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Wildlife Watching

The rich flora and fauna of Laurel Hill State Park make it a great place to watch wildlife year round. The mixed deciduous forest is dominated by oak, maple, cherry, and poplar trees with an understory of witch hazel, serviceberry, rhododendron, and mountain laurel.

Although most of the park was timbered in the early 1900s, for unknown reasons the Hemlock Trail Natural Area remains intact. The massive eastern hemlocks within this six-acre old growth stand are now approaching the climax stage of succession.

Wildflowers are common and range from the early blooming snow trillium and spring beauties that grace the trail edges, to the goldenrod and sow thistles that color the fields and roadsides well into November.

Whether by sound or sight, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of bird species, both migrant and resident. Especially popular are the tree swallows and eastern bluebirds that inhabit the park’s twenty-box cavity-nesting trail.

The trail winds from below the campground to the meadow across from the visitor center. This relatively open area is also a popular hunting ground for diurnal raptors, such as the red-tailed hawk and nocturnal predators such as tiny screech owls that nest in the area each year.

In the spring and early summer, calls of spring peepers, bullfrogs, and American toads fill the night, intermingled with the haunting calls of great horned and barred owls. Ruffed grouse drum on air making a sound like an engine trying to start.

Late in the summer, the chirps, trills and buzzes of katydids, cicadas, and tree crickets fill the night.

Small Mammals like woodchucks, chipmunks, and gray, red, and fox squirrels are commonly seen throughout the park during daylight hours.

White-tailed deer and eastern cottontail rabbits are most often seen at dawn or dusk in the more open meadow areas.

The elusive mink, fox, black bear, coyote, bobcat, and fisher have been spotted in the park.

Familiar to every camper are the skunk, raccoon, and opossum that frequent the park in search of carelessly stored camp foods.

Please observe wildlife only from a distance and do not feed wildlife.

Hemlock Trail Natural Area

Ancient hemlock trees, 200-300 years old with diameters up to 3 ½ feet, line the creek along this gentle trail. The scenery is spectacular with moss carpeting small rocks and boulders, the creek running wide and clear, and virgin hemlocks providing the final magic touch.

The Hemlock Natural Area at the center of the Hemlock Trail loop contains outstanding ancient hemlocks. Along the upper loop of the trail are impressive black cherry, yellow birch, beech, maples, and oaks.

Discover Fall - Scenic Driving Tour

Welcome to the beautiful Laurel Highlands, filled with scenic byways, picturesque overlooks, and unique, quaint communities. This area spans a four county region including Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria, and Somerset counties. Beginning in October the ridges and valleys come to life with color, with the peak near mid October.

The Discover Fall tour provides two distinct driving routes through the Laurel Highlands linking state forest and state park lands, small town community events, and programs with scenic drives of fall color.

Northern Loop

This approximately 125-mile loop is the quintessential “leaf peeper” road trip. The tour closely follows the ridge offering views at every turn. Highlights include a stop at the third deepest gorge in Pennsylvania, a ride on the world’s steepest vehicular incline, a walk to a bog, and a pleasant drive through and past five state parks and a state forest. Allow a minimum of four hours to complete the tour. Laurel Hill, Laurel Mountain, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Summit,  and Linn Run state parks.

Scenic Driving Tour - Northern Loop Fact Sheet (PDF)

Southern Loop

This approximately 70-mile loop offers meandering drives through the valleys between the ridges of the highlands. Highlights include stops within three state parks (Laurel Hill, Laurel Ridge, and Ohiopyle) and views of the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania from both on top of the ridge and from the Youghiogheny River. Allow a minimum of two-and-a-half hours to complete the tour.

Scenic Driving Tour - Southern Loop Fact Sheet (PDF)

Discover Birds and Blossoms - Scenic Driving Tour

The return of our feathered friends coupled with the bloom of spring flowers provides the perfect opportunity to explore the Laurel Highlands. This tour will guide you to some of our area’s best birding spots from a mountaintop bog to the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania. The tour visits Laurel Hill, Linn Run and Ohiopyle state parks.

Discover Birds and Blooms Scenic Driving Tour Fact Sheet (PDF)