Ohiopyle State Park is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful areas in all of southern Pennsylvania.
It’s true that the state park is often hailed as one of the best white water rafting communities in the nation. You’ll also find tons of additional adventures within the borough though, making it a perfect place to visit for day trips.
In addition to rafting on the Youghiogheny River, there’s also biking on the Great Allegheny Passage, strolling through the unique foliage of Ferncliff Peninsula, backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, shopping at some of the awesome outdoor outfitters in town, and of course—going in search of the waterfalls.
And if it’s waterfalls you want, then you’ve come to the right place.
As a year-long Ohiopyle resident, I’ve seen the state park during the busiest of weeks, and in times when only a handful of people visit during the month. But most importantly, that experience gave me exclusive access to see each and every waterfall throughout every season of the year.
This guide was written to show you the best ways to find each of the top waterfalls in Ohiopyle State Park. Each one is enchanted with its own special kind of magic.
1. Ohiopyle Falls
Difficulty: 1 | Distance: >.1 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: Yes
Ohiopyle Falls is probably the most well-known of all the waterfalls in the state park. It can easily be found by the visitor’s center, just off of Main Street (Route 381) in Ohiopyle.
This must-see waterfall is the biggest (and baddest!) in all of Ohiopyle State Park. It falls from a height between ten and twenty feet, depending on the water level and how much rainfall the river has been taking in.
Perhaps, one of the most interesting facts about Ohiopyle Falls is the role it played in the American Revolution. In 1754, a 22-year old George Washington was seeking passage to Pittsburgh by way of the Youghiogheny River.
When young Washington reached present-day Ohiopyle, his river trip was promptly cut short. Ahead of him was the formidable Ohiopyle Falls with clusters of rapids further down stream. Having to travel by foot from there on, Washington learned of a small band of French soldiers in a glen up the hill.
The young British colonel, Washington, and 40 of his followers were subsequently locked into a skirmish with the French soldiers, firing the first shots that would spark the beginning of the French and Indian War.
Interestingly, if it had not been for Ohiopyle Falls, the entire conflict may have been avoided and our history might look much different than what it is today.
The easiest way to find this waterfall is to park in the visitor’s center parking lot. However, as long as you follow the Youghiogheny River downstream, you should be able to find Ohiopyle Falls from anywhere in town.
2. Cucumber Falls
Difficulty: 2-4 | Distance: >.1-1.5 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: Yes
Second on our list is Cucumber Falls, one of the most highly photographed waterfalls in all of Pennsylvania.
The beauty of Cucumber Falls is that it carries many faces. Depending on the time of year and the flow strength of Cucumber Run, this waterfall can be a roaring free-fall or simply a serendipitous spill-over.
In the summer months, you’ll find lots of families picnicking and posing for photo ops in this area. It’s also possible to sneak behind the waterfall, if you don’t mind getting a little wet.
The incredible thing about Cucumber Falls is that it descends down into a giant sandstone gorge with massive sandstone boulders decorating the interior. It’s truly a spectacular sight.
There are technically three ways to reach Cucumber Falls.
The easiest method is to drive up Kentuck Road and park in the Cucumber Falls parking lot. Keep in mind that this lot fills up very quickly in the summer months, so you may have to park along the side of the road.
From there, simply follow the dirt path down to the rustic stairs. You’ll quickly notice Cucumber Falls descending into the hollowed-out sandstone cliff. Keep following the steps down as you switchback into a forest of rhododendrons and monumental sandstone slabs.
Once you’re at the bottom, you’ll be able to explore the terrain and get as close to the waterfall as you’d like. Be careful though, some of the rocks can be pretty slippery.
The second and third ways to get to Cucumber Falls are more hiker and biker friendly.
If you’ll be hiking, consider parking in the Meadow Run parking lot near the natural waterslides. From there, cross route 381 and go down the sloped road, being sure to stick to the right to hike down a stretch of dirt stairs. You should see an old cabin on your left.
Follow Meadow Run downstream until you come to a sandy area at the spillway into the Youghiogheny. From here, hike downstream along the Youghiogheny on the flat slabs of rock along the river. Stick close to the river until the flat slabs of rock run out. You should see a trail going into the forest on your left.
After you’re on the trail, be sure to pay attention to the yellow markers painted on the trees. You’ll do a bit of scrambling up some rocks and then turn right at the top. Further down the trail, you’ll cross under a humongous fallen tree that looks like it was from the Jurassic period. After that, you’ll reach a wooden footbridge.
Once you cross the footbridge, you’ll be able to hike down to where Cucumber Run empties out into the Youghiogheny. It’s a short walk upstream from here along a dirt path to reach Cucumber Falls.
The final method of reaching Cucumber Falls is the most bicycle-friendly of all the options. You’ll be taking the Great Gorge trail along the opposite side of the Youghiogheny.
To reach the Great Gorge trail, hop on the Great Allegheny Passage (aka the GAP trail) and head north toward “the high bridge,” which is 150-feet above the Youghiogheny. After crossing the high bridge, look out for the sign marker for Great Gorge on your left.
This trail is fairly wide and can easily be accomplished by a family. However, there are a few sections where you may need to get off your bike to walk it across some bridges and streams.
Continue to follow this trail through the dense forest adorned with mountain laurels. The trail is a little less than a mile long.
Once you near the end, you should begin to hear the waterfall in the distance. Make a left onto the metal grate bridge that spans Cucumber Run. From here, you should notice that the Cucumber parking lot is just up the small hill.
Find somewhere along the fence to secure your bike and take the rustic dirt stairs down into Cucumber Gorge.
3. Upper Cucumber Falls
Difficulty: 2 | Distance: .5 miles
Bikeable: Partial | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: Partial
Since you’ll be near Cucumber Falls, consider heading a little further upstream along Cucumber Run to see the upper falls.
Upper Cucumber Falls is largely dependent on how much water is rushing downstream. The picture above was actually taken during low water, but it certainly didn’t make it any less beautiful.
The upper part of the falls is actually more like a cascade which slopes down the rock and runs in all kinds of jagged directions. On hot summer days, you’ll be excited to find that the base of the waterfall makes for a great little swimming hole.
Cucumber Run is often beaming with emerald-blue waters, making a perfect spot for long exposure photography.
In order to reach these upper falls, follow the same directions you took to reach the Cucumber Falls parking lot. From the parking lot, you’ll need to cross the metal grate bridge spanning Cucumber Run to reach the opposite side of the river.
Once you’re across, make a left down the dirt trail. Eventually you’ll reach Kentuck Road, which you’ll need to cross carefully in order to reach the trail on the other side.
Follow Cucumber Run upstream on the trail until you reach a broken bridge a hundred yards up from the road. Upon reaching the broken bridge, turn slightly to the right. You should be able to see Upper Cucumber Falls from here.
Follow the small dirt trail along the hillside on your right until reaching the falls and enjoy the scenery!
4. Lower Jonathan Falls
Difficulty: 6 | Distance: 3.25 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: No
The next waterfall on the list will take you out along the Great Allegheny Passage for a bike ride through the tree canopies of the Laurel Highlands.
Lower Jonathan Falls is definitely one of my favorites in Ohiopyle State Park. Reaching it isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart, so it tends to be less crowded in the busy summer months…especially compared to Cucumber Falls.
There’s a nice swimming hole at the base of the falls. Though, I do recommend some kind of footwear if you intend on taking the plunge, due to the jagged and slippery rocks at the bottom.
To reach these falls, you’ll need to hop on the GAP trail and head north (in the direction of the high bridge). You’ll find there are many places to get on the GAP trail so you can technically begin from anywhere in the town of Ohiopyle.
You’ll be pedaling just past mile marker 75—about a three mile ride one way from the center of town. The GAP trail has a packed crushed limestone surface ensuring a fairly a smooth ride.
As you ride down the trail, keep your eyes peeled for a sign marking the beginning of Jonathan Run Trail on your left. There is also a bench on the GAP trail where these trails meet. You’ll probably want to secure your bike to a nearby tree before heading down Jonathan Run Trail.
Once on foot, follow the trail about a hundred yards up until you reach a short footpath on your right. If you’re unsure of its location, let the sound of the waterfall be your guide. Upon finding the footpath, follow it toward the stream until you’re able to look out over Jonathan Run.
If you’ve found the correct location, there should be a steep hill with a rope leading down it to get to the waterfall. This is going to be your best bet for getting up close and personal with Lower Jonathan.
Carefully working your way down, scramble over the few remaining rocks and let mist kicking up from the roar of the waterfall wash away your exhaustion. You’ve made it!
5. Upper Jonathan Falls
Difficulty: 5 | Distance: 3.5 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: No
Fortunately for you, if you’ve already made the trek out to see the lower falls, then Upper Jonathan Falls isn’t much further.
Make your way back up to Jonathan Run Trail if you chose to climb down the hill to get to Lower Jonathan Falls. Once you’re back on the trail, head southeast to go further upstream along Jonathan Run.
You’ll want to be on the lookout for where Jonathan Run Trail intersects with Kentuck Trail. There will be a wooden bridge on your right which spans Jonathan Run. The waterfall is just downstream from this bridge.
I believe that the fallen tree at the top of the falls has since been cleared, so be prepared for some flawless pictures of Upper Jonathan.
I’ll admit that this waterfall can be slightly more difficult to find than the lower falls. The first time I went in search Upper Jonathan I kept thinking that I had gone too far, when really I just hadn’t gone far enough.
Fortunately, the easiest thing to do is to look for where Jonathan Run Trail intersects with Kentuck Trail. This will be a few hundred yards up from the GAP trail.
If you can find where these two trails meet, you’re in good shape. This is another one of those waterfalls that allows you to get up close and personal for some truly stunning views.
6. Sugar Run Falls
Difficulty: 4 | Distance: 3.5 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: No
Sugar Run Falls is very easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Fortunately, it’s fairly simple to get to if you’re on the lookout for it.
If you’ve already made the journey out see to Lower and Upper Jonathan Falls, you don’t have much further to go.
This waterfall is almost exactly in the middle between mile marker 75 and mile marker 76. Once you pass Jonathan Run Trail heading north on the GAP trail, keep a lookout for a sign reading: “Mitchell Field.” There will be a bench nearby on the left facing towards the forest.
Amusingly enough, that’s actually how I found this waterfall by accident. I had been wondering why there was a bench facing towards the trees and became curious enough to stop on my bike while cruising down the GAP trail.
Just to the left of the bench is a footpath going up a small hill. Take the footpath inward toward the low hanging foliage forming a canopy. It’s a very short walk inward from the GAP trail to get up close with Sugar Run Falls.
This one is, by far, another of my favorites in the state park.
7. Lower Sugar Run Falls
Difficulty: 7 | Distance: 3.5 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: No
I’m going to be honest with you, there is just no easy way to get down to the base of this waterfall.
Technically, it’s just on the other side of the GAP trail from the upper portion of Sugar Run Falls. Though, that doesn’t make it much more accessible.
If you’re determined to reach the base, I highly recommend doing a little slipping and sliding down the dirt hill next to the waterfall. It’s easier if the hill is a little muddy, but you can still use the rocks and tree trunks to your advantage.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, there isn’t a rope or any kind of makeshift steps for proper footing. But if you are able to (very carefully) make it down the hill, you’ll be delighted to find a spectacular cascade-style waterfall spilling out from beneath the bridge above.
Just remember, if you decide to slide down, you should also be thinking about a way to get back up.
8. Bruner Run Falls
Difficulty: 6 | Distance: 6 miles
Bikeable: Yes | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: Seasonal
Bruner Run Falls is a hop, skip, and a jump further down the GAP trail from Sugar Run Falls.
If you’ve ever been on one of the famous rafting excursions down the lower Youghiogheny, Bruner Run is where boaters get off the river to be shuttled back to Ohiopyle. You can find this waterfall just before Bruner Road, between mile marker 77 and 78 on the GAP trail.
This is another one that doesn’t necessarily have a designated path to get to it. Instead, you’ll be following what seems to be a game trail down into the gorge to get to Bruner Run.
The trail itself isn’t very steep, but you’ll have to be mindful of snakes and ticks if you’re planning on visiting in the summer, since the trail passes through some tall grass and foliage.
In order to find the footpath down, keep your eyes peeled for the dirt trail shrouded by a few low hanging branches. If you’ve made it all the way to Bruner Road, backtrack about 25 yards. The trail will be on the opposite side of the GAP trail from the Youghiogheny River.
From here, cautiously descend into the gorge along the game trail. You can get close up to the waterfall once you reach the rocky section near the stream.
One possible alternative to biking all the way out to Bruner Run Falls is to drive down Bruner Road. There are a series of pull-off spots on the road to find these additional waterfalls along Bruner Run.
However, keep in mind that in the busy summer months the road is gated off to all personal vehicles, in order to allow the shuttle buses greater ease for moving guests back to Ohiopyle. That means that your best shot for using the road is to visit in the off-season.
I haven’t personally tried this method though, so please do so at your own risk.
9. Meadow Run Falls
Difficulty: 2 | Distance: .5 miles
Bikeable: Partial | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: Yes
You’ve probably heard a thing or two about the natural waterslides in Ohiopyle State Park. Just on the outskirts of town, these waterslides attract hundreds of thousands of visitors year round.
The slides themselves are near the terminal point of Meadow Run before it flows into the Youghiogheny River. They are truly a sight to behold as one of the state park’s most alluring attractions.
Some people are even brave enough to get in and slip down the waterslides, although I wouldn’t advise this. Many of the injuries that take place in Ohiopyle State Park happen on Meadow Run’s natural waterslides.
If, however, you’re simply interested in getting some nice views of the waterfall, the path is quick and easy to tread.
From within the town of Ohiopyle, head south on Main Street (Route 381) until you cross the bridge just outside of town. You will technically be traveling downstream from Ohiopyle Falls.
Once you cross the bridge by car or on foot, you should see a parking lot up ahead on your left. This is the Meadow Run parking area. On the opposite side of the parking lot is the intersection for Kentuck Road.
From here, you’ll have two options for getting to the waterfall.
Your first option is to take the wooden stairs down into the waterslide area from the parking lot. Once you’re at the base of the stairs, make a left to head downstream along Meadow Run. Being careful to hike along the slippery rocks, you should see where the waterslides culminate into the four-foot cascade.
Your other option for getting to the waterfall is to cross Route 381 from the Meadow Run parking lot, similar to the hike for Cucumber Falls. Once across, follow the downward sloping road to the right and head down the rustic dirt stairs.
This time, instead of turning left like you would for Cucumber Falls, turn right underneath the bridge above. Follow Meadow Run upstream. Be sure to take note of some of the spectacular geologic formations here as you hike.
Up ahead, you’ll see the small cascade known as Meadow Run Falls. The varying lighting levels and the beautiful flow of the water here make it especially fun to photograph.
10. Cascade Falls
Difficulty: 7 | Distance: 1-3 miles
Bikeable: No | Hikeable: Yes | Driveable: Partial
Saving the best for last, Cascade Falls is an absolute spectacle of multiple tiers of flowing water. It is, quite possibly, the most difficult to reach—so unprepared hikers, be forewarned.
If you are up for a challenge though, this waterfall is especially worth the long hike it takes to get there. Cascade Falls is, by far, my favorite waterfall to visit year-round.
The falls are generally divided up into two separate sections. The upper part of the cascades have the highest waterfalls, and the lower part of the cascades have the widest stretch of waterfalls.
This is one of those falls that you have to see to truly get a sense of its magnitude. Pictures don’t nearly give it the admiration it deserves.
Every so often, you’ll see fly fisherman here and a few occasional hikers brave enough to make the trek out. However, because of its remoteness, you’ll find many parts of the day when you have the waterfall all to yourself. This is sometimes a great relief from the busy crowds in the town of Ohiopyle.
There are three main routes for reaching Cascade Falls.
The first, and perhaps the easier of the two, is to park in the Dinnerbell Road parking lot and hike down from there. The most direct path to the waterfall is on the right-hand side of the grassy area adjacent to the parking lot. Please keep in mind that you will still be hiking downhill for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Alternatively, from the parking lot, you can take the middle path of the three available. This path is slightly less steep and will take you to a pleasant wooded area at the edge of Meadow Run. From there, follow the trail to the right, heading upstream, past Flatrock—which is a unique sight in and of itself. Once you pass Flatrock, it’s another ten minutes or so until you reach the waterfall.
The third route was my usual trail of choice. It’s the best for avid hikers excited to cross through all kinds of incredible natural beauty. This trail will take you up, down, around, and through some of the prettiest sights that the Laurel Highland region has to offer. The journey there is also what made Cascade Falls my favorite waterfall to visit.
If you decide on this 30-to-45-minute hike, you’ll want to begin from the Meadow Run parking lot by the natural waterslides. Once you descend the wooden steps, turn right to head upstream. Eventually you’ll see a footbridge a little further up on your right. Once you cross the bridge, pay attention to the yellow markers on the trees indicating the path forward.
Past a small rock scramble on the side of the river, duck under the fallen tree and head back up to the dirt trail. There will be a muddy uphill section ahead. Your best bet is to use the rocks and logs as stepping stones. At the top of the hill, you have the option of passing between the two tiny trees on your right to connect to a trail you’ll be connecting again with later.
For now, if you stick to the trail you’re on, you’ll be a little closer to the river which will allow for some additional vistas. Keep moving along the trail until you see few paths to duck in to get closer to Meadow Run. There is a great swimming hole here if you’re visiting in the summer.
Back on the main trail, continue upstream and eventually you’ll see an old concrete foundation in the middle of the path. Beyond this, keep your eyes peeled for a large rock jutting out of the water on your left. The trail forks here.
If you look right, you should see a blue ribbon hanging from a branch up the hill. You’ll want to take this uphill path on the right, as opposed to the one on the left leading you closer to the river. This is also where you’ll connect back with the trail you had the option of taking before.
Continue further uphill until you reach the large rock wall at the top. From here, turn left, walking along its rocky face. Momentarily take note of the humongous boulder overhead and then push a little further uphill. You’ll come to another fork up ahead.
Turn right up the small switchback, and then go left on the trail at the top. There will be an incredible overlook on your left as you continue down the trail.
From here, the trail really starts to open up in width. You’ll see a number of trees with names and initials carved into them as you hike further along. There should be two carved trees on your right, and then two on your left.
Upon seeing the second carved tree on your left, take the trail heading downward on the left. You will then take nine dirt steps down to hike along a creek spilling into Meadow Run. Ahead, there is another footbridge which will bring you to a quiet section of the trail. The trail takes a sharp right turn from here.
Continue onward until you pass a large pine tree. There is another fantastic swimming hole ahead on your left. Turning right from this spot, you’ll see that the trail conjoins with another much wider trail. This is also where the middle path leads from the Dinnerbell parking lot.
As you take this larger trail further upstream, you’ll eventually come to a sign that says “Flatrock.” This is exactly what it sounds like—a very large, flat rock. But it’s worthwhile spending a moment here to check out the sight.
Keep going straight until you reach another uphill climb through the woods. At the top, the trail evens out and starts to slope into a steady decline. As you continue, you’ll eventually start to hear the sounds of the rushing waterfall. You’re almost there!
On the left, you’ll see a grotto of pine trees which you can duck into to get a good view of the lower cascades. It’s just a short hike further up a small hill to get to the upper part of the cascades.
If you packed a lunch, there’s tons of spots here to sit among the cascades to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Thank You for Reading!
This article has been a journey in and of itself. I greatly enjoyed writing it and hope that it may come to be useful to others.
All of this could not have been possible without my dear friend, Heather.
She took all of the photos for this article and was tremendously helpful in seeking out the waterfalls on this list. We had a blast putting this all together and hope that it help guide you in your explorations.
Have you found all of the waterfalls on the list?
Let me know in the comment section below. Your achievement surely should not go unnoticed.
As always, appreciate you for reading.