Laurel Hill (Pennsylvania)

Last updated
Laurel Hill
The Great Laurel Ridge.jpg
Laurel Hill from Kentuck Knob, Pennsylvania
Highest point
Elevation 2,994 ft (913 m)
Geography
Location Pennsylvania, U.S.
Parent range Allegheny Mountains
Topo map USGS Ohiopyle, Mill Run, Kingwood, Seven Springs, Bakersville, Ligonier, Boswell, Rachelwood, Vintondale, Johnstown, New Florence (PA) Quadrangle
Climbing
First ascent unknown
Easiest route drive up and hike

Laurel Hill, also known as Laurel Ridge or Laurel Mountain, is a 70-mile-long (110 km) mountain in Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains. This ridge is flanked by Negro Mountain to its east and Chestnut Ridge to its west. The mountain is home to six state parks: Laurel Ridge State Park, Laurel Mountain State Park, Linn Run State Park, Kooser State Park, Laurel Hill State Park, and Ohiopyle State Park. The 70-mile-long (110 km) Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail runs the length of the ridge.

Contents

Two state forests, comprising over 22,000 acres (89 km2), are located on Laurel Hill: Gallitzin State Forest and Forbes State Forest. State Game Lands 42 and 111 are also located on the mountain and also comprise a little over 22,000 acres (89 km2).

Laurel Hill has an average elevation of 2,700 ft (820 m) along its length, while there are individual "knobs" that rise above 2,900 ft (880 m). The highest point is above the Seven Springs Mountain Resort at 2,994 ft (913 m). Laurel Hill is flanked on its north end by the Conemaugh Gorge and on its south end by the Youghiogheny Gorge, both water gaps being approximately 1,700 ft (520 m) in depth. The ridge continues north of the Conemaugh Gorge for several miles as Rager Mountain, which reaches an elevation of 2,580 feet (790 m). South of the Youghiogheny Gorge, a short ridge, generally still labeled Laurel Hill, at the edge of Ohiopyle State Park, reaches above 2,920 feet (890 m).

The industrial city of Johnstown and historic borough of Ligonier are located near its northern end, while the recreational boroughs of Confluence and Ohiopyle are located towards its southern end. Two major highways cross Laurel Hill, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and U.S. Route 30. The abandoned Laurel Hill Tunnel goes beneath Laurel Hill. A number of smaller state roads cross at other points on the mountain.

Geology

Laurel Hill is made up of Mississippian and Pennsylvanian clastic sedimentary rocks, consisting mostly of conglomerate, sandstone, and shale. Formations include the Burgoon, Mauch Chunk, Pottsville, and Allegheny. The mountain is anticlinal in structure.

Along the length of this ridge there are several prominent knobs that rise from the ridgeline. They are as follows south to north: Sugarloaf Knob 2,667 ft (813 m), Highpoint 2,994 ft (913 m), Birch Rock Hill 2,934 ft (894 m), Painter Rock Hill 2,920 ft (890 m), Bald Knob 2,930 ft (890 m), Ulery Hill 2,820 ft (860 m), Pea Vine Hill 2,900 ft (880 m), Pikes Peak 2,840 ft (870 m), Mystery Hill 2,880 ft (880 m), and Sugar Camp Hill 2,908 ft (886 m).

A view of the northern end of Laurel Hill and the Conemaugh River gap in the distance, with the city of Johnstown in the foreground Laurel hill north end.jpg
A view of the northern end of Laurel Hill and the Conemaugh River gap in the distance, with the city of Johnstown in the foreground

Climate

The Laurel Hill region shares the humid continental climate of the Mid-Atlantic region in which it is located.

The mountain ridge is oriented at right angles to approaching weather systems, forcing prevailing westerly airflows upward. As rising air cools, moisture in the air mass condenses; once reaching the saturation point, precipitation results. Laurel Hill may also act as a barrier to weather systems and slow the movement of storms, which has an impact on the local area and forms a microclimate. Although the mountain is not high enough to create its own weather, its orography is enough to gently nudge weather from hot to warm, cool to cold, and from rain to snow; along with moisture from the Great Lakes, the latter can result in heavy snowfall during winter months. The mountain ridge can be 5 to 10 °F (−15 to −12 °C) cooler than surrounding towns and valleys, depending on other weather variables.

Climate data for Laurel Summit, Pennsylvania (2,600 ft ASL) (19812010 normals, extremes 1967present)
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)63
(17)
73
(23)
75
(24)
83
(28)
85
(29)
85
(29)
86
(30)
87
(31)
89
(32)
79
(26)
75
(24)
68
(20)
89
(32)
Average high °F (°C)29.7
(−1.3)
33.9
(1.1)
42.8
(6.0)
55.6
(13.1)
63.2
(17.3)
70.2
(21.2)
73.5
(23.1)
72.7
(22.6)
66.9
(19.4)
56.6
(13.7)
46.1
(7.8)
34.1
(1.2)
53.8
(12.1)
Daily mean °F (°C)22.7
(−5.2)
25.6
(−3.6)
33.6
(0.9)
45.1
(7.3)
54.1
(12.3)
62.2
(16.8)
66.1
(18.9)
65.3
(18.5)
58.1
(14.5)
47.7
(8.7)
38.0
(3.3)
27.0
(−2.8)
45.4
(7.4)
Average low °F (°C)15.7
(−9.1)
17.3
(−8.2)
24.3
(−4.3)
34.6
(1.4)
44.9
(7.2)
54.1
(12.3)
58.7
(14.8)
57.9
(14.4)
49.3
(9.6)
38.8
(3.8)
29.8
(−1.2)
19.9
(−6.7)
37.1
(2.8)
Record low °F (°C)−40
(−40)
−31
(−35)
−22
(−30)
3
(−16)
17
(−8)
27
(−3)
32
(0)
30
(−1)
18
(−8)
7
(−14)
−10
(−23)
−21
(−29)
−40
(−40)
Average precipitation inches (mm)4.14
(105)
3.37
(86)
4.62
(117)
4.36
(111)
5.06
(129)
4.95
(126)
4.87
(124)
4.47
(114)
4.23
(107)
3.88
(99)
4.72
(120)
4.04
(103)
52.71
(1,339)
Average snowfall inches (cm)41.8
(106)
40.1
(102)
22.2
(56)
6.7
(17)
0.2
(0.51)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
2.5
(6.4)
9.1
(23)
29.0
(74)
151.6
(385)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)23.324.616.115.514.712.510.810.59.312.318.524.7192.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)21.222.311.36.71.200001.58.320.192.6
Source: NOAA [1]

Flora and fauna

Laurel Hill has a diversity of habitats, and with that comes a variety of birds and mammals. Ravens and wild turkeys are frequently seen, while the hermit thrush, Canada warbler, brown creeper, and winter wren all nest near the bog at Spruce Flats. During the summer, black-throated blue warblers, blue-headed and red-eyed vireos can be seen. Raptors on the mountain include the broad-winged, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, and barred owls.

Commonly seen mammals on the mountain include white-tailed deer, chipmunks, and red and gray squirrels. More elusive animals include the woodchuck, raccoon, and opossum. Black bear have also been seen, but are shy and reclusive and not likely to be encountered.

Snakes including the timber rattler and copperhead also make their home on Laurel Hill around rocks and scree areas.

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References

Coordinates: 40°9′39″N79°9′52″W / 40.16083°N 79.16444°W / 40.16083; -79.16444