Family Multi-Sport Unplugged in Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13223A, Raft


  • Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
  • Enjoy whitewater, biking, and a bit of history in a family-sized park
  • Visit Fort Necessity National Battlefield


  • All meals (except one), commissary gear, campground fees
  • Admissions to Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob and Fort Necessity
  • Raft and duckie rentals


DatesAug 5–11, 2013
Price$645 (Adult)
$545 (Child)
Min. Age12
StaffMarty Joyce

This trip has already run. Here are a few others you may enjoy:

To search our full lineup by destination, date, activity, or price, please visit our Advanced Search page. Or give us a call at 415-977-5522 to find the trip that's right for you.

Trip Overview

Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.


The Trip

"Ohiopyle" is derived from the Lenape phrase ahi opihəle which means “it turns very white,” referring to the frothy waterfalls.

Ohiopyle State Park is a splendid setting of rugged natural beauty in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The park -- at 18,719 acres -- is family-sized with enough sporting variety to keep adults and kids occupied for a week of adventure. The focal point is the Youghiogheny River Gorge, which passes through the heart of the park. We will paddle the middle “Yough” in duckies and then be challenged by some of the best whitewater in the east on Class IV rapids on the lower “Yough.” 

We will sample some of the 79 miles of hiking trails in the park and then cool off at waterfalls and skim back through a series of natural waterslides.  We will cycle about half of the 30 miles of rails to trails that follow the river trying to keep our eyes “on the road” as the river currents constantly draft our senses and tug at our psyches. As much as possible we will cycle to our destinations, using the rails to trails and single track. 

Even though the kids have the summer off, history lessons beckon –- George Washington actually did sleep here. Prior to the Revolutionary War in 1753 the French were expanding their military control into territory claimed by Great Britain. The conflict became the French and Indian War. 

Major Washington, at the age of 22, was on two expeditions that passed through the Ohiopyle area. Washington tried to use the Youghiogheny River as a means of reaching the French Fort Duquesne at the fork of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, but was forced to abandon the river passage because of the waterfalls in the Ohiopyle area.  Soon he encountered French troops and was forced to quickly build a fort to prepare for the oncoming French attack.  The colonial forces of Washington were overwhelmed by the French and their Indian allies in the Battle of the Great Meadows at Fort Necessity. The loss at Fort Necessity marked Washington's only military surrender. Fort Necessity is just to the southwest of Ohiopyle State Park.  

It has been said that if Major Washington failed to prevail we would all be speaking French today. Some historians have concluded that Washington’s experience as a field commander in this conflict was a key to his success in the Revolutionary War.


"If you look at the design, you can hear the waterfall." - Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s triumph is a “rhythmic interplay of interior and exterior space.” It integrates trees, rocks, water and habitat, where outside and inside boundaries fade in an idyllic setting.

From the website:

Echoing a natural pattern established by its rock ledges, Wright placed the house over the falls in a series of cantilevered concrete trays anchored to a central stone chimney mass quarried from the same local Pottsville sandstone as the rock ledges.  Although the house rises more than 30 feet above the falls, strong horizontal lines and low ceilings help maintain the safe, sheltering effect that Wright sought to achieve.

The Kaufmann Family commissioned Wright to design a vacation home for them far away from the smoke and dust of the Pittsburgh steel mills. They thought their new country house would have a wonderful view of the falls.  Much to their surprise Wright designed the house right on top of the falls of Bear Run. 

National Geographic Traveler magazine has named Fallingwater one of its “50 Places of a Lifetime,” while Smithsonian Magazine has included it in its list of “28 Places You Should See in Your Lifetime.”

We will also visit another home designed by Wright, Kentuck Knob.

Designed on a hexagonal module, Kentuck Knob is a small one story Usonian house. Usonian, meaning affordable for the common people, was a signature design of Wright. Both dramatic and serene, the house, situated just below the crest of the hills, appears almost part of the mountain itself.

Kentuck Knob’s construction materials of native sandstone and tidewater red cypress blend naturally with the surroundings. The truly functional kitchen is the architectural core of the home. Its walls of stone not only anchor the two wings of the house but they also rise to penetrate the horizontal line of the copper roof. An open floor plan, cantilevered overhangs and great expanses of glass effortlessly integrate the inside with the outside. Stretching to the east, just beyond the back terrace, is a breathtaking panorama of the
Youghiogheny River Gorge and the beautiful Laurel Highlands mountains that surround it.


Trade electrons for water molecules.  The leader asks every participant, adults and kids, to forego portable electronic devices for the entire week.  This means that once you arrive on Monday, such distractions will be locked away and not activated until you depart from the campsite on the following Sunday. If you are unwilling to make and keep this promise, please do not sign up for this trip. There are two exceptions: adults are encouraged to carry cell phones for emergencies only and a brief daily call is permitted to do a quick check with loved ones.


Day 1: We will meet for dinner at the group campsite in the Kentuck Campground in the state park. Detailed instructions and maps will be sent prior to the trip.

Day 2: We will cycle upriver about 10 miles and then return via duckie (inflatable kayaks) on the Middle Yough.

Day 3: We will raft the Class III-IV whitewater of the lower Yough.

Day 4: We will hike about six miles of trails in the gorge. We will end at natural water slides for some old-fashioned fun.

Day 5: Today will be tourist day, when we'll visit Fort Necessity and Kentuck Knob.

Day 6: We will take a tour of Fallingwater and enjoy hiking trails in the Bear Run Nature Reserve. 

Day 7: The trip ends after breakfast.

Note that the itinerary is subject to change due to weather, water levels and other unforeseen conditions. 



Getting There

Ohiopyle State Park is located on State Route 381. Driving access from the south is via Interstate 68 and from the north via Interstate 70/76 (The Pennsylvania Turnpike).  The nearest airport is in Pittsburgh. Because of our remote location there is no public transportation. Specific details will be sent to participants prior to the trip.

For GPS Units: Use this address for Ohiopyle State Park: 124 Main Street, Ohiopyle, PA 15470. This should direct you to the center of the park. Follow signage once you are in the park to find the campground.

Accommodations and Food

Our base camp will be at the group site in the Kentuck Campground. There are flush toilet facilities, water, and showers. Participants must bring tents, sleeping bags, and personal camping gear. We will set up a community kitchen on site. Cooking, dishwashing and related commissary duties will be done by the participants with direction from the leader. Breakfast and dinner will be at the campsite and lunch will be “on the trail.”

Trip Difficulty

This trip is suitable for families with children 12 years and older. Individuals and couples are also welcome. The minimum age for rafting the Yough is 12, so rafting expertise is not a prerequisite. Participants should have some camping experience and be in good physical condition to enjoy this trip. Hiking will be about six miles round-trip. Biking will be about 20 miles round-trip. We will usually return to camp mid- to late-afternoon, providing time for relaxation or exploration of the park. 

Even though some camping experience is recommended, “rookies” are encouraged to join. On past family trips, the leader has accommodated parents and kids new to camping. Single parents are also encouraged to come along. More important than camping knowledge (which we can all learn) is a flexible attitude, cheerful outlook, patience, and readiness to be challenged by new skills. After 24 hours of rain, participants should still be able to find some humor in soggy spaghetti.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be sent prior to departure time. 

  • T-shirts, shorts, and other clothing for the week
  • Canvas shoes/sneakers/water shoes: an old pair for muddy excursions and rafting
  • Long-sleeved shirts: lightweight for sun and mosquito protection, heavier for chilly nights
  • Light jacket/sweater: for cool evenings
  • Long pants: protection from sun, poison ivy, and ticks
  • Sunglasses, sun hat, sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Fishing equipment (a license is required)
  • Camera and binoculars; waterproof camera for raft trip
  • Daypack, canteen
  • Rain gear: prepare for rain, equipment for rain (rain jackets and pants)
  • Camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, personal toilet items, and personal eating items (spoon, cup, plate)
  • Bicycle (rentals are available), helmet, bike lock
  • Group cooking and cleanup gear is provided; the outfitter will provide life jackets



Ohiopyle State Park is part of the state system where a park is located within 30 miles of every resident. It provides a unique natural habitat for numerous botanical treasures, panoramic views, impressive rock faces and a diverse sampling of animals native to the area. The Ferncliff Peninsula, formed by a great horseshoe bend in the Yough River, is a registered National Natural Landmark. Trains still run through the gorge, but one of the first rails to trails projects was pioneered on the abandoned tracks on the southwest side of the river.  In the past coal mining, lumber and tanning were small industries. About a hundred years ago there was a large saw mill at the main falls area. Buildings have since been removed and the forest is regenerating with signs of past activities still evident.



Marty Joyce has been leading national outings for over 30 years. He has led backpack, family, service, base camp, and canoe trips throughout the Southeast. His 16 family trips have included Everglades hiking and canoeing, Snowbird Wilderness North Carolina backpacking, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge canoeing and hiking, Manatee base camps in central Florida, Assauteague Island Maryland base camp, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Pennsylvania Middle School Service, New River West Virginia multi-sport and teen service. He was interviewed and received acknowledgement in the book Parent’s Guide to Hiking and Camping by Alice Cary (Trailside Guides, W.W. Norton & Company, 1997). He was also quoted three times. Twice yearly he volunteers at Deer Valley YMCA Camp (a family camp) not far from Ohiopyle doing woodworking and construction projects. This will be the first national outing to Ohiopyle State Park, although he has hiked, biked and paddled the park for years.

Contact the Staff

Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.

Try Another Trip

By Date