118. Bear Run Nature Reserve, Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania
Find warblers, tanagers, thrushes, grouse, and other birds within a stone’s throw of Fallingwater.
Published: June 24, 2011
Nestled in the Laurel Highlands, the Bear Run Nature Reserve has roughly 20 miles of trails that meander alongside several creeks and through hemlock groves. Its scenic panoramas overlook the Youghiogheny River. The main trailhead is only a stone’s throw from architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, a spacious home built over Bear Run in 1936. |
Of the dozen trails through the reserve, it’s easy to plan both short and longer loops. I usually spend most of my time along Bear Run and Laurel Run trails, especially near the campsites at creek crossings, where birding is particularly good.
The hillsides are covered with dense thickets of mountain laurel, where I’m apt to spot several species foraging, such as Hooded and Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parula, and secretive Yellow-breasted Chat. Veery, Wood, and Hermit Thrushes are fairly common, and, if I’m lucky, I sometimes spy a Swainson’s Thrush.
Bear Run is a special place to visit and is full of surprises. I once roused several Wild Turkeys roosting in trees and flushed a Ruffed Grouse near the trailhead. — Jerry Uhlman
Jerry Uhlman writes a birding column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He described the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Hotspot Near You No. 66, in June 2009 and the Creston Valley WMA, Hotspot Near You No. 111, in April 2011.
See every hotspot we’ve featured in “Hotspots Near You.”
The Bear Run Nature Reserve is a 5,100-acre sanctuary located about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh. From points north, follow Rt. 381 south. The entrance is located about three miles south of Mill Run. From the south, take Hwy. 40 to Farmington, turn right onto Rt. 381 and drive about 10 miles to the reserve.
At a glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Forest of conifers and deciduous trees. Thick vegetation lines the reserve’s streams.
Mountainous, with uneven and rocky ground. Most trails have short uphill climbs.
Blue-headed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, Hermit and Wood Thrushes, Kentucky, Hooded, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Broad-winged Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Cedar Waxwing, Winter Wren, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse.
When to go
Summer and early fall best. Birds are most active until mid-morning while foraging among stream vegetation and forest canopy.
Well-marked trail system. Map and brochure available at parking lot trailhead and at www.paconserve.org/92. No facilities in mountainous terrain, so carry snacks and water.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy reserve. Open year-round, free of charge. Parking lot is located on east side of Rt. 381. The entrance to Fallingwater is a half-mile south of the parking lot and requires a fee. Primitive campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Campsites, located at creek crossings, are often the most productive hotspots. Sturdy hiking boots and a hiking pole will be helpful for walking up and down steep trails.
For more info
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, (724) 329-8501
Fallingwater, (724) 329-8501
Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania
Ohiopyle State Park
The popular 20,000-acre park lies to the west and south of Bear Run. The village of Ohiopyle is at the center of the park. Osprey, mergansers, Belted Kingfisher, and Bald Eagle.
Ferncliff Peninsula Natural Area
Occupies a horseshoe bend in the Youghiogheny River, directly across the river from Ohiopyle. Spotted Sandpiper, several warblers.