Waterfalling at Ohiopyle
My wife’s family lives in Scottdale, a quick 45-minute drive from Ohiopyle, PA. I first visited Ohiopyle back in the early 2000s, and saw the main Ohiopyle Falls and Cucumber Falls. For years, these were the only spots we visited, along with the park office, short walks above the falls, and short peeks out onto Low Bridge over the Youghiogheny River. We always enjoyed a meal at Falls Market, or one of the other fine restaurants. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I heard about other waterfalls in the park. I’ve now visited every waterfall in the park, and several others in the immediate area surrounding the park. Here’s a description of a waterfall weekend at Ohiopyle this past March.
We were up early, meeting a group of hikers and waterfall enthusiasts north of Connellsville. Our group included my wife Kristina, my son Wesley, my sister Jen, her friend Jenn and her son Alex, and my friends Mike and Sharon. We drove down to see Stewarton Falls first, which are on Crooked Run to the north of Ohiopyle. It was surprisingly beautiful, with some additional cascades between rocks below the falls. We also explored further down Crooked Run almost to the CSX Railroad tracks, and found another waterfall! We named it Lower Stewarton Falls.
Lower Stewarton Falls
On our way into the park we decided to hit up Cucumber Falls before the daylight reached it. We were a little late, but I had acquired a neutral density filter and got a chance to try it out – it worked great! I was now ready to photograph other waterfalls with sunlight on them. We headed for the main falls – Ohiopyle Falls! The power of these falls is incredible. We walked over Low Bridge and checked out High Bridge, then came back to hike down Ferncliff Trail to see Ohiopyle Falls from the opposite side of the park office.
We enjoyed lunch at Falls Market, then did a quick trip up to see Baughman Rock overlook. From there we backtracked down to town, then headed out to hike Meadow Run Trail. This is where my Purple Lizard Map had come in handy – the lizards at Flat Rock and the Cascades had brought me here just last summer, and I was blown away by the beauty of these spots. I couldn’t wait to share these places with my friends! They were not disappointed at all, and we spent a good chunk of time enjoying this gem.
Flat Rock on the Meadow Run Trail
We ended the day with a surprise – we drove to Jumonville, then walked up behind the great Jumonville cross just as the sun was dropping behind it. What a sight to behold! We even spotted the Pittsburgh skyline through the leafless trees!
Day two didn’t start quite as early, but we actually had more hiking to do. Our group had shrunk to me, Mike, and Sharon because of other commitments, but we were determined to see the five waterfalls along Jonathan Run and Sugar Run. We started at the Jonathan Run Trail parking lot, then headed down the trail to the junction with Sugar Run Trail. We turned left onto Sugar Run Trail, then snuck down to see Fechter Run Falls, which was flowing nicely! We backtracked to Jonathan Run Trail, then headed for Upper Jonathan Run Falls. There are a lot of angles to explore with these falls, and one of my favorite views is under the overhang below the lower tier of the falls.
Fechter Run Falls
Upper Jonathan Run Falls
Lower Jonathan Run Falls
We scrambled back up to Jonathan Run Trail, and headed down to Lower Jonathan Run Falls, which were just roaring! Again, sunlight was inhibiting my exposures, but it didn’t matter. The way the water crashed, tumbled, and weaved around the boulders was awesome, and I knew the best photos couldn’t capture being there anyway.
Our last stop was Sugar Run Falls, which I had visited for the first time just a few months ago on a frigid 13°F day. We first snuck down to Lower Sugar Run Falls below the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, then headed up to Sugar Run Falls. It was stunning – so stunning that we decided to eat lunch there! On our way back, we walked down to the mouth of Jonathan Run to see the Yough, which was this beautiful emerald color. On our way back up Jonathan Run Trail, we walked right along the creek between the lower falls and the upper falls. There were several beautiful cascades along the way that I had never seen before.
Sugar Run Falls
Ohiopyle is my favorite State Park in southwestern PA. I’ve seen it and swam in its waters in the summer, I’ve been there after fresh snowfalls on frigid, icy days, and I’ve seen it swollen with crystal clear spring runoff. My final season awaits – to see it draped in the splendor of fall! The sound of water crashing through rocks and over waterfalls just fills and heals my soul. Ohiopyle fills and heals my soul.
Rob Keith lives in Brockway, PA with his wife Kristina and their son Wesley. He is a high school chemistry teacher, and teaches in DuBois, PA. He is an avid hiker and kayaker/canoer, and thoroughly enjoys exploring the Little Toby and Clarion River valleys. He is a published historian of the Brockway area as well. Some of his favorite spots in PA include the Allegheny National Forest, Quehanna, Pine Creek, Ohiopyle, the Hammersley, Bald Eagle, Rothrock, and Loyalsock State Forest.