Ski and Snowshoe at Laurel Ridge

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Find quality cross-country skiing on groomed beginner- and dog-friendly trails.

If you’re prone to start waxing your cross-country skis the minute you hear about the season’s first snowfall, you know that you need options. Rest assured that you can hop in the car in Pittsburgh and be at Laurel Ridge Cross-Country Ski Area within an hour and a half. There are some 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails in the state park, open to cross-country and skate skiing plus snowshoeing.

Situated at 2,700 feet, Laurel Ridge (aka The Ridge) can see more than 100 inches of snow in a good year. The season runs from Nov. 15 through April 15, snow dependent. Check the webcam; it could be dry at the bottom of the mountain but snowy up top. Usually a good base accumulates with grooming, so once the season begins in earnest you’re generally good to go until spring. Every weekday, an on-site concession (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) offers gear rentals, lessons plus food and drink. The trail fee is $15 per day for adults, $10 for children 12 and under. Though the park is open Tuesdays through Thursdays and you can still access the trails (for free!), the concession is not open and the trails aren’t groomed these days. A small shelter near the concession, however, is open every day. 
Most of the trails are flowy so they are good for beginner and intermediate skiers. The trails are groomed with a wide skating lane and tracks along the side for classic cross-country skiing. When the snow accumulates on the trees in this hardwood forest, it really is a little winter wonderland. And whether you tackle 1K or 10K, be sure to reward yourself with a stop in the warming hut near the trailhead.

Recommended Route for Beginners 

The 1.7K Blue Trail is an easy loop that is groomed for both classic cross-country skiing as well as skate skiing. Begin and end by the trailhead—trails are clearly marked by color—and by the warming hut. If you’re looking for a little more mileage afterward, it’s easy to add another short loop on the Purple or Orange trails.  

Recommended Route for Dog Owners 

Since the trails are groomed for skate skiing, dogs aren’t allowed on most of them. But no worries, the Orange Trail is dog-friendly and it’s the longest one, coming in at 10.6K with a 7K shorter loop option. Don’t plan to bring your best friend into the warming hut, though, that’s discouraged.   

Recommended Route for Backcountry Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is allowed on all of the trails in the park, but the beauty of snowshoes is that you don’t need a groomed trail. Instead, take the adventure level up a notch and snowshoe to a reservable Adirondack-style shelter along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. From the trailhead, take the LHHT Connector Trail less than a mile to the shelter. Drop your overnight gear and do an out-and-back along the LHHT or the Yellow Trail.   

More Info 

Getting There 

Take the PA Turnpike east to Exit 91. Go south toward state Route 711 to PA-653, then drive 653 east into the park.  

Refresh & Refuel 

Get your meat and potatoes fix on the way home in Indian Head, Pa., at the Creekside Grill; ask about the special and you might luck into something like the wild mushroom ravioli. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.