Laurel Ridge State Park stretches along Laurel Mountain from Ohiopyle State Park to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The main attraction of this 13,625-acre park is the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT). In fact, the LHHT is the only marked trail in the entire park!
The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail spans 70 miles. Thru-hikers cross four counties and two state parks. Day hikers split the trail into smaller segments. The homestretch of the LHHT, the Conemaugh Gap, traverses through the northern region of Laurel Ridge State Park.
The Conemaugh Gap can be done as a 7.2 mile out-and-back hike. This moderately difficult hike has some serious uphill climbs through second and third growth hardwood forests. Those willing to endure the 1,500 foot ascent will be rewarded with multiple overlooks of the Conemaugh River. Hikers will pass through a high plateau covered with wall-to-wall mountain laurel and rhododendron so thick it almost forms a tunnel.
If you look hard enough, you might spot the ruins of a sandstone quarry and the foundations of a cable car. Both were used to gather materials for the construction of a railroad bridge in Johnstown.
Multiple vistas offer their own opportunity to view migratory birds. Turkey vultures are often seen circling overhead.
From the trail’s dramatic vista into the heart of the Conemaugh Gorge, one can hear the snap, crackle and pop of adjacent power lines. A power plant lies to the right of the gorge.
Yes indeed, this panorama is like no other!
Cut by the Conemaugh River through Laurel Ridge Mountain, the Conemaugh Gorge is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. It sure is an impressive sight to behold!
It’s impossible to hike anywhere near the Conemaugh River without thinking of the great Johnstown Flood.
When the unthinkable happened on May 31, 1899, the Conemaugh River was already overflowing its banks. A wall of water 40 feet tall and half a mile wide was unleashed into the industrial town when the dam on Lake Conemaugh burst.
One of the most disastrous events in US history, the Johnstown Flood claimed 2,209 lives.
Thinking about hiking the Conemaugh Gap? It’s worth noting that this hike is best undertaken in early spring or late fall when the view is less likely to be obstructed by leaves. Greenbrier should be less of an annoyance then too!