Rediscover the Outdoor Places You Love
Whether it’s kayaking the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County or hiking the bluffs at Lake Erie, Western Pennsylvania offers varied landscapes and terrains that make outdoor recreation interesting and fun.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and UPMC Health Plan encourage Western Pennsylvanians to explore the region through recreation and rediscover the outdoor places you love. Most of the lands and waterways the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has protected are open to the public, ready to explore through healthy recreational activities like hiking, biking and kayaking. WPC has helped to establish ten state parks, protected more than 252,000 acres of natural lands and conserved more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams.
The following properties that were protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy are particularly suited for public visitation, with easy access, designated parking, and trails. We hope you will rediscover these places and share your experience with us through Facebook. Additional properties to visit can be found on the Visiting Our Properties page.
Ferncliff Peninsula at Ohiopyle State
At the center of Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands lies one of the park’s most beautiful and interesting spots: Ferncliff Peninsula. This forested peninsula is surrounded by a horseshoe curve of the Youghiogheny River, where the river makes a dramatic descent. The forest cover includes oak, tulip, white pine and eastern hemlock.
The shores of the Youghiogheny River at Ferncliff Peninsula are home to a number of rare plant species that thrive under the conditions of rocky riverbanks, fast moving water and the intense periodic flooding of the river. The 1.7-mile trail that winds around the peninsula’s perimeter and trails that branch off of it are popular hiking destinations. Scenic overlooks provide spectacular views of the waterfalls and the rapids below. At the base of the peninsula, visitors can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the river from the old railroad bridge. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy acquired the Ferncliff Peninsula in 1951 and transferred it to Ohiopyle State Park. Over the years, the Conservancy has protected more than half of Ohiopyle State Park’s 22,000 acres.
Bear Run Nature Reserve
Bear Run, the stream that inspired Fallingwater, flows under the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house. In dramatic cascades, its 30-foot drop provides the iconic waterfall. But that familiar portion of the stream is just a part of Bear Run. More than five miles long, the stream winds its way down a 1,500-foot elevation drop before it reaches the Youghiogheny River. The stream shares its name with the 5,100-acre Bear Run Nature Reserve, a Western Pennsylvania Conservancy property that is open to the public.
To see more of this tranquil land that surrounds Fallingwater, visitors can park behind the barn on Route 381, across the road and to the north of the Fallingwater entrance. The trailhead begins there, with several trails from which to choose. The Arbutus Trail winds along stream banks filled with rosebay rhododendron. For a more remote experience, the Bear Run Trail overlooks the stream deep in the reserve and winds through hemlock forest groves – far from roads, buildings or traffic. It is a magnificent hike in the summer with the rhododendron in bloom, or in the winter in the quiet snow.
Moraine State Park in Butler County
Moraine State Park features 3,225-acre Lake Arthur, an outstanding warm water fishery with great sailing and boating opportunities. Of special interest are the Frank Preston Conservation Area and a seven-mile paved bike trail that winds through the north shore of the lake. The park also provides horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling trails. Swimming is popular at the park’s two beaches. During the winter season, ice boating, sledding, skating, cross-country skiing and ice fishing are popular. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protected 3,000 acres along Muddy Creek in Butler County in the early 1960s, which would become one of the first parcels to start Moraine State Park.
Bluffs at Lake Erie
The Lake Erie shoreline includes high sand and clay bluffs with nearby wetland forests.
Visitors can enjoy hiking in the 3,327-acre David M. Roderick Wildlife Reserve, which the Conservancy helped acquire in 1991 and transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The property contains a wetland forest uncommon in Pennsylvania for its rare assemblage of plant and animal species like the pumpkin ash, a large tree that grows in wet habitats. It also includes coastal wetlands, which are in decline nationally. Raccoon Creek, a steelhead stream, flows through the southern portion of the property.
Elk Creek, Erie County
Elk Creek is a high quality stream recognized for its world-class steelhead fishing. The property is open to the public for fishing and passive recreation. This section of Elk Creek is also great for bird watching. The area provides habitat for a number of species including the bald eagle. WPC has recently added safer public access to the creek by creating a trail through the property’s interior. Parking is available along North Creek Road. Located only a half mile southeast of Erie Bluffs State Park, this 92-acre property adds to more than 3,800 acres WPC previously protected in the Lake Erie region.
Additional properties to visit can be found on the Visiting Our Properties page.