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Laurel Highlands – Northern Loop

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General Notes:

The Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania is a perfect destination for the motorcycle touring enthusiast – its spectacular natural scenery, mountain terrain and wide-open spaces are second to none. The scenery of the area so captivated legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright that it provided him with the  inspiration for Fallingwater, and a few years later and just six miles away he would design Kentucky Knob – both architectural masterpieces are open to the public for tours.

The region also features some of the Mid-Atlantic’s most exhilarating outdoor recreation spots.  The Youghiogheny River offers Class I-IV whitewater rafting.  Hikers will enjoy The Great Allegheny Passage, which is the longest rail-trail in the east, and the highly ranked Laurel Highlands Hiking trail.  Golfers are offered a range of courses from the PGA course  Mystic Rock to well-groomed public links for golfers of all skill levels.  With the highest mountain in PA (Mount Davis @3,213 ft) its no wonder the area also boasts some quality Ski slopes too – Seven Springs Mountain Resort was voted the #1 Ski Resort in the Mid-Atlantic by Ski Magazine.  Kids (young and old) can enjoy the Idlewild  &  SoakZone which has been voted the #2 Best Kid’s Park in the World by Amusement Today Magazine.  If you really desire to be pampered after your ride and all the other outdoor activity – you can check-in to the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s internationally acclaimed Woodlands Spa!

History buffs will appreciate the impressive French & Indian War sites including Fort Necessity where George Washington’s military career began and Fort Ligonier where a key strategic battle of the French & Indian War occurred.

Laurel Highlands – Northern Loop

Your basecamp for this  100 mile route is Somerset,Pa which is the county seat for Somerset County.  Somerset is the only community along the PA Turnpike to have an exit within its city limits – so the folks in Somerst are accustomed to welcoming travellers  – they get a lot of them.  This route takes you on the Northern section of the Laurel Highlands.  On this route you will be treated to some beautiful scenery as you do some serious hill climbing, visit the Flight 93 memorial and ride on some of the best maintained roads in the state!  If you love the thrill of opening-up your throttle on well manicured sweepers – this is your route!


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Directions:

Very simple – From Somerset, take PA 31 East for 32 miles to US 30.  Turn left (West) on US 30 and go 43 miles to PA 381.  Turn left (South) onto PA 381 a go 12 miles back to PA 31and turn left (East).  Go approximatley 15 miles back to Somerset.

PA31 (Glade Pike):

PA 31, aka ‘The Glade Pike” was first surveyed in 1772, it is believed that this road was often the preferred alternative to the Forbes Road for pioneers planning to settle in Ohio and other western destinations.  For this route our first leg of PA 31 is from Somerset to Bedford.  This road is a jewel ! Its in great condition, lightly traveled, full of great mini-sweepers and  beautiful scenery – it’s one of the most enjoyable 32 miles stretches of road you will find anywhere!   PA 31 is wonderful alternative to the PA Turnpike  – which, BTW  isn’t too bad for a super-slab highway if I may say so.  Here are a few pics of  the Glade Pike experience:

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PA 31 West of Somerset (which is the last leg of this route) offers much more in the way of hill climbing action – as noted in the pic here below.

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US30:

US 30 between Bedford and Ligonier involves some serious hill climbing and the tight curves that often go with them.   This section of US 30  is a fun ride…unless you get stuck behind a line of cars and trucks struggling to get up and over the hills.  Here are some pics of the 20 mile section between Bedford and Lambertsville road:

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 These windmills are a significant part of the landscape of the mountains of the Laurel Highlands.  I think they have a certain elegant beauty to them – offering function and form.  However, I don’t have to live right next to them, and many of  those that do  – tend to be much less enthusiastic about them.

Flight 93 Memorial:

Approximately 20 miles East of Bedford at Lambertsville Road you will come across a sign for the memorial – it’s easy to miss.  Turn left on Lamberstville Road  and follow it 1.7 miles to the memorial.  You will find it to be a very modest and humble, “home made”  memorial site that is obviously a labor of love, honor and respect – it reflects the way  ‘we the people’  really  feel about the American hero’s of Flight 93.  You will be glad you took the time to pay your respects.

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Back to US 30 – headed East.  You know…. there’s just ‘something’ about a slab of freshly laid tarmac on a lonely stretch of road that is just irresistible !!

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PA381:

PA 381  is a road with multiple personalities and we will visit this one again in the Laurel Highlands – Southern Loop.  In this route we ride on the Northern-most portion  which has the look and feel of a state park area.  The tarmac is mostly oil and chip in this section, and either side of the road is often bracketed by tree lines and wooden fences that stand guard for beautifully manicured pastures of green.

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When you reach PA31 – turn left and head back to Somerset and you will have successfully completed the Laurel Highlands – Northern Loop !  If your feeling really ambitious – you can add the Southern Loop (an additional 85 miles) to your trip by  staying on PA381 all the way down to US 40 – take US40 East to PA523  North and then  PA281 North to Somerset.  Much more on this in the Southern Loop post.  As always your input and feedback is appreciated so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

PS – Many thanks to Pennsylvania Magazine reader and fellow motorcycle rider Dave Anderson from Bear Rocks, Pa for his suggestions in planning this route!

Me
Brad <XX><

Blog author Brad Morgan of Carlisle owns / operates a SERVPRO business in the Harrisburg metropolitan area. The link to his business website is the only compensation he receives for producing/maintaining this blog:

 

SERVPRO of Hershey/Swatara Professionals provide fire and water damage restoration services. SERVPRO of Hershey/Swatara proudly serves Hershey, Harrisburg, Hummelstown, Lebanon, Camp Hill, and surrounding areas. We are available 24 hours/7 days a week and are ready to restore damage to your home or commercial structure

 

1 reply
  1. ButchViitala
    ButchViitala says:

    Breathtaking pictures Brad. For a couple of years David Anderson has sent me hundreds of photo’s from this gorgeous area of Western Pennsylvania. Along with the photos David sent wonderful historical descriptions and activities that make a motorcyclist’s mouth water in envy. I live in in Northern Minnesota and as a gift David Anderson sent me a subscription to the Pennsylvania Magazine which my wife and I enjoy very much. Keep up the good work Brad, and special thanks to my friend David Anderson of Bear Rocks, Pennsyvania. ~ Butch

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