What are your favorite outside pursuits? Hiking? Kayaking? Road or mountain biking? Indiana County, Pa., may claim to be the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, but come warmer weather the focus shifts to different outdoor activities.
Spring is a great time to get out on the water, especially in a canoe or kayak. One of the most popular “floats” in the area is to put in at the Conemaugh Dam and paddle your way down to Saltsburg, about a four-hour ride.
One really nice aspect of this trip is that you can rent everything you need from Saltsburg Kayak & Canoe Outfitters, and they will transport you to the put-in point. Your trip ends where Loyalhanna Creek and the Conemaugh River meet to form the Kiskiminetas River. This is also where the outfitter is located, making it an easy in and out.
While there are long periods of relaxed floating and picturesque views, there are also a few areas where the water picks up and you have to pay attention, which makes for a fun change of pace. Still, those fairly new to the sport should feel comfortable with this level of challenge.
“This is really a great beginners’ river,” said Johnathan Crowe, who manages the outfitter with his wife, Courtney. “There are a couple of Class 1 and Class 2 rapids, mostly in spring, but you are still able to do it on your own without a guide.”
Insider tip: If you like history, take the time to wander through Saltsburg after your trip. The outfitter is located in the George Altman building, built in 1912, and the Rebecca B. Hadden Stone House Museum, which documents the history of the area, is located just across the street.
Off the water
If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, or on the pedals, there are numerous places to hike and bike in Indiana County.
Yellow Creek State Park offers 5 miles of hiking trails, ranging from an easy half-mile loop to a more challenging 2-mile trail that offers a view of the Yellow Creek Dam. There are also 18 miles of single-track mountain biking trails in the 2,981-acre park.
Walking some of the trails is like taking a trip back in time. The West Penn Trail retraces the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal and Portage Railroad route, while the Hoodlebug Trail, which runs 10 miles from Black Lick to Indiana, follows the path of the Indiana branch of the 1850s Pennsylvania Railroad. What’s really unique about the Hoodlebug Trail is that it is both rural and residential; it also passes right by Disobedient Spirits, where you can quickly quench your thirst before getting back on track.
The Hoodlebug also connects to the Ghost Town Trail, a well-maintained, crushed limestone trail that runs for 36 continuous miles through Indiana and Cambria counties. Named for the mining towns that used to exist along the route, you can still see traces of bygone times, including the Eliza Furnace at Vintondale, one of the state’s best-preserved iron furnaces. The furnace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A perfect way to end your day in the area is with a stop into Levity Brewing Co., located less than a mile from the Hoodlebug Trail. Opened in January 2016, the business — which believes in serious beer for the light at heart — attracts a lot of people who love the outdoors and sharing their adventures over pints of Possum Glory, Hoodlebug Brown, or Headlamp Stout.
Indiana Co. Tourism: visitindianacountypa.org