The Ferncliff Trail runs the perimeter of the peninsula, hugging close to the river most of the time. As the name would indicate, ferns of every shape, size, and variety dominate the landscape. Quite a few fossils can be found embedded in the porous sandstone along the beginning of the trail as you approach the Falls. Look down as you walk and see patterns that look like tire tread in the rock. You are glimpsing the impression of bark from ancient palm trees that grew in this area during an era that experienced a very different climate!
This trail runs close to the Falls area, offering an interesting view of the new Visitor’s Center construction site. Follow the black trail marker blazes and you will pass several frog ponds brimming with bulging tadpoles about to sprout their little legs! This section of the trail is where you will probably come across a fisherman or two dropping a line in the aerated pools by the Falls. Watch your step, as this area stays especially wet and muddy, particularly in the days after a rainfall. Copperheads, Timber Rattlesnakes, and Bald Eagles are also occasionally viewed along the Ferncliff Trail. There are three trails that zig-zag through the peninsula, branching off the Ferncliff Trail and connecting back to it again.
|The fern fields of the Ferncliff Peninsula National Natural Area|
Along with the many varieties of ferns that populate the peninsula, Pennsylvania’s state flower, the Mountain Laurel are quite prolific. The blossoms are so numerous right now, that is can seem like a soft blanket of snow is laying on the branches of this evergreen bush.
|The Mountain Laurel is a member of the Blueberry Family|
Another favorite trail of mine is the Great Gorge Trail.You can pick up the trail in the Cucumber Run Picnic area and follow it all the way to the end, at the State Park Campground, (if you don’t mind hopping rocks to cross Cucumber Run where a bridge on the trail washed out in a big storm) or walk along the river back to Ohiopyle from the Cucumber Run area. If you start in Ohiopyle and walk across the High Bridge on the Great Allegheny Passage to hop onto the Great Gorge Trail you get to see a unique birds-eye view or Railroad Rapid in the Lower Youghiogheny.
|Looking downstream from the High Bridge|
|Looking upstream at Railroad Rapid|
|View of Cucumber Run along the Great Gorge Trail|
|The best smell! Sweet and tangy!|
|The Honeysuckle in bloom|