Laurel Ridge Cross Country Ski Center is a Perfect Winter Day Out

If there is any state park in the Laurel Highlands that we have had trouble exploring properly over the years, it would be Laurel Ridge State Park.

The reason for this is simple- the state park is sprawling. Instead of covering one (often round) area with nested hiking trails, Laurel Ridge State Park follows along Laurel Mountain through four counties.

Short of through-hiking on the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, getting to enjoy Laurel Ridge State Park often comes in small segments.

In the winter, one of our new favorite sections of the park is the groomed cross country ski and snowshoeing trails maintained by the Laurel Ridge Cross Country Ski Center. Seeing the beautiful of the state park in winter? Sign us up for this one!

Although this one offers rentals in addition to the paid entry to the groomed trails, we picked up our own snowshoes and went out for a day of winter fun in the Laurel Highlands!

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Hiking Through the Eliza Fox Trail and Riding Meadow Park

When it comes to hiking at the many parks in and around Fox Chapel, the trails feel a bit disjointed but also connected at the same time.

Running north to south, the loosely connected Eliza Fox Trail network starts at Beechwood Farms, passes through Hardie Valley and Riding Meadow, and later continues through Scott, McCahill, Salamander, and Fay Parks before reaching O'Hara Township.

Although we were not able to hit every park in the above list in our first outing, we managed to take in a roughly 3 1/2 mile out-and-back hike starting at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve through to Riding Meadow and back and made for an enjoyable morning out!

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A Quick Hike Around Kooser State Park – A Smaller Gem

Kooser State Park is a smaller park by Laurel Highlands standards, coming in at approximately 250 acres in size.

While this one lacks in size compared to other state parks nearby, it makes up for it with a gorgeous lake, a trout run, and beautiful nature all around.

A visit here can be quick, but the park presents many opportunities for those who want to stay a while as well!

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A Quick Trip Into Nature at Girty’s Woods Near Millvale

When it comes to parks in Pittsburgh, many of the staples have been protected for decades and even generations. But that doesn't mean the work to protect our area green spaces is finished.

Groups like the Allegheny Land Trust are working hard to protect great nature spaces in the region and regularly purchase land to pursue their conservation efforts.

Girty's Woods near Reserve Township and Millvale is one such green space, and the trust purchased 155 acres in just 2021. So, naturally, we decided to pay this somewhat wild park a visit to see what it is all about!

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5 Ways to Get Out on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh

Not every city can boast of having two rivers. Even fewer cities can boast of having three. Even fewer still can claim that their downtown rests on the confluence of three rivers, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers just that.

As such, it should be no surprise that the rivers in Pittsburgh take a prominent stage from skyline views to activities you can experience when in the city.

So in this one, we thought we'd share several of the best ways to get out on the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers in Pittsburgh!

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The Armstrong Trail Offers 35 Miles on the Allegheny River

The aptly named Armstrong Trail in Armstrong County is a 35-mile rail-trail that runs north to south along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River.

During our first visit, we biked half of the trail (approximately 16 miles one-way out of Ford City) and were able to see many highlights including river views and adjunct river developments like power stations, dams, an iron furnace, and more.

So in this one we wanted to share a bit about what you can see when exploring the Armstrong Trail and also give some tips for making the most out of your ride on this exceptionally flat trail.

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Bradys Run Park – A Lot to See and Do But Plan in Advance

Brady's Run Park is a roughly 2,000-acre park just outside of Beaver Falls that offers a wealth of things to see and experience ranging from active experiences like walking and hiking to other fun options on the lake and nearby.

But while this one is decently sized, those who visit will likely want to do some advanced planning prior to arriving as spotty cell signal and few interconnecting trails make navigating this park slightly tricky.

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Linn Run State Park is a Quick Stop in the Laurel Highlands

Normally when we think of state parks in the Laurel Highlands, we think about them in terms of their massive size. Laurel Hill State Park clocks in at almost 4,000 acres. Forbes State Forest is almost 60,000 acres. Ohiopyle State Park is about 20,000 acres. We could go on.

But some state parks in the area are much, much smaller while still offering a wealth of things to see in a quick visit.

Linn Run is one such state park, and while this one is only 612 acres in size, it makes for a great spot to check out a waterfall after a rain, for a quick hike, renting a cabin for a weekend, or to go fishing if licensed!

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Powdermill Nature Reserve is a Hidden Gem in the Laurel Highlands

One of the fun things about running this site is that we're always discovering new places that were right in front of us but we never noticed. One recent spot we learned about was Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, PA (in the heart of the Laurel Highlands), and, naturally, went immediately.

This nature reserve is managed by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and is designed to monitor the wildlife populations found in western Pennsylvania. But beyond their important work, the facility has a few fairly modest exhibits highlighting the animals of the region, a marsh machine to purify wastewater from the facility, periodic lectures and events, and some shorter hiking trails to check out as well!

So while you may not have a terribly long visit at this one, if you are passing by, it is most certainly worth the stop. So let's jump into what you can see a bit more!

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Touring Birch Creek Farmery Gives an Appreciation for Ethical Farming

As supporters of all things local, it should not be a surprise that we buy our meats and vegetables from area farms as best we can. This includes CSA subscriptions in the summer months, weekly visits to farmer's markets throughout the city, and buying bulk meat orders to fill our deep freezer from time to time as well.

While we are not writing this post to get into the ethical debate on meat-eating outright, we do believe that it is important to know where your meat comes from and that the animals are treated as humanely as possible along the way. By shopping at local farms, we are often able to see all of this first hand!

Naturally, when we started shopping for local meats, Birch Creek Farmery in Burgettstown, PA, quickly came on our radar. It didn't take long after looking at their website to realize that the family who runs the farm have values similar to ours in this regard, and we've become devoted customers ever since (including even visiting the farm for a wine dinner in the past as well).

Cut to a few years later, and the team (now friends) at Birch Creek Farmery invited us out for a proper farm tour to see how they raise their animals. As these tours are open to the public as well, we thought it'd be fun to share a bit more about what the experience is like!

Note: Birch Creek Farmery said that tours can be customized a bit for your interests. Want to spend more time petting and feeding animals? They can do that. Want to learn more of the technical details that go into farming? They can do that too. We opted for a general tour which involved a long walk around the property to see as many animals as possible. Be sure to dress accordingly in long pants and shoes you don't mind getting muddy!

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