Epic Little Appalachian Summer Road Trip

dolly sods

Epic Little Appalachian Summer Road Trip

These past couple months, we’ve all been laying low to stop the spread of COVID-19. In the meantime, here’s some travel inspiration to encourage you to keep dreaming about future adventures that will help support the tourism and hospitality industry when it’s safe to get back out there!

This fun, short summer road trip from Pittsburgh winds through three states. You’ll see an awesome variety in landscapes and ecosystems along the way. From the green hills and rushing water of Ohiopyle State Park to the ancient rock formations of Seneca Rocks to the serene lakeside in Deep Creek, this loop makes for a multi-sport, summer road trip your family or friends will never forget.

Leg 1 – Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle

cucumber fallsPittsburgh is the closest big city to these little mountain towns — Ohiopyle is only a 90-minute drive away. You can start from there, from Washington, D.C. or even from eastern Ohio. Either way, today’s drive is pretty short. You’ll have lots of time to stop for coffee along the way and get set up at your campsite in Ohiopyle. Enjoy the green rolling hills as the route gets more rural and mountainous.

When you get to Ohiopyle, there are lots of options. Take a stroll along Great Gorge Trail and visit Cucumber Falls, a 30-foot bridal veil waterfall near the river. Follow the trail down Cucumber Run and hook up with Meadow Run Trail, where you’ll see Entrance Rapid. The trail leads away from the Youghiogheny River and up Meadow Run creek, a classic freestone mountain stream popular with hikers and fly fishers. Stroll back into town and refuel at Falls City Pub, a friendly river town bar and restaurant with a huge beer selection and food for every kind of eater. The pub hosts live music every summer Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Leg 2 – Ohiopyle to Big Bear Lake Trail Center

big bear mountain bikeAnother day, another adventure! Today’s drive isn’t too long — only about 45 minutes! Go down some back roads into West Virginia and enjoy the countryside. You’ll end up at Big Bear Lake. Register to camp, set up your site and hit the trails.

The Big Bear Lake Trail Center is quickly becoming known as the hot spot for classic east coast single track. Local mountain bikers have work for years to create a trail system that will have you grinning ear to ear. The terrain is varied and fun — gradual climbs, large embedded rocks, tight slaloms, challenging rock gardens, and off the saddle downhills. Almost 50 miles of trail wind through knee deep ferns and flora, soft needle pine plantations and groves of mountain laurel. The trails are friendly and fun for riders of all ages and abilities. Trail fee is $10/day or $30 for a season pass.

Leg 3 – Big Bear to Davis, West Virginia

dolly sodsMeandering mountain roads take us to Davis today. The tiny mountain town of Davis, perched on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, is an incredible gateway into the West Virginia wilderness. Two state parks, a ski resort and nice selection of local bars and restaurants complement the outdoorsy vibe of an area that appeals to everyone, from hardcore outdoors-people to those just looking to relax and get away from it all.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park has overnight accommodations, dining and spa services and outdoor activities including skiing, hiking, biking and golf. Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the amber waters of Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot cascade tinted by the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. The falls, along with a few of the park’s other features like Elakala Falls, Lindy Point and Pendleton Point Overlook, are some of the state’s most photographed spots. The park has 20 miles of hiking trails, the longest sledding magic carpet on the East Coast, a comfortable lodge and more. The 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest is known for its unique northern climate ecosystem and scenic views.

So maybe you’re wondering, “This town has a lot of stuff to do outside, so it should have some night life, right?” Correct, and it’s at the Purple Fiddle. Here, on weekend nights, the community gathers to clap, stomp, sing, and sway to Appalachian-based acoustic music. This tiny venue gets a lot of local talent, but it’s also hosted big names like the Avett Brothers and Greensky Bluegrass.

Leg 4 – Davis to Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks, located in Monongahela National Forest, is one of the best-known landmarks in West Virginia and have long been noted as a scenic attraction and are popular with rock climbers.

The rocks are a magnificent white-gray Tuscarora quartzite formation rising nearly 900 feet above the North Fork River. The quartzite is approximately 250 feet thick and is located primarily on exposed ridges as caprock or exposed crags. The rock is composed of fine grains of sand that were laid down approximately 440 million years ago, in an extensive sheet at the edge of ancient ocean. As the ocean was slowly destroyed, the underlying rock uplifted and folded. Millions of years of erosion stripped away the overlaying rock and left remnants of the arching folds in formations like Seneca Rocks.

The first documented climb of Seneca Rocks was in 1935. In 1943-44 the U.S. Army used the rocks to train mountain troops for action in the Apennines. Due to the hardness of the Tuscarora sandstone formation and the degree of climbing difficulty, Seneca Rocks is a climbing opportunity unlike any in the east.  For non-climbers, a self-guided 1.3 mile interpretive trail beginning behind the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center is another way to reach the lofty heights of the rocks and view the scenic valley below.

Mountain bikers might want to check out the incredible North Fork Mountain trail. Less well-known than Seneca Rocks and passing high above and behind the formation is this 23-mile ridge trail. Make sure you’re well rested before tackling the North Fork. It’s tough riding and a long day, but totally worth it for the views.

Leg 5 – Seneca Rocks to Deep Creek Lake

deep creek lakeAfter all that excitement, you might need a chill day. This leg takes us into Maryland for a visit to Deep Creek Lake.

Carved in the quiet mountains of western Maryland, Deep Creek Lake State Park is the perfect day to chill on a summer day. If you’re a little tired from the past few days, set up a beach chair and enjoy sunshine and shimmering water on one of the beaches on this 3900-acre man-made lake. If you feel like venturing away from the water, the park also has 20 miles of hiking/biking trails, a 112-site campground and a 6000 square-foot Discovery Center. The Deep Creek Lake State Park Complex also includes Sang Run State Park and the Youghiogheny Wild River Natural Environmental Area. Nearby, you can see the tallest free-falling waterfall in Maryland at Swallow Falls State Park.

On the southwestern side of the lake, there’s a good selection of bars and restaurants. We highly recommend the Lakeside Creamery for some of the best homemade ice cream in the east.

Leg 6 – Deep Creek to Friendsville

rafts on upper yough heinzerling rapidGet your adrenaline back up with a trip to little, unassuming Friendsville — home of the famous Upper Yough.

This section of the Youghiogheny River is Maryland’s only Class IV-V whitewater rafting, and this sweet run is available three times a week from April through October. Upper Yough trips are always small, with only four people per raft (three guests and one guide), so your trip is smooth and totally personalized.

Tumbling down through the mountains of Western Maryland, this this Class IV-V river rafting trip is more like running a steep creek than a river. Fast-paced and action-packed, you have to be on your toes, ready to paddle hard and precisely following the commands of your expert guide! Your day starts at our outfitter store in Friendsville, Maryland along the banks of the Youghiogheny River and just off Interstate 68.

After your trip, enjoy a few cold beers (over 21 only, sorry kids) and a delicious barbecue lunch outside on the porch. If you’re got any energy leftover, take a stroll through “downtown” Friendsville. Check out the Windrush Gallery, which features the nature and adventure photography of local photographer Crede Calhoun.

From Friendsville, you’re only an hour away from Linn Run State Park in Pennsylvania, a quiet park with miles of hiking trails and a spring. There are nine rustic cabins equipped for overnight stays. The campsite is close to the adorable town of Ligonier, which boasts a variety of cozy eateries and a nice public square for strolling.

Leg 7 – Linn Run to Pittsburgh

It’s fine to get a slow start on the last morning of your trip; it’s just about an hour form Linn Run back to Pittsburgh. Sip coffee as you enjoy the morning light on the creek, and then head back home on the PA Turnpike. (If you can’t bear to leave yet, drive up to the Wolf Rocks trail on top of the hill and take a quick hike to a lovely overlook.) Savor the drive home as you leave the mountains and return to “civilization.”

For any of your summer road trip needs, (or if you just want to spend a week in Ohiopyle!) call us at 800-272-4141 or check out our online store.