Growing Greener: The Wonder of Wild Places  

A rainy weekend in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands is an investment in the next generation

Young explorers in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands
Young explorers in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. Photo by Hilary Harp Falk/ NWF
Two nights of camping in the rain with four kids under the age of six. Even with lots of chaos (and soggy sleeping bags), it was a wonderful weekend in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania.

Each fall, my family and I go exploring and camping with our close friends. This year, with the weather turning cool and leaves changing, we headed Northwest to Pennsylvania. We were ready to experience the many joys of exploring wild places with the next generation of conservationists in the back seat.

If you have never been to the Laurel Highlands, book your trip now.  Beautiful forests give way to the rapids of the Youghiogheny River. Whether you are looking for wildlife or a wild bike ride, there is an incredible amount of family fun for young outdoor enthusiasts (and their parents).

Wildlife Viewing

We got to our campsite at dusk and gave the kids each a flashlight.  Searching for insects and snails allowed us to set up camp and get dinner started. The following day, we were alerted to the sound of a pileated woodpecker from our son Finn. Our critter list for the weekend included a yellow-shafted flicker and the common, but adorable, chipmunk.



Camp cooking and a campfire ensured two nights spent in Ohiopyle State Park’s campground was loads of fun. Hunting for sticks for the fire, preparing camp meals, and taking short hikes between campsites provided plenty of adventure. A slightly wet tent was also part of the experience.


Bike trails throughout the region are well known and traveled. The Great Alleghany Passage bike trail includes 27 miles of biking within the Ohiopyle State Park. We didn’t venture very far from the campsite, but our young bikers enjoyed riding around the campground.

Protecting Pennsylvania’s Natural Resources

Hiking, white water rafting and waterfall exploring will bring us back to this special part of Pennsylvania. It is a unique place whose constitution states: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

Ensuring these resources remain for the next generation to enjoy is essential. But protecting natural resources takes financial resources. Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener program has funded hundreds of park and trail projects, conserved more than 50,000 acres of threatened open space and restored hundreds of miles of streams and waterways.

The National Wildlife Federation recently endorsed the next blueprint for the program: Growing Greener III. Join us and our partners to show your support for protecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources.

Learn More

The weekend was a lesson in the many benefits of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources and wild places. My young explorers can’t wait until the next adventure.