Summary: The yellow-blazed Laurel Highland Hiking Trail covers 70 miles from Ohiopyle State Park north to Seward. This review covers the 5.2 mile section between PA Route 653 and the Grindle Ridge Shelter Area.
The two most interesting features of this section of the trail are the rocky overlooks of Middle Fork and a Rock Maze. The broken geology is damage done during the last Ice Age when this section of Pennsylvania was tundra and subjected to freeze-thaw cycles that 12,000 year later make the trail rocky and tough on the feet.
The trail designers take some delight in the terrain by running the trail through these huge cracks in the stone rather than taking the easier route around them.When the trail is hot, these rocky corridors can be significantly cooler although they also harbor colonies of mosquitos.
The cross trail's marked with orange disks are for cross-country skiing. The consession at the 653 parking area is open during the weekends during the winter.
Trailhead: From the Donegal exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, follow Rt 31 East to Jones Mill. Turn South on Rt. 381/711 at Sarnelli's Market and then left at the T-intersection at Normalville. It will just be a short distance to another left onto Rt. 653. The parking area on PA Route 653 is just East of the crest of the ridge. (N39 57.276 W79 22.096) In the winter on weekends the ski consession has restrooms and supplies. During the rest of the year you'l have to travel half a mile south along the trail to the Shelter Area for a rest room.
The Northern end of this section at the Grindle Ridge Shelter Area does not have any road access. If you want to get there, you have to hike in or be a park ranger. The Grindle Ridge shelters are the furthest of any from the trail itself, adding a third of a mile to the trip.
Camping is free but shelters must be reserved and cost $6/person/night. Money can be sent to the trail office or left in a box at the trailhead. (Lat:39.9546 Lon:-79.36826)
Trail Guides for LHHT-Rt. 653 to Grindle Ridge:
A Hikers Guide to the Laurel Highlands Trail
by Sierra Club PA Chapter (Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: Laurel Ridge State Park Office 724-455-3744
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Kevin Geiselman, who has posted 96 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Submit your own review
Reviewed by Phil on 2/18/2006
A very easy section of The Larel Highlands Trail. I hiked this on Superbowl Sunday(2006), the weather wasn't the greatest. It was snowing all day and the views from Middle Fork were non existant. The maze through the rocks was neat! I was the first one on the trail that day and the trail was really beautiful, about an inch of snow when I left and 2-3 inches by the time I returned. Last time I had hiked this section was in 1981. It was good to be back!
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Keys: Pennsylvania Hiking, Pennsylvania Trails, Pennsylvania Hikes, Fayette County Hiking, Fayette County Trails, Fayette County Hikes