Exploring Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County

Jones Mill Run Dam at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

Boat launch near the beach at Laurel Hill State Park.

Surrounding the lake are nearly 20 miles of trails, perfect for spending a few hours or an entire day exploring the forest.

A stream crossing along the Tram Road Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
A stream crossing along the Tram Road Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

Civilian Conservation Corps monument at Laurel Hill State Park.
Civilian Conservation Corps monument at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

Civilian Conservation Corps plaque at Laurel Hill State Park.
Civilian Conservation Corps plaque at Laurel Hill State Park.

Today we enjoy the fruits of their labor in the form of this exceptional state park in the heart of the Laurel Highlands!

The entrance to Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County.
The entrance to Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County.

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 Pumphouse Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
The Pumphouse Trail 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.

The Hemlock Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
The Hemlock Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.

One of the unique sights along the Hemlock Trail is a renovated Civilian Conservation Corp trail shelter.

A restored Civilian Conservation Corps trail shelter at Laurel Hill State Park.
A renovated Civilian Conservation Corps trail shelter at Laurel Hill State Park.

While you cannot spend the night in this shelter, it makes a great spot to take a breather after hiking this hilly trail.

Trail shelter information along the Hemlock Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
Trail shelter restoration information along the Hemlock Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

The Copper Kettle Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
The Copper Kettle Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

The Tram Road Trail Head at Laurel HIll State Park.
The Tram Road Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.

Tram Road Trail is one of my favorite winter hikes at Laurel Hill State Park.

Sunrise over Jones Mill Run along the TRam Road Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
Sunrise over Jones Mill Run along the Tram Road Trail 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.

The Pumphouse Trail Head at Laurel Hill State Park.
The Pumphouse Trail Head 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.

Jones Mill Run Dam in October.
Jones Mill Run Dam in October.

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.

Jones Mill Run informational signat Laurel Hill State Park.
Jones Mill Run informational signat Laurel Hill State Park.

Be sure to check out the area above the dam as well!

Reflections on the calm waters above Jones Mill Run Dam.
Reflections on the calm waters above Jones Mill Run Dam.

5. The Lake Trail

This 1.75 mile trail follows eastern shore of Laurel Hill Lake and Laurel Hill Creek.

The Lake Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.
The Lake Trail at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

Kayakers on Laurel Hill Lake in October.
Kayakers on Laurel Hill Lake in October.

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.

Bike and boat rental at Laurel Hill State Park.
Bike and boat rental at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

The freshly-groomed beach at Laurel Hill State Park.
The freshly-groomed beach at Laurel Hill State Park.

There’s also a playground area on the beach, and restrooms/changing area immediately behind it.

The playground on the beach at Laurel Hill State Park.
The playground on the beach at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

Fly fishing in October at Laurel Hill State Park.
Fly fishing in October at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

A Great Blue Heron at Laurel Hill State Park.
A Great Blue Heron at Laurel Hill State Park.

Leaf Peeping 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.

Fall foliage reflected on Laurel Hill Lake at Laurel Hill State Park.
Fall foliage reflected on Laurel Hill Lake at Laurel Hill State Park.

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.

Fall foliage around the dam at Laurel Hill Lake.
Fall foliage around the dam at Laurel Hill Lake.

The Overlook Tower at Laurel Hill State Park

At the southern end of Laurel Hill State Park you’ll find a magnificent overlook tower with panoramic views of the Somerset County countryside.

The scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County Pennsylvania.
The scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.

The tower is located at the end of a 0.3 mile long trail (an old dirt forest road), with parking available at the trailhead off Lyons Road (see map below).

A map to the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.
A map to the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.

GPS coordinates for the trailhead/parking area are 39.97735, -79.23607.

Scenic Overlook trailhead at Laurel Hill State Park.
Scenic Overlook trailhead at Laurel Hill State Park.

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 old road trail leading to the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.
The old road trail leading to the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.

The top of the tower offers a covered, circular platform where you can take in the scenery from all directions.

Top of the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.
Top of the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.

And the views are outstanding!

Looking out over the Somerset County countryside from the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.
Looking out over the Somerset County countryside from the scenic overlook tower at Laurel Hill State Park.

This is certainly one of the best man-made scenic overlooks in the Laurel Highlands.

Part of the panoramic view from the Laurel Hill State Park scenic overlook tower.
Part of the panoramic view from the Laurel Hill State Park scenic overlook tower.

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!

Jones Mill Run Dam in the winter at Laurel Hill State Park.
Jones Mill Run Dam in the winter at Laurel Hill State Park.

There are still trails to hike…

Trail intersection at Laurel HIll State Park.
Trail intersection at Laurel HIll State Park.

Sights to see…

Winter along Laurel Hill Creek at Laurel Hill State Park.
Winter along the Hemlock Trail and Laurel Hill Creek at Laurel Hill State Park.

A lake to enjoy…

The frozen lake and beach at Laurel Hill State Park.
The frozen lake and beach at Laurel Hill State Park.

And a playground for hardy children!

The beach playground at Laurel Hill State Park in the winter.
The beach playground at Laurel Hill State Park in the winter.

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).

The Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival at Laurel Hill State Park.
The Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival at Laurel Hill State Park.

This popular festival is a celebration of not only traditional bluegrass music, but also frontier arts, crafts, and trades.

Gunsmiths working in frontier fashion at the Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival.
Gunsmiths working in frontier fashion at the Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival.

Final Thoughts

There is SO much to do see and do at Laurel Hill State Park, and I’ve only scratched the surface!

Fall foliage on the beach at Laurel Hill State Park.
Fall foliage on the beach at Laurel Hill State Park.

Camping, picnicking, bicycling, snowmobiling, cross country skiing – you can add all of those to the list as well.

Jones Mill Run in the summer.
View from the Tram Road Trail along Jones Mill Run in the summer.

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.

A fly fisherman on Laurel Hill Creek at Laurel Hill State Park in Pennsylvania.
A fly fisherman on Laurel Hill Creek at Laurel Hill State Park.

Want to make your visit to Laurel Hill State Park even MORE epic?

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A rental cabin in a wooded setting in the Laurel Highlands.
Photo courtesy of Vrbo.

Check out HUNDREDS of cabins, cottages, and lodge homes close to Laurel Hill State Park by clicking on the Vrbo logo below.

Disclaimer: If you book a vacation rental through this Vrbo link, I get a small commission (at NO additional cost to you!), which helps offset the expense of hosting the PA Bucket List website.

Nearby Attractions

Kooser State Park occupies 250 wooded acres along Route 31 in Somerset County.

The best things to see and do at Kooser State Park in Somerset County Pennsylvania
Kooser State Park in Somerset County.

The 14 Best Scenic Overlooks in the Laurel Highlands introduces you to some of the finest vistas in the region.

The author photographing an autumn sunrise at Baughman Rock Overlook.
The author at Baughman Rock Overlook in the Laurel Highlands.

23 Must-See Waterfalls in the Laurel Highlands of PA introduces you to a collection of superb waterfalls on some of the most picturesque waterways in the region.

Selfie at Lower Jonathan Run Falls, Ohiopyle State Park
The author at Lower Jonathan Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.

20 Fabulous Fall Foliage Destinations in the Laurel Highlands of PA introduces you to the locations that persuaded USA Today to rank this region as the #3 place in the entire United States to view fall foliage!

An October morning at Beam Rocks in the Forbes State Forest.
An October morning at Beam Rocks in the Laurel Highlands.

Exploring the Covered Bridges of Somerset County introduces you to 10 remarkable covered bridges in all their historic glory.

A lone fisherman on Brush Creek below the Pack Saddle Covered Bridge in Somerset County, PA.
A lone fisherman on Brush Creek below the Pack Saddle Covered Bridge in Somerset County, PA.

Exploring the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County gives you an overview of what to expect when visiting this tribute to the 40 passengers and crew members on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

Approaching the Wall of Names along the Plaza Walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville PA
The Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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