After a lengthy bike adventure on the Ghost Town Trail in Indiana County, my husband and I found ourselves with energy to spare and set off to explore the Buttermilk Falls Natural Area.
Located in the valley of Hires Run, a tributary to the Conemaugh River, Buttermilk Falls is a stunning 45-foot waterfall. It is unusual to find waterfalls of this scale in this part of Pennsylvania.
Buttermilk Falls has a history rich in make-believe and enchantment. From 1930 to 1956, this was the estate of wealthy Latrobe industrialist, Fred McFeely, maternal grandfather of Fred Rogers, of children’s television fame. The retreat featured a cottage, horse stables, three car garage, outbuildings and a swimming area. As a child, Mr. Rogers was a frequent visitor to the estate and many of his ideas and expressions for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood were conceived here.
An observation deck offers a spectacular view of the waterfall. For those who are willing to brave a steep climb, there is a trail leading to the bottom of the falls. You will discover that this trail crosses over the creek that feeds the waterfall.
Crumbling stone foundations and retaining walls from the old estate are visible in the swimming area above the falls.
In addition to Buttermilk Falls, the 48-acre natural area also offers a hiking trail. The McFeely Trail is the perfect place to sit on a bench and do some deep soul-searching or to relax and enjoy the solitude of the forest. It is easy to imagine a young Fred Rogers playing here in the forest, lost in his own boyhood thoughts.
A visit to Buttermilk Falls is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Keep your camera handy after you leave the natural area. The surrounding countryside offers some amazing photo opportunities!