unnamed waterfalls because of small creeks and tributaries running this time of year,” Wallace said. “It’s just a good way to get out and shake your cabin fever.”
Just outside of Ohiopyle in the neighboring Linn Run State Park near Ligonier, there’s also a unique waterfall, just under a footbridge along the Adams Falls Trail.
Located along a 1-mile loop in the Westmoreland County mountains, Adams Falls is easily accessible, according to Weltz.
“The power of Mother Nature is awe inspiring,” Weltz said. “It’s such a tremendous force that’s taken for granted. But to see it in its natural state, like at the waterfalls, there’s just a sense of tranquility.”
“Take in some peace and quiet, and relax,” she said.
Explorers can also visit the neighboring Somerset County to trek through parts of Forbes State Forest to Cole Run Falls.
Several layers of falls, surrounded by thick mountain laurel and rhododendron, is just a few yards from the access road along Cole Road.
On the other side of Fayette County, waterfall enthusiasts can also take a quick hike to Robinson Falls.
Located along Opossum Run, right across from Sunshine Estate, the water feature is easily accessible.
“It’s a slightly lesser-known system, but it’s still beautiful,” Weltz said.