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Wildlife Watching at Laurel Ridge State Park

The wilderness nature of the park lends itself to harboring a diversity of wildlife. In early spring, look for toads and frogs crossing the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on their way to vernal pools to mate and lay their eggs.

From spring to fall you can spot the occasional red-backed or spotted salamanders finding the cool undersides of rocks and leaf litter to their liking. The box turtle, easily camouflaged with its yellow mottled shell, hides and looks for food on the forest floor during the summer months.

The diverse habitats of Laurel Ridge attract a variety of bird life. Year-round forest residents include the:

  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Tufted titmouse
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Ruffed grouse
  • Turkey
  • Great horned owl

Turkey vultures often circle above the park in search of a meal and the flute-like call of the wood thrush is a welcome addition to any summer voyage into the woods. The spring and fall months bring a variety of migratory birds through the area, including warblers and hawks.

The best way to see wildlife is to sit quietly and remain still. For the best results, use binoculars and keep a safe distance between yourself and wildlife. Please do not attempt to handle any wild animal.

If an animal does not run away from approaching people, it might be sick or injured. If you observe any unusual behavior by wildlife, please contact a park employee immediately.

A Word on Pennsylvania Black Bears

Laurel Ridge State Park has excellent habitat for black bears. Bears roam freely throughout the park and normally avoid people, but bears can become slightly aggressive when people get between them and food. Never approach a bear and be especially wary of mother bears with cubs.

Aromatic scents from your food can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance. Usually, bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food, but those claws also work well at opening food containers. Store all food items inside your vehicle.

If you are backpacking in the park, store food a good distance away from your overnight campsite. Suspend food between two trees, ten feet in the air and three feet from either tree.

If you come in contract with a black bear, try chasing it away by making loud noises like yelling, honking a car horn, or banging a pot. Notify a park employee if you have difficulties with bears.

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 (Laurel Hill, Laurel Mountain, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Summit, and Linn Run) and a state forest. Allow a minimum of four hours to complete the tour.

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)