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Laurel Highlands Trail, Memorial Day Weekend 2012
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Nick M
(Nick_M)
Laurel Highlands Trail, Memorial Day Weekend 2012 on 04/26/2012 19:53:13 MDT Print View

Hi everyone, this is my first time posting, but I've been following the forums for a while. I wish I'd been reading all your advice and tips back in 2007 before I committed to buying my first round of camping gear.

Five years and many pounds ago it took me two long days for my gear and me to trudge around the 20 mile loop at my local state park, and it took me days to recover from the sore muscles and chaffing. Last summer, with lighweight gear crammed into a Flash 18 daypack, I did the loop in 18 hours, including sleeping. In the fall I did it as a day hike in 7 hours, including lunch. No sore muscles, no chaffing. I know that's small beans compared to the incredible adventures I read about in all of your trip reports, but it's a big accomplishment for me and I've sure enjoyed the heck out of it.

So I feel like I've outgrown Raccoon Creek State Park and I'm ready for a longer trip. My current plan is to do the Laurel Highlands Trail (southwest Pennsylvania) over the long Memorial Day weekend next month. This would be my first time ever out longer than one night. Here are my big concerns.

1) Can I do it in three days? That's my current plan, and I've worked out a southbound itinerary that finishes the 70 mile trail over three 20 - 25 mile days (assuming I don't have to follow the detour where the bridge is out over the Turnpike). I know I can do a hilly 20 mile day hike and not be sore the next day, I'm just not sure what that third day is going to be like, especially on the big hills at the Ohiopyle end of the trail.

2) Should I schedule an extra day? I might be able to get another day off work. That would add a margin of error to the schedule, but it might also leaving me sitting for a long afternoon in camp, when what I'd really like to be doing is hiking.

3) If I got an extra day off, is there an even longer trail that I should consider, not too far from Pittsburgh, preferably a loop? Maybe somewhere in the northern part of West Virginia?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Laurel Highlands Trail, Memorial Day Weekend 2012 on 04/26/2012 20:18:56 MDT Print View

Nick,

You can do it in 3 days, and you'll enjoy it. Take the extra day in case something comes up and you need it, but that doesn't mean you have to use it, so hike your hike with a margin of error.

Is the Laurel Highlands Trail the one where you have to use the lean-tos and reserve them in advance, or is that a different trail in PA?

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Laurel Highlands Trail, Memorial Day Weekend 2012 on 04/27/2012 05:08:40 MDT Print View

Nick,

I agree with Doug - schedule the extra day off. Use it to recover, cleanup and put away your gear, or whatever. Depending on your job you might even be able to go into work if you don't need the day (I've surprised people by showing up on a day when I had scheduled vacation).

With that said, Doug is right about the need for reservations (paid) in advance at the shelters when hiking the LHT. That means that you need to plan your route pretty carefully and, according to the rules, you can only stay in the shelter where you've booked your reservation. I've never heard anything about how flexible the rangers are if you've got a reservation at the next set of shelters but don't think you can make the extra 7 miles that day and want to stop where you are (or conversely, you arrive at your reserved lean-to at 2:00 pm and want to keep going). It might be worth a call to them before you book the trip. Because you're going on a holiday weekend you might be stuck with fixed reservations and not have much flexibility. It's one of the reasons I haven't hiked the LHT yet.

daniel B
(dbogey)

Locale: East Coast
I've done the first 20+ miles on 05/21/2012 08:47:41 MDT Print View

If your starting from the southern end be prepared for a lot of UPS and DOWNS in the first few miles and A LOT of rocks. The rocks were the one reason I've ditched my hiking boots for trail runners. I'd book the 2nd shelter in for the first night. There's no potable water in the shelter area but you should have enough water from the all the streams in the area. I didn't have any issues with Ticks either. If I was to do this entire route I'd start in Johnstown and finish in Ohiopyle, this way your last day could be spent in Ohiopyle enjoying the river and grabbing some food at the local restaurant.

The last that I heard the bridge across the turnpike is now open.

I'll post some of my pics from my hikes in the area.

Nick M
(Nick_M)
Ohiopyle hills on 05/22/2012 21:23:26 MDT Print View

Yeah, I'm familiar with those hills from a trip in 2005, and I came to exactly the same conclusion about going southbound. The climb up to the ridge is longer but more gentle on the north end, and at the steeper south end I'll be losing elevation overall and smelling the barn (or preferably the burgers).

The official website states that the bridge is open and it sounds like water, either treated or untreated, is available at every shelter area.

I decided not to take the extra day off work (but thanks for the input). I'm spending Friday night at the Ohiopyle state park campground and catching an early morning shuttle up to the north trailhead. The price of the shuttle was more than some cheap transcontinental airline tickets, but it lets me do the end to end hike without subjecting any friends or family to 4.5 hours of shuttle driving.

The weather forecast is for beautiful, clear, sunny, slightly too hot weather, and I'm getting excited.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @ QiWiz.net
Laurel Highlands Trail plan on 05/23/2012 10:07:14 MDT Print View

Some years ago, I did the LHT from Johnstown to Ohiopyle in 4 days - took us till 4 PM to drive from NE Ohio to Ohiopyle and get shuttled by an outfitter to the Johnstown trailhead, and we got off trail at about 4 PM, four days later. Three days would be a bit more of a challenge, but certainly can be done. The SW end has the most ups and downs. With side hikes into and out of shelter areas, figure about 75 miles, so that's three back to back to back 25 mile days. It's a lovely trail, especially the Ohiopyle end. Make sure you get the latest on water at shelters, though there are numerous stream crossings if there are any issues with water at shelters (there have been, but this may be fixed, don't know). I've been told the bridge is open, so no more need for the detour.