Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape
The Laurel Highlands is one of Pennsylvania’s most notable and breathtaking natural treasures. Interspersed with small, historic communities, the region features magnificent mountains, rushing streams with breathtaking waterfalls, and rolling hillsides with picturesque farmlands.
Located an hour east of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape spans five counties -- Somerset, Westmoreland, Fayette, and portions of Cambria and Bedford. It is defined by three Allegheny Plateau ridges -- the Chestnut, Laurel, and Allegheny.
The Laurel Highlands is a traditional vacation and tourism area for Pittsburgh and Johnstown, and has growing appeal to a broader array of cultural and recreational visitors.
The partners in the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape are working to protect the unique character of the region by creating a model of sustainable development tied to the natural and cultural assets of the region.
Goals of the landscape:
With its vast natural resources, magnificent mountain landscapes, rich historical and cultural assets, and proximity to major metropolitan areas, the Laurel Highlands landscape is well positioned to benefit from sustainable tourism and industries that capitalize on the region’s natural assets. It is going to by:
- Revitalizing core communities and expand local and regional economies through sustainable resource use and development
- Conserving, restoring, and improving ecological (aquatic and terrestrial), cultural, historic, and recreational resources of the region to sustain economic growth
- Building capacity and constituency in the region to revitalize communities and sustain the ecological, cultural, historic, and recreational resources of the region
Areas of Interest
The region is rich in natural resources including the Youghiogheny, Casselman, Stonycreek, and Conemaugh rivers, which offer abundant natural and recreational assets.
Central to the Laurel Highlands is the 70-mile long Laurel Ridge, a high plateau region with deep cut hollows covering over 200,000 acres rich in amphibian, avian, and plant biodiversity.
Other regional assets include:
- Pennsylvania’s longest running bird banding site at Powdermill Nature Reserve, operated by Carnegie Museum.
- Pennsylvania’s only area of the mixed mesophytic forest of the southern Appalachians, which is characterized by the greatest diversity of plants at all forest layers, of all forest types in Pennsylvania.
- A portion of the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage, part of a biking/hiking trail system that extends from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh. The trail passes through six trail towns within the Laurel Highlands, each with their own unique history and charm.
- Forbes State Forest, which contains Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania
- Ohiopyle State Park, 20,500 acres encompassing 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River Gorge, and offering dramatic overlooks and waterslides along with some of the finest whitewater opportunities east of the Mississippi River
- A new whitewater park along the Stonycreek River
- Flight 93 National Memorial, the National Park Service’s memorial to the Flight 93 victims on September 11, 2001.
Touring the Landscape
Self-guided scenic driving tours that focus on special natural assets in the region are available including: