Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Hiking the Ferncliff Trail in Ohiopyle State Park

This past weekend was spent at the largest state park in Pennsylvania: Ohiopyle State Park. This was a relaxing weekend with the highlight being my first experience white-water rafting. We did manage to get a little bit of hiking in during our visit, but not as much as I would have liked. We decided to hike the family friendly Ferncliff Trail. This short hike gives you some nice views of the Youghiogheny, especially the falls located here.

Trailhead: N 39° 52.30'
W 79° 29.61'
Total Elevation: 211'
Trail Length: 1.9 miles
Hike Time: 1 hour
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 23
Near: Ohiopyle State Park

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The trailhead for this hike is rather easy to get to. Coming from the north, on route PA381, you will start to enter the town of Ohiopyle. Just prior to entering the town, you will cross a set of railroad tracks. Turn right here, just prior to crossing the bridge, into the large parking area for the start of this hike. Heading in from the south, again on route PA381, you will pass through the town of Ohiopyle. After crossing the bridge over the Yough, make a left hand turn into the parking area, just before crossing the railroad tracks. There is plenty of parking here, and once you park your car, head to the western part of the parking area.

The Ferncliff Trail makes its way around the perimeter of the Ferncliff National Natural Landmark. This follows the Youghiogheny as it makes a tight loop around this protruding peninsula. There are a few other trails on the peninsula that hike over the top of the ridge, but we opted to stay as close to the Yough as we could, following the Ferncliff Trail.

This is a shorth and family friendly hike. Over the entire trail you only climb about 100 feet, and most of this is done at the end of the hike as you cut back across the peninsula. There are some sections that are a bit slippery, especially after a rain, but slow going makes this a very easy and manageable hike.

We started at the parking area along the rails-to-trail, Great Allegheny Passage, and headed to the western part of the parking area, where we met up with the entrance trail to the Ferncliff Trail. Hiking back less than a tenth of a mile we came to the intersection of the Ferncliff Trail Loop. We turned right and headed down toward the Youghiogheny.

At a quarter mile into our hike we found ourselves on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. The path here is well marked as it crosses the solid rock that make up the western bank of the river. The rocks can be slippery at time, especially after a rain, as we were experiencing during our hike.

For the next quarter mile we hiked along the shoreline of the Youghiogheny River. We were presented with some nice views both up and down river during this section of the hike. At a half mile into our hike we reached the falls on the Youghiogheny. This was essentially the highlight of the entire hike. We took some pictures, waved at the masses of people on the far bank of the river, and enjoyed the view of the falls. After about 10 minutes we headed westward once again, on the Ferncliff Trail.

Now that we had climbed up and away from the river, the trail displayed some steepness both to the left and right of the trail. When we came to sections of the trail where the drop off to our left was rather steep, railing had been placed to avoid possible falls. After leaving this section of the trail, I was a little disappointed to discover that we would not be able to see the river again. We could here the rapids as we progressed along the trail, enticing us to take a peek, but the trail did not lend itself to any views of the many white water spots on the Yough along this short, but intense section of the river.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a nice, easy hike that is family friendly. A little bit of a climb initially away from the Youghiogheny River, and again at the very end of the hike, but for the most part the trail is relatively flat. Our hike was rather uneventful as we followed the contour of the peninsula as the trail slowly bent to the right.

At about 1.2 miles into the hike I got a bit excited as the trail made a sharp left and descended towards the river. Unfortunately this did not amount to much as I still was not able to get a good view of the river. During the fall I would surmise that this section of the trail would present a nice view, but being in the middle of summer, we didn't see much.

At about 1.4 miles into our hike we did have a bit of excitement. Apparently Heather had upset a bee, perhaps a yellow jacket but we weren't sure, and it decided to sting her on her left calf. We then spent about 10 minutes performing first aide. There isn't much you can do for a bee sting, except apply anti-itch cream, offer a pain reliever and an antihistamine. Once we managed to make it through this emergency, we continued on with our hike.

At about 1.7 mile, the Ferncliff Trail makes a sharp right. After a short climb we found ourselves back at the intersection of the entrance trail. Turning left here, and a tenth of a mile later, we were back at the parking area and our cars.

Ohiopyle State Park has a lot to offer for the outdoor adventurer. White-water rafting, biking, and hiking all await those that want to experience the outdoors. If you find yourself a little less adventurous and are looking for a family friendly activity, then let me suggest a hike around the Ferncliff Natural Area on the Ferncliff Trail. The most exciting parts are experienced within the first half mile, but the trail is easily managed and will provide the entire family with a nice outdoor adventure.

Heading back the entrance trail we came upon the intersection with the Ferncliff Trail loop.

Just shy of the falls, looking upstream.

The view of the fall from atop.

The trails had railing where needed, making this a family friendly trail.

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Ohiopyle State Park