Western Pennsylvania’s beauty trumps that of most of the country with rich foliage, lush mountains and glimmering fields. Take a drive, but keep it close, with some of the most scenic routes this city has to offer with 60 miles of your stomping grounds. Visit stunning waterfronts, luscious parks and even a few mountains on the area’s prettiest open roads.
Route 22 E to Kiskiminetas River
Distance: roughly 41 miles one way
Hours: dawn to dusk, weather permitting
On your drive to this historic site, take note of the blossoming foliage and distant rolling mountains. The first two miles of the road are contained in a valley, surrounded by a variety of side roads leading to suburban, mostly residential development, so take note of the impressive new architecture neatly tied into the hillside. The trip is mainly highway and makes for a quick, comfortable journey. On your arrival to Connemaugh, check out the visitors center for information on canoeing, hunting, picnicking, hiking and accessible facilities. Arrange a tour of the Conemaugh Dam by contacting the park office at (724) 459-7240 or just cruise by and enjoy it from afar.
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Route 22 E to Derry Township
Keystone State Park
1150 Keystone Park Rd.
Derry, PA 15627-3679
Distance: roughly 42 miles one way
Hours: dawn til dusk
This park and its attractions are is within easy driving distance from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. More highway driving usually allows travelers unobscured views of the distant fields and blooming woods, though a bit of that view will be obstructed this spring because of recent road construction. Take particular note of the manicured crops and lush green fields maintained by local farmers: If you’re lucky, the kids might even catch a glimpse of a newborn spring foal running along the border fence. From picnicking to boating and camping to winter activities, your party will have a variety of choices upon arrival at Keystone. Call ahead to book a week long stay in one of Keystone’s newly remodeled cabins, or drive to the water on a whim to rent a fishing boat for the day.
Distance: roughly 40 miles one-way
Hours: dawn to dusk, weather permitting
From scenic byways to mountain curves, the trip through the Laurel Highlands may take your breath away. Dark, almost cavernous foliage suddenly parts, leaving drivers with a stunning, jaw-dropping display of endless green valley. When in bloom, hundreds of different wildflowers dot the landscape in a natural abstract painting that spans miles. Once you’re able to tear your eyes away from the gorgeous scenery, activities abound in the Laurel Highlands. Treat your family to Idlewild Park for a day of amusement park thrills, visit any number of historic sites, take in a play or spend your day shopping. For the outdoor enthusiast, golfing, hunting, fishing, hiking and exploring await nearby.
Distance: roughly 48 round trip
Hours: Mon to Fri – 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat and Sun – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This trip will take you past the majestic skyline of downtown Pittsburgh, over historic bridges, to the peaceful Findlay Township where excitement awaits. When driving through the heart of downtown, take pains to see the historic inclines tucked neatly into the mount, the avant-garde homes scattered haphazardly around the river, and the brilliant expanse of steel-work construction. Through the tunnels, the highway gives way to more open, blossoming land. At the end of your journey, make a pit stop at the charming Reiley’s Summer Seat Farm and Garden Center. If you’re a novice or professional gardener, looking for a fun springtime activity for your children, or want to pick your own produce, this fun pit stop offers it all.
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Hours: May 1 to October 31 daily – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The beautiful, large rocky outcroppings, pristine forests and meandering rivers make this trip the best. Drive straight into the sunrise to see otherworldly colors blossom over the tops of the lush forest, or wait for a rainy day to see the mountainside glisten with hundreds of thousands of diamond-like raindrops. A rainbow might be hard to catch, but will force you to stop if spotted through the dense canopy overhead. This drive is unlike any other and ends in a treat for everyone. Stop at Laurel Caverns on your way through to check out the largest natural bat hibernaculum in Pennsylvania. Traditional guided tours, rappelling and spelunking, kavernputting and gemstone panning are all offered in the three mile labyrinth, which also happens to be the largest natural cave in the state.
Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.