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Laurel Highlands – Southern Loop

Laurel Highlands - Southern Loop

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 Kentuck 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.

On this 100 mile route you will ride on some great roads that were made with YOU in mind! Wonderful sceneryfun roads that are well maintained and lots of interesting things to see and do along the way.  Combine this with the Laurel Highlands – Northern Loop and its almost more motorcycle riding goodness than anyone really deserves !!!!   ; )


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Directions:

From Somerset – take PA31 (East) and go 16 miles to PA381.  Turn left (South) onto PA381 and go 25 miles to US40.  Turn left on US40 and go 14 miles to PA523.  Turn left (North) on PA523 and go approx 1.6 miles to Mt.Davis Road.  Turn right onto Mt. Davis road and follow for the signs to the summit – approximately 11 miles.  Follow Mt. Davis road back to PA523 and tun right (North).  Follow PA523 for 6 miles to Confluence.  At Confluence turn right (North) onto PA281 and follow for 22 miles to Somerset. (Click on the map for details)

PA381:

PA 381 is an interesting road.  The Northern section (discussed in the Laurel Highlands – Northern Loop post) is very much like a county road – mostly oil & chip tarmac,  a good number of tight turns and lots of up-close greenery.  The Southern  section is more like a state road – its much wider and more wide-open with better quality pavement.  The closer you get to Ohiopyle – the more fun the road gets as  the curves get progressively closer and tighter – but at no time is this road difficult or  ‘technical’ to ride.   Before you enter the park you will see the sign for Fallingwater.  Admirers and fans of innovative architecture and design will want to stop for a look – if you havent been here already on a school field trip!

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Once you cross over the Youghiogheny River bridge, you will find yourself at the Ohiopyle State Park area where  I suggest that you consider  getting  off the bike for a few minutes to enjoy the scenery, the shops  and the rafting activity on the river.   About 1/2 mile past the river – you will see the sign for Kentuck Knob – I recommend deviating from the route for a few miles to enjoy the ride up the “the knob”.  The picture (from the ‘Wilderness Voyagers’ blog) below is taken from the nearby Tharp Knob and it shows the Ohiopyle Park area below.

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Mt. Davis Road:

The  24  miles (12 miles one way) you spend on  Mt.Davis are worth the wait.  Mt. Davis road is full of  curves and climbs as you ascend to the top of Mt.Davis.  It also  offers some gorgeous views like the ones below:

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The picture below is from the access road to the Mt.Davis lookout – just follow the signs.

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After visiting Mt.Davis ( and trekking-up the look-out tower) – just head back the same way you came on Mt.Davis road and turn right onto PA523 and then pick-up PA281 on Confluence and head back to Somerset.  Both PA523 and PA281 are very nice roads that you will enjoy riding – just mike most every other road in Laurel Highlands!  A few pictures of this last leg of the route are shown below

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This entire area is haven road road-hunters!  Nearly every road in this area is fun to ride – however, these are a few of the best IMHO.  Many thanks to Pennsylvania Magazine reader and fellow motorcycle riding enthusiast Dave Anderson of Bear Rocks, Pa for his road  suggestions for this route as well as  the Laurel Highlands – Northern Loop route.  I hope that you get the opportunity to ride this route and enjoy all it has to offer.  As always – please feel free to add your comments !

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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:

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