My last Top 5 was based on the Top 5 Parks in the DFW Metroplex for Photographers to set up a photo shoot. This week, I thought I would tackle my hometown and the surrounding area! After all, the Laurel Highlands is where my love for photography began. Even as a tyke, I always had a great appreciation for the area that I grew up in. I spent my childhood playing on farm land in good ole Crabtree, Pennsylvania. I learned to appreciate the natural beauty of a season’s harvest and the picturesque 100 year old farmhouses that grace the countryside of southwestern Pennsylvania. The best of all are the leaves in the fall. Something about all the color that comes to life before that first blanket of snow is just idyllic. I know, I seem a bit melancholy but I really do miss it most days, the changing of the seasons. The air is just different and that’s why I crave the opportunity to set up shoots when I am home. It’s my way of exploring my old stomping grounds.
Lucky for you, I’ve scoped out my favorite places to set up shop and am including a few of the tricks I’ve been stashing up my sleeve. To provide even more inspiration for exploration, a local photographer out of New Alexandria, Carolyn Anderson, has provided some pretty amazing shots of these places for you to really get the feel of how these spaces change annually! Carolyn is a southwestern Pennsylvania native with an active and ongoing love affair with landscape photography. She shares my passion for capturing the people and places that make this particular corner of the world extra special and we’ll definitely be sharing more on how to view her work here on the Blog in the future. Keep an eye out!
5. Keystone State Park (1150 Keystone Park Rd, Derry Township, PA 15627)
Located in Westmoreland County, this little slice of heaven can be found in the midst of the family-owned farms that make up the community of New Alexandria. With a swim beach and concession stand, this park makes for the perfect family day trip. If you want to make it a whole weekend, they offer campsites and RV hookups too! The boys can fish Keystone Lake while the ladies pick flowers from the adjacent fields. Lastly, photographers be on the lookout for a pretty awesome sunset. This place has been known to provide some really great backdrops! For more information on hours and camping availability, head here.
4. Twin Lakes (216 Twin Lakes Road Greensburg, PA 15601)
Also located in Westmoreland County, this park just continues to grow. After deciding that an expansion would boost more community involvement, the park added the Franklin Dog Park, David R. Peach Dek Hockey Rink and the Peach Plaza Skate and Action Park. There is even a new Winter Sports Area for the kiddos to sled during those Snow Days! Use the park for fitness on it’s many trails or take the kids fishing on one of the paddleboats! The Boathouse is loaded with lots of goodies for the whole family. And don’t miss out on all the fun of the Arts and Heritage Festival that usually takes place the first weekend of July. The booths boost loads of artitistic crafts, winery tastings, the world’s best Fried Veggies. The Kids Corner is a must for those who wish to have their face painted as a butterfly or a fireman for the day! This place makes for a great day out of the house in any capacity. Let those munchkins run wild and then have a picnic. This place is sure to please. For more information, head to their website.
3. Mammoth Park (Blacksmith Rd, Mt Pleasant, PA 15666)
This gorgeous park is located in Mount Pleasant. Within this massive piece of property lies a 24 acre fresh water lake that can be seen from the Observatory Deck. This park is ideal for family picnics in the summer and sled riding in the winter. A skate park, tennis courts, bocci and shuffleboard courts can all be found on this 408 acre piece of property. But my favorite part about this place is the insane 90 foot slide! As a kid, we brought our wax paper and shot our way to the bottom. For more information on how to find this hidden gem, head here.
2. Linn Run State Park (Laughlintown, PA)
Linn Run State Park is hands down my favorite place to hang out in the Laurel Highlands. Bordering Forbes State Forest enables this park to boast 50,000 acres of land for outdoor recreation. As a kid, my family and I would hike our way to Adam’s Falls and Slippery Rock, an area of the park that hosts a natural water slide. Bring your inner tubes! I even had my Senior Portraits taken here way back when and I even spent most of my Senior Skip Days hiking the trails back to Beams Rock with a few of my favorite miscreants. This dog-friendly slice of heaven sits on the outskirts of a hippie town and the best drive to see the colors change in the fall. Check it out. Don’t forget to stop by the Natural Spring and fill up on that fresh mountain spring water!
1. Ohiopyle (Fayette County, Pennsylvania)
This massive outdoor wonderland covers the expanse of 20,500 acres. There is literally an endless amount of things to see and do in this area. You can hike the various trails, take the kids fishing, head out on a whitewater adventure down the Youghiogheny River Gorge, backpack the 135 mile long Great Allegheny Passage, brave the biking trails, try your hand at rock climbing or just have a picnic and camp out with the family. Make sure to check out Cucumber Run and bring your inner tubes for the natural water slides in Meadow Run. Whether you are in need of a location for your next Portrait Session or just want to take a few pictures of the kids in their element, this is the place to head to. For more information on how to get the most out of your stay in Ohiopyle, check out the state’s website!