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Linn Run State Park, PA: Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Heaven

Beam Rocks Linn Run State Park
The view from Beam Rocks at Linn Run State Park!

Easy, Pretty Hikes Near Pittsburgh!

Looking for some great hiking in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, within an hour of Pittsburgh? Want options good for the whole family, from kids to adults?

Think beyond Ohiopyle to explore the easy and gratifying options at Linn Run State Park and Forbes State Forest in Ligonier, PA! Let’s take a tour of the options, shall we?

Linn Run Ruins
The “ruins” in Linn Run State Park are so cool!

Scenic Ruins in the Forest: Great for Photos

There are plenty of hiking trails in Linn Run State Park to entice the whole family, but let’s start with the most unique of the bunch: The beautiful ruins that are easily reached halfway down Flat Rock Trail.

To reach the mysterious crumbled chimney pictured, park at the Adam Falls parking area (more on that waterfall later). To begin Flat Rock Trail, take the path to your right if you’re facing the road.

You’re going the right way on Flat Rock Trail if the river, Linn Run, is on your left the whole time. You’ll reach the ruins in just a few minutes, since they’re halfway to Flat Rock, and the whole trail is only half a mile long. (Side note: If you enjoy those ruins and are near Boston, MA in the future, check out the Franklin Park ruins!)

See how high the chimney ruins are?
See how high the chimney ruins are?

Flat Rock Trail is Perfect for Kids

Flat Rock Trail is an excellent hike for kids, since it’s flat, wide, and short, with plenty to see. (In its accessibility for children, it reminded me of this Santa Cruz hike we did in California.)

If you’re hiking with young kids, the path probably doable with a hearty stroller because there aren’t too many bumps, but it is certainly not paved, so plan accordingly.

As you walk (yes, I don’t just get my fitness from online workouts), ogle the privately owned cabins and their hammocks, but be a good bunny and don’t trespass, tempting as it is! Should you want to rent your own public cabin, reservations are available on the DCNR site.

Hammock by a river.
Don’t you want to swing on that riverside hammock?

Map: Forbes State Forest vs. Linn Run

Now is a good time to clarify the difference between Linn Run State Park and Forbes State Forest. Before continuing this article, I recommend you pull up this official map of the region in an adjoining window to get a visual for the whole shebang.

In that map, you can see where the confusion arises: The two parks are swirled together like latte art! Usually these hikes are thought of as in Linn Run State Park, and much of the infrastructure is under that label, but know that while you’re driving through the greenery, you’re going between the two park parts.

Flat Rock Trail, Linn Run State Park
Flat Rock Trail ends up… at a big flat rock!

Swimming and Snakes in Linn Run

Time to talk about some dangers mixed into the fun! Flat Rock Trail fittingly ends at, well… a big flat rock. As with slippery rocks in Bash Bish Falls in my sweet Massachusetts, visitors sometimes use them like waterslides and splash around.

Now, as both a middle school teacher and double mama, I’m impelled to warn you (in a stern voice, perhaps whilst wearing spectacles for effect) to use extreme caution when entering wild water. Better yet, if you want to get wet, drive a short distance to famed Idlewild water park!

Want a little more motivation to stay on dry land? SNAKES! Yes, according to this sign near Flat Rock, there are Northern Water Snakes sliding around that river. Yeek!

Water snakes?!
Water snakes?!

Adams Falls Waterfall

Let’s move on to something less slithery and more inviting, shall we? The Laurel Highlands has some stunning waterfalls (fellow travel blogger, Jim, has the ultimate list of PA waterfalls if you want to collect them all) and Adams Falls is a sweet little baby sister of the bunch.

To reach this waterfall, park in the lot marked “Adam Falls” (more about the name change soon) and follow the signs for a very short trot to the waterfall. It’s small. It’s fun. It’s worth a peek.

Adam Falls Linn Run State Park waterfall
Me poking Adam(s) Falls.

Does “Adam Falls” Have an “S” or Not?!

Here’s a mystery from this English teacher to you: What the heck is going on with Linn Run State Park toggling between the title “Adams Falls” (plural) and “Adam Falls” (singular) for that little waterfall?! How many Adams are there? Is there just one Adam falling?

Let’s investigate. The sign in the parking lot indicates one single Adam, as does the official map from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Adam Falls Linn Run State Park PA
Notice the “Adam Falls” sign carefully…

…But the Bench Says “Adams Falls”

You’d think that official map would be the end of the story, but it’s not. The bench just a few feet from the parking lot sign indicates multiple Adams: a whole gaggle of Adams, perhaps. Awkwardly, it appears that the “S” on the bench has been carved in deeper for extra emphasis. WHY? What in tarnation is going on?

Further, numerous online articles about the region describe “Adams Falls” with the “S” loud and proud. Moreover, many locals I chatted with in Ligonier talked about “Adams Falls,” using the “S.” If you have any information about this raging controversy, please — oh please — weigh in! I want closure. Scroll down for my confused face.

Adams Falls Linn Run State Park
Wait — Is it Adam Falls or Adams Falls?!

A Note About Wearing Dresses While Hiking

At this point you may notice that I am wearing dresses in these hiking photos — multiple dresses. Why? So the first reason is very relevant to you: We went back to Linn Run State Park THREE times in three days, so I was wearing different clothes. This is relevant because it shows how easy it is to get to from Ligonier (the cute town just a few minutes away where we were staying), and also how alluring, varied, and accessible the many hikes in the park are.

The second reason is that as an artist, well, I just think dresses look pretty in photos — especially brightly colored and fluttery ones. The ones I wear are from my friend Sarah’s company, Leota, which is woman-run, and (because women know what women want) offers all machine-washable, stretchy fabrics that are honestly easy to hike in.

As a final reason for these fashion choices, I just plain old enjoy funny poses with bizarre juxtapositions… like a flowered red party dress next to mud and rocks. Read on to learn about the juxtaposition between my dress and a rattlesnake.

Linn Run has lovely private homes. Would you want this as your entryway?
Linn Run has lovely private homes. Would you want this as your entryway?

Beam Rocks: THE Hike for a View

Now for the most important part: Where to hike in Linn Run State Park for an awesome panoramic vista of the Laurel Highlands. For the excellent overlook pictured in the lead photo of this article and below, follow the signs on the road to drive to the Beam Rocks trailhead. (Alas for the lazy among us, you can’t just drive to the summit of this one like you can at Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts.)

The path to the Beam Rocks summit pictured here is harder than Flat Rock Trail, but still quite easy. (Certainly easier than Boulder, Colorado hikes!) From the parking area to the top is 0.9 miles, and could be done by kids, though there’s moderate climbing at the end to reach the top of the rocks at the end. You just have to be alert for one thing…

Linn Run State Park Laurel Highlands
The view overlooking Linn Run State Park.

Watch Out for Rattlesnakes!

THERE. ARE. RATTLESNAKES. IN LINN RUN. There really are. The good news is that they don’t attack unless attacked, so just keep your eyes peeled for them on the trail, and give them as much room as possible if walking by.

Being oblivious Bostonians whose most natural experiences come from the urban Emerald Necklace park system, we weren’t watching where we were going, and might have been in real trouble (aka, attacked) if a man hadn’t come sprinting back to breathlessly warn us: “5 minutes down the trail, a GIANT rattlesnake is coiled right before the turn! Watch out!!!”

Wait, rattlesnakes?!
Wait, rattlesnakes?!

What to Do When a Rattlesnake is on the Trail?

Hyperventilating, we tiptoed along the path, following the kind gentleman who’d warned us. Suddenly, he froze. He pointed to a mini mountain sitting on the left side of the trail. I’d never seen a rattlesnake in the wild, but this one looked just like the cartoons: Perfectly wound upon itself… watching.

Thankfully, the trails in Linn Run State Park are relatively wide. The three of us very slowly inched along the right side of the path, giving as close to the recommended three feet as possible.

We made it out with only an angry glare from the snake, but I want to emphasize again: If we hadn’t been warned and thus paying attention, it’s possible we could have been bitten. Eyes up!

Tranquilly posing, moments before the rattlesnake!
Tranquilly posing, moments before the rattlesnake!

Other Laurel Highlands Attractions

There’s plenty to do in Linn Run State Park (in three days, we didn’t even have time to explore a fraction of the other recommended trails and sights there), but it’s nice to mix nature with human-made fun. Here are some other recommended things to do in in the Laurel Highlands region that I’ve really enjoyed:

• You MUST see Fallingwater if nearby. It’s one of the most famous pieces of architecture in America!

• Explore the biggest cave in Pennsylvania, nearby Laurel Caverns!

• Just minutes from Linn Run, see the remarkable glass paperweights on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Ligonier.

• Looking for a place to stay in Ligonier? We enjoyed this hotel (affiliate link).

Curved bridges over the river
Curved bridges over the river.

More Things to Do Near Forbes State Forest:

• Follow the Fred Rogers Trail to learn about the real Mister Rogers in his hometown of Latrobe, PA.

• Get fresh produce and laugh at the hilarious, sassy signs at Pletcher’s Farm Market.

• Visit the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, PA. Fabulous for both kids and adults.

Behold the glory of the Laurel Highlands.
Behold the glory of the Laurel Highlands.

Do YOU Like Laurel Highlands Hiking?

So what about you? Have you been to Linn Run State Park or Forbes State Forest in southwestern Pennsylvania? If so, what were your favorite sights? If not, which of these hikes seems most enjoyable? Do share!

Laurel Highlands hiking trails
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Dalya

Thursday 14th of November 2019

Wow seeing that rattle snake must've been so scary!!! Also - good on you for wearing dresses while hiking, that's awesome :)

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 14th of November 2019

Hehe -- thanks. The dresses are truly comfortable for outdoor fun!

Nouran

Wednesday 13th of November 2019

Loved this post! Congrats for all your travels, your work, and pictures !!!!

Lillie Marshall

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Thanks, Nouran!

Harmony, Momma To Go

Wednesday 13th of November 2019

I do not do snakes! that is a no-go for me!

Looks like someone added the "S" to the Adam Falls sign - I can see why, "Adam falls" seems grammatically incorrect or something...

Lillie Marshall

Wednesday 13th of November 2019

Haha I can see why about the snakes! After seeing one in person, I can now understand that they leave you alone as long as you're respectful, though.

I agree about "Adam Falls" seeming grammatically incorrect and getting stuck on the tongue. I wonder who the "Adam" or "Adams" in question was! Maybe someone from the Laurel Highlands could weigh in?

Nancy

Monday 11th of November 2019

I haven't been to Linn Run State Park or Forbes State Forest but would like to explore the area. There are so many hikes!

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 14th of November 2019

Tons and tons of hikes!

Dianne Sivulka

Monday 11th of November 2019

I didn't realize there were so many hikes in the area. Gorgeous scenery!

Lillie Marshall

Monday 11th of November 2019

I had no idea how much this region of Pennsylvania had to offer until my friend tipped me off the Laurel Highlands a few years ago. It's gold!

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