Searching for a wild and wonderful weekend adventure close to home? Look no further. I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 local adventures near Pittsburgh, PA. These are the perfect, micro getaways sure to be enjoyed by fun-seekers and nature-lovers alike; ranging from white water thrills to peaceful nature hikes to dark underground discoveries – take a look for yourself…
1. White Water Rafting in Ohiopyle State Park
Whether you’re a novice or an expert, the Youghiogheny River is the perfect place to experience thrilling white-waters surrounded by beautiful, woodland scenery. I personally recommend rafting with Wilderness Voyageurs – they have the best safety record and their guides are downright enthusiastic experts who truly love their jobs! They will excite your group, all the while making you feel safe and confident during your river plunge.
If you’ve never gone white-water rafting before, yet still are a thrill-seeker at the core, the Lower Yough is the perfect trip for you (class 3-4 rapids). You even have the option of going guide-less (in your own raft – but the guides still kayak alongside and assist). Cost is $52-$72 depending on the date (Sundays are $62).
I had the time of my life pirating these waters for the entire 5-6 hours. Hungry? Wilderness Voyageurs has got you covered – they provide a lunch halfway through your rafting adventure. It’s deli-style and riverside. It was exactly what I needed after a couple hours of paddling my heart out.
Paddling through Cucumber Rapid, Dimple Rapid, hydraulics + more were ultimate highlights of this journey. In between the crazy fun rapids lies calm, deep pools that give you the opportunity to catch your breath, enjoy the scenery and even go for a swim!
Before or after your rafting fun, you can explore much more of what Ohiopyle State Park has to offer. Such as…
You are able to stand above + below this beauty AND, if you’d like to cool off, you can even walk behind her + jump in her shallow pool (do not jump off the rocks into her, she’s not that deep).
The Natural Waterslides:
These slides are AWESOME! If you happen to hit the natural water slides at the right time, you will SHOOT right down them in what will be, nonetheless, an INSANE ride. Caution: you may get banged up here and there – I walked away with a bruised left arm (all up and down) + memories that’ll last a lifetime. Take a look at the video below to see what the Natural Waterslides of Ohiopyle are all about..
Hiking + Swimming galore
Ohiopyle State Park offers a multitude of hiking (and biking) trails along with various swimming holes to soak in. Explore as much as you can during your local adventure getaway to this wildly incredible destination.
2. Spelunking in the Laurel Caverns
This adventure is ideal for any day – rain or shine (which you know, living in Western PA, is huge plus). Not to mention, it’s vastly different from many of the other adventures you will see on any list – exploring great depths of total darkness. Furthermore, Laurel Caverns is the only developed cave in the world having its largest rooms and passages completely in their original state (how COOL?!).
To go Caving in Laurel Caverns Park via their Lower Caving Tour, the cost is $30 per person + includes: your safety helmet and an expert guide. Each individual is required to bring: two forms of personal light (flashlight + headlamp) and sturdy boots with great traction and great ankle support (it’s a MUST). Also, it’s highly recommended to wear long sleeves and pants in order to avoid any cuts and scrapes. The caverns are 52 degrees F year-round (another reason to wear long sleeves and pants).
This 3+ hour tour takes you 46 stories deep into the mountain interior. As you army crawl through damp, tight passages and climb up through tiny rock openings, you’ll feel as if you’re Indiana Jones (or any famous explorer of your liking) discovering new territory around every turn. Each obstacle brings an exciting challenge and, with it, new grounds open. There’s nothing else like it close to the ‘burgh. You’ll be sure to end this adventure covered in dirt and all smiles!
3. Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure
Spend an afternoon swinging through the trees and climbing your way through suspended rope courses in North Park, PA (minutes outside of the city). This 2-3 hour journey provides endless opportunity for outdoor fun and adventure (ages 10+).
Go Ape’s suspended obstacles range from wide-spread steps (shown above), foot rings, rope bridges, swinging logs and SO MUCH MORE. There also happens to be TWO Tarzan Swings (my personal favorite) where you get to jump from a 40 ft. platform and swing across the forest canopy into a giant net (that you proceed to climb). And, of course, there are multiple zip-lines that connect each tree-top adventure to the next.
Another cool aspect of Go Ape is the fact that their rope course provides each go-er an option to choose: The Difficult Path or The Easy Path. Therefore, it is well suitable for varying athletic abilities.
It’s no wonder their catch phrase is..
“Live Life Adventurously”.
Cost: $49 per person.
To see more of this exciting, adventure-packed place…
Check out our short video and watch as we take on Go Ape’s suspended obstacles, zip-lines and Tarzan Swings:
4. Rock Climb + Hike at McConnell’s Mill State Park
One can easily spend an entire weekend exploring McConnell’s Mill State Park without losing an ounce of enthusiasm and marvel.
This spectacular state park is full of large boulders and rock cliffs – perfect for those who love climbing (it is the prime outdoor climbing locale close to Pittsburgh). The climbing here is mostly top-roped or bouldered and the trees are often slung for anchors. Unable to rock climb? You can still enjoy the thrill of rappelling without the need for upper body strength. Don’t have a rope, harness and the necessary climbing gear? No fear! You can still enjoy bouldering and free-climbing on the innumerable rocks throughout the park.
McConnell’s Mill State Park is also abundant with top-notch hiking trails full of waterfalls, caves, boulders, creeks + more!
A few of my favorite little hikes are to:
Hells Hollow and Hells Hollow Falls
Breakneck Falls (near Eckert Bridge)
McConnell’s Mill + Covered Bridge
However, my favorite hike in the park is the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail – a day hike full of wild flowers, water falls, switchbacks, hidden caves and magical forest scenery all while following along the Slippery Rock Gorge and the river that cuts through it.
Length: 14.2 miles, out and back.
Elevation Gain: 1,558 feet.
Rated: Moderate – Difficult.
Trailhead: Begins at Hells Hollow Parking Lot
5. Kayak or Stand Up Paddle Board on Lake Arthur
Lake Arthur, located in Moraine State Park, is a 3,225 acre, man-made lake just waiting to be explored + paddled on!
If you do not own a kayak or SUP board, rentals are available at Crescent Bay Marine, LLC and cost begins at:
$15 for first hour – single kayak
$20 for first hour – tandem kayak
$30 for first hour – SUP board
Paddle along the coast and even venture to islands, docking your small vessel to roam the lands. Bring a packed lunch and enjoy a picnic on your own private island thanks to your kayak! Paddle onward to beaches and coves. Take a dip in the lake waters when the sweat from paddling strikes. OR, if you’d even like, cast a line in your kayak and test Lake Arthur’s fishing. There’s so much to do and so much water to cover – what better way to do so than by renting a kayak or paddle board for a day?
Prefer something a bit more relaxing + tranquil? How about renting a SUP board at sunrise/sunset and practicing some yoga on the peaceful waters, tinted with the hues of dawn/dusk? Sounds incredibly inviting and peaceful to me.
If you’re any bit of an adrenaline-junkie, thrill-seeking, nature-loving, outdoor person such as myself – you will utterly ADORE each of these 5 Local Micro-Adventures not far from Pittsburgh, PA. What better time to have some much needed FUN DAYS than over Labor Day Weekend, eh? Get to it, y’all!
Thank you for reading + Happy Travels/Adventuring,
P.S. If you happen to do any of these adventures this weekend – give me a shoutout / comment below. Let me know all about it! 🙂