Laurel Hill State Park
1454 Laurel Hill Park Road Somerset, PA 15501-5629
A huge state park with a beach, hiking, and a campground.
Laurel Hill State Park is one of several state parks in the Laurel Highlands area of Western Pennsylvania. The area is famous for its rolling hills, beautiful views, and excellent skiing. If you’re looking for a spot to enjoy a day trip or a weekend camping trip in the area, you can’t do much better than the 4,512 acre Laurel Hill. The park has several highlights that will take visitors the span of a couple of days to see.
The most popular feature of the park is a 1,200 foot, lakefront beach that features a lush green backdrop of a pine-filled hillside. The wide sand beach offers plenty of space for castle building and lounging. The water is perfect for the littlest swimmers as there are no waves and the entry is very gradual. Looks closely and you might even be able to spot a fish! The beach area also features a large jungle gym that’s good for older kids and swings that are great for little ones. Please note, this is an unguarded beach, so swim at your own risk.
Visitors also have access to a very clean bathhouse with toilets and showers. A concession stand offers elevated, but approachable locally sourced fare including burgers, tacos, sandwiches, ice cream, and more. Note: The concession stand is CASH ONLY so be sure to have some on hand! (If you’ve forgotten cash and need a bite to eat, the nearby Highland Market offers to-go items from their café and market!) If you’ve brought your own kayak or canoe, you can also launch from a designated area on the beach. The beach is most crowded on weekends and gets busier as the day goes on. It’s best to arrive early or on a weekday, if possible. The beach is open daily from late May to Mid-September from 8:00 AM-Sunset.
If you’re in the mood for hiking, there are two must-see trails. The Jones Mill Run Dam is a stairstep, stone dam that was built in the 30s by the CCC and it is absolutely beautiful. To get there, you can take either the Pump House Trail or the Tram Road Trail (both are accessible via parking lots and trailheads from the main park road). The Pump House Trail is a relatively easy, flat hike that takes you through the forest. The Tram Road Trail is slightly more adventurous and offers opportunities to do some rock hopping and bridge crossings. If you want to take one trail one way and the other one back, the Shay Trail offers a short connector path between the two. Regardless of which trail you choose, you’ll traverse about 1-mile, round trip from the parking lot to the dam.
If you’ve got energy left for more hiking, hop in the car and head to the Hemlock Trail. A parking area is available for this trailhead on the main park road, right next to a short bridge by the lake. (If you’ve brought a picnic, you can take advantage of a picnic table that overlooks the lake, just down the ramp from the parking area!). The Hemlock Trail is a somewhat difficult hike with some steep portions as well as rocks. However, visitors that can make the trek will be rewarded with the opportunity to see the Hemlock Trail Natural Area, a small stand of old-growth Eastern Hemlock Trees along a portion of Laurel Hill Creek. It may not be quite as awe-inspiring as the Redwood forests in the west, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get in western Pennsylvania! The Hemlock Trail is an approximately 1-mile loop, so visitors can head back to the parking area while viewing completely different scenery.
If you’re looking for a very easy hike or a great spot to go biking, the Copper Kettle Trail has you covered. The trail is approximately 1.25 miles of flat, hard-packed surface that’s great for a family bike trip. The trail will take you through the forest and along the beach before ending on the main camp road.
Whichever trail you choose, be sure to pick up a map and trail guide at the visitor’s center before heading out! You can also find a public bathroom at this location, just behind the building, near the campground check-in station.
If you want to take advantage of boating or biking and don’t have your own supplies, Hazelbaker offers rentals of boats and bikes at their office at the beach. You can borrow a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, rowboat, hydro bike, or paddleboat. Boats are $10 an hour per person and bikes are $5 an hour per person. Kids 7-years-old and younger are free with a paying adult. They are open 7 days per week from 10:00-5:00 with the last rental at 4:00. Call 814-233-6075 for information.
If you’ll be in the area in the winter, the park also offers opportunities for snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing as well as a lighted sledding hill!
If this sounds like too much to see in one day... it is. Luckily, Laurel Hill offers 264 campsites, including 149 with electric hook-ups and a limited number with full hook-ups. The campground is open from mid-April to late October. There are also eight camping cottages that sleep 5 people each. Camping cottages are equipped with heat and electricity. The park also offers two large lodges that sleep 8 and 14 guests, respectively. The lodges include full kitchens, bathrooms, rec rooms, and more.
Whether you’re in the area or are looking to escape, Laurel Hill State Park offers enough recreation and relaxation to fill a day, plus some!