Cedar Creek Park is a 500-acre park near Belle Vernon, PA. Driving into the park, you’d be forgiven for thinking this park offered little more than ballfields and picnic pavillions for locals. However, hidden deep in the park are some quite beautiful spots.
This includes Cedar Creek Gorge, which is home to a great hiking trail that crosses over two swinging bridges and passes several small hidden waterfalls, as well as access to the Youghiogheny River and the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail (GAP Trail).
The Cedar Creek Gorge Trail is about 3/4 of a mile long and can be completed either as an out-and-back trail (my recommendation) or as a loop. Both options end up being about 1.5 miles long.
The hike starts from the same parking lot as the boat access for the river, as well as one of the parking lots that you can use to access the GAP Trail. This lot can be found at the following coordinates: 40.178004, -79.777903.
Make sure to park at the far end of this lot, which gives you the closest access to the trailhead. The trail starts at the confluence of Cedar Creek and the Youghiogheny River. Take a minute and enjoy the beauty of this spot before starting your hike through the Gorge.
As soon as it starts, the trail passes under the Great Allegheny Passage as it heads upstream along Cedar Creek. Once under the bridge, the landscape is open for a short distance before entering the woods as the hillsides start to climb to create the gorge.
Soon, you’ll come to the first of two suspension bridges over Cedar Creek. These wooded bridges are quite beautiful, and I enjoyed taking a few minutes to photograph them during my visit.
Both of these bridges are swinging bridges and can get moving quite a bit if you try and rock them back and forth. That being said, since they are rather substantial bridges, they only move a lot if you try and make them move a lot. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t like bridges that move, you can still cross both of the bridges in the gorge without much difficulty.
Once across the first bridge, the trail meanders its way through Cedar Creek Gorge. Sometimes the trail is right next to the creek and other times it’s a short distance away, but it never strays far.
This ensures that you’ll have great views throughout the entire hike and that you really can’t get lost even though the trail is unmarked.
As you hike, you’ll also come to occasional benches for those who want to stop and enjoy the views or to take a break (though this part of the trail is very flat). There are also historic markers placed a various spots that offer a bit of history about the area and the structures that once stood there.
After hiking for about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll come to the second covered bridge across Cedar Creek Gorge, which also serves as the end of the official trail here according to the park’s map.
This bridge is shorter than the first one, but looks quite similar otherwise and is fun to cross if you give it a good shake.
From this bridge, you have three options: retrace your steps, continue uphill to complete the loop, or go hunting for the small, hidden waterfalls.
As someone who loves waterfalls (I even wrote an entire book on PA waterfalls), I have a tendency to follow streams even if that means going off of the main path. And, while I didn’t uncover anything huge, the small waterfalls I uncovered in Cedar Creek Park are certainly worth a short bit of extra hiking to see.
To see these waterfalls, cross the second suspension bridge. To the right of the bridge, you’ll notice two trails that veer off the main path and head upstream. Both of these are worth taking but start with the first trail to the right.
This trail is somewhat narrow but is well-worn and easy to follow. In less than 100 yards, you’ll come to the creek and the location of a small waterfall of about three feet in height.
Take a few moments to enjoy this spot before retracing your steps back to the bridge.
To see even more great spots, take the second trail to the right after the bridge and follow to Cedar Creek. Note that to see the best spots on this trail, you’ll have to cross the creek, and depending on the water levels, you may or may not be able to keep your feet dry when doing so.
Once across the creek, look to your left to see the stone ruins of a building. I’m not entirely sure what this small structure was, but it’s still neat to see hidden in the back of the park.
An obvious trail leads through the woods and upstream on the creek. Along the way, you might see several side waterfalls coming into the stream if water levels are high. These aren’t huge, but they do add to the overall beauty of the area.
After a few minutes of hiking, the trail ends back at the stream at a very scenic spot. While the waterfall here is only about two feet tall, it’s a truly beautiful place to stop for a few minutes and enjoy the beauty of Cedar Creek Park.
Just note that this is the very edge of the park and the opposite side of the creek is private property, so don’t continue further upstream beyond this spot.
Once you’ve had a chance to enjoy this spot, retrace your steps back to the suspension bridge over Cedar Creek. From this spot, either head uphill to do the entire loop or, do as I did, and cross back over the bridge and hike the roughly 3/4-mile distance back through the Cedar Creek Gorge to get back to your car.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed my hike through Cedar Creek Gorge. While I had the fortune of visiting during peak fall foliage, I’m sure this is an incredibly beautiful hike any time of the year. I know I’ll definitely revisit this spot when water levels are a bit higher so I can really enjoy the small waterfalls in Cedar Creek Park.
So, if you’re looking for a short, easy, and off-the-beaten-track hike in Westmoreland County, this is definitely a nice spot to explore.
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