Laurel Hill State Park is comprised of 4,062 acres of mountainous, wooded terrain in central Somerset County.
At the heart of the park is the 63 acre Laurel Hill Lake, a fantastic spot for swimming, boating, fishing, and bird-watching.
Surrounding the lake are nearly 20 miles of trails, perfect for spending a few hours or an entire day exploring the forest.
So follow along as I share with you some of the best things to see and do at Laurel Hill State Park!
History of Laurel Hill State Park
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, most of the area where Laurel Hill State Park is now situated was clear cut by logging companies, leaving behind a barren wasteland.
In July 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corp arrived to carry out a restoration and reforestation effort.
The lake, roads, and many of the structures at Laurel Hill State Park were all built by the Civilian Conservation Corp between 1935 and the start of WWII.
Today we enjoy the fruits of their labor in the form of this exceptional state park in the heart of the Laurel Highlands!
Hiking at Laurel Hill State Park
The free official park map lists all the main hiking trails at Laurel Hill State Park, and I’ll share a few of my favorites below as well.
The 5 Best Hiking Trails at Laurel Hill State Park
1. The Hemlock Trail
The Hemlock Trail follows a 1.2 mile route through a grove of old growth Eastern Hemlocks along Laurel Hill Creek, one of the few areas in the park that escaped the logger’s axe.
One of the unique sights along the Hemlock Trail is a renovated Civilian Conservation Corp trail shelter.
While you cannot spend the night in this shelter, it makes a great spot to take a breather along this hilly trail.
As you enter the 6-acre Hemlock Natural Area, you’ll be standing amongst trees so old that some were growing when the colonists declared their independence from England!
Some of the hemlock trees in this Natural Area are up to 3.5 feet in diameter.
The Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) was officially named Pennsylvania’s state tree in 1931.
There aren’t many places in Pennsylvania where there is the opportunity to hike through an old growth forest with trees that have lived for hundreds of years, so hiking the Hemlock Trail at Laurel Hill State Park is certainly an experience!
2. The Copper Kettle Trail
The Copper Kettle Trail is a 1.25 mile path along the western shoreline of Laurel Hill Lake – it’s basically flat and an easy stroll or bike ride.
3. The Tram Road Trail
The Tram Road Trail is a 1.7 mile path along scenic Jones Mill Run at Laurel Hill State Park.
Tram Road Trail is one of my favorite winter hikes at Laurel Hill State Park.
4. The Pumphouse Trail
The 1.6 mile Pumphouse Trail is THE most popular hiking trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
Why so popular?
Because it leads to Jones Mill Run Dam, one of the most photogenic spots at Laurel Hill State Park.
This dam, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is one of the most photographed spots in all of Somerset County, according to the PA DCNR sign located at the dam.
Be sure to check out the area above the dam as well!
5. The Lake Trail
This 1.75 mile trail follows eastern shore of Laurel Hill Lake and Laurel Hill Creek.
Summertime, when the ferns emerge and flowers are in bloom, is a particularly beautiful time to hike the Lake Trail.
Boating at Laurel Hill State Park
The 63 acre Laurel Hill Lake is a fantastic spot for boating, and boat launches are available at either end of the lake.
And if you don’t own your own, you can rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard at the beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Swimming at Laurel Hill State Park
Speaking of beaches, Laurel Hill State Park features a large, groomed beach area open between late May and September.
There’s also a playground area on the beach, and restrooms/changing area immediately behind it.
Fishing at Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park is an extremely popular fishing destination, with Laurel Hill Creek and Jones Mill Run in particular being excellent trout streams.
Wildlife Viewing at Laurel Hill State Park
A wide array of wildlife calls Laurel Hill State Park home, and with a large lake at the center of it, waterfowl watchers in particular will find time spent here very enjoyable.
Fall Foliage at Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park is one of the premier spots in all the Laurel Highlands region for enjoying spectacular fall foliage in October.
While the entire park is awash in vibrant colors, Laurel Hill Lake in particular is a favorite spot of mine, as the shimmering reflections only enhance the experience.
The beach area at Laurel Hill Lake is surrounded by red and gold leaves.
Jones Mill Run Dam is another perennial fall foliage favorite.
Downstream from the dam, Jones Mill Run meanders through a forest of of fall foliage.
Laurel Hill Creek is no stranger to fantastic fall foliage views either.
Honestly, just about every trail you can possibly hike at Laurel Hill State Park makes for a great fall foliage hike!
The Scenic Overlook Tower at Laurel Hill State Park
At the southeastern corner of Laurel Hill State Park you’ll find a magnificent scenic overlook tower with panoramic views of the Somerset County countryside.
The tower is located at the end of a 0.3 mile long gated dirt road, with parking available at the trailhead off Lyons Road (see map below).
GPS coordinates for the trailhead/parking area are 39.97735, -79.23607.
The first half of the hike is downhill through a wooded section of trail; the second half is slightly uphill through a open field.
The top of the tower offers a covered, circular platform where you can take in the scenery from all directions.
And the views are outstanding!
This is certainly one of the best man-made scenic overlooks in the Laurel Highlands.
Winter at Laurel Hill State Park
Winter is a beautiful time at Laurel Hill State Park, so don’t let the cold temps keep you from enjoying it!
There are still trails to hike…
Sights to see…
A lake to enjoy…
And a playground for hardy children!
The Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival
In a non-COVID year, the Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival takes place at the park every August (check the park’s official website for exact dates).
This popular festival is a celebration of not only traditional bluegrass music, but also frontier arts, crafts, and trades.
There is SO much to do see and do at Laurel Hill State Park, and I’ve only scratched the surface!
Camping, picnicking, bicycling, snowmobiling, cross country skiing – you can add all of those to the list as well.
Hopefully I’ve piqued your curiosity about this park, and given you a good framework to plan your own exploration of Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County.
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