Nathan Reigner, Pennsylvania's director of outdoor recreation, and Bryan Perry, executive director of the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy talk in Ohiopyle.OHIOPYLE, Pa. (April 10, 2024) – The tiny Laurel Highlands adventure town that is surrounded on all sides by Ohiopyle State Park can now claim a massive new title.

Ohiopyle Borough captured the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Award as the Best Small Town in the Northeast, the publication announced on Wednesday.

Nathan Reigner, Pennsylvania’s director of outdoor recreation, spoke just off the Great Allegheny Passage in Ohiopyle at a press conference celebrating the occasion.

“What an honor this is,” Reigner said. “I think this honor really illustrates the power of outdoor recreation for our communities and our regions, the way outdoor recreation helps our towns be vibrant and resilient, the way it helps stimulate businesses that we can be proud of that ultimately help our towns and our communities prosper. I can’t think of a better place in Pennsylvania and certainly not in the United States to be honored in this way.”

Ohiopyle is a nominee for USA Today's 10Best Small Towns in the Northeast

Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, congratulated the community on its victory.

“Ohiopyle has always been a special place, and it is exciting to see this incredible small town get recognition for everything it has to offer as a hub for outdoor recreation,” she said in a statement. “We welcome all visitors to Ohiopyle State Park and encourage people to check out the amazing Laurel Highlands when visiting the borough. This honor is well-deserved and a testament to a shared vision and partners working together to highlight the area’s natural beauty.”

A panel of experts and USA Today’s 10Best editors selected Ohiopyle as a Readers’ Choice Award nominee and, after nearly a month of voting, the borough beat out 19 other locations for the honor. Ohiopyle is one of four Pennsylvania communities to finish in the top 10. Wellsboro, which is located in Tioga County, was second while Sewickley (Allegheny County) was fifth and Gettysburg (Adams County) was 10th.

In announcing the results, USA Today wrote, “In southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle is situated along the meandering Youghiogheny River and draws adventurers of all ages with its rugged charm and variety of natural wonders. Famous for Ohiopyle State Park, this area invites outdoor enthusiasts to experience many diverse activities, including first-rate white-water rafting, rock climbing, wildlife spotting, and incredible waterfall hikes.”

Baughman Rock Ohiopyle State Park

Reigner sees the community and the region as examples for the rest of Pennsylvania.

“The kind of success that Ohiopyle and the Laurel Highlands have had is indicative of the kind of success we’re trying to grow with outdoor recreation throughout the commonwealth,” Reigner said.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Pat Stefano and Rep. Ryan Warner, each of whom represent Ohiopyle, presented the borough with a certificate of recognition honoring the achievement.

Mayor Mark McCarty was unable to attend the press conference, but he released a statement on behalf of the community, which has a name derived from a combination of Native American words that mean “white, frothy water.”

“We, as residents of Ohiopyle Borough, do appreciate the special quality of this town,” McCarty said. “It is an honor that this special community be recognized by the very visitors who share our passion for this unique place.”

Ohiopyle Rafting

Jessica Kruse, the borough’s council president, accepted the award with pride.

“Ohiopyle is not just a place; it's a sanctuary brimming with natural splendor,” Kruse said in a statement.
“Nestled amidst breathtaking state park landscapes, Ohiopyle State Park welcomes over 1.5 million individuals annually to indulge in its myriad offerings. Whether navigating the exhilarating rapids of the Youghiogheny River, casting lines for the perfect catch, or traversing the scenic Great Allegheny Passage on two wheels, there's something here for everyone. Hikers and backpackers revel in the wonders of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and other scenic pathways that grace our park.

“We extend an open invitation to all to come and experience firsthand why Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, stands as the epitome of small-town charm in the USA. Join us in exploring the magic of our community.”

With a population of 37 according to the 2021 census, Ohiopyle certainly fits the “small town” category, but McCarty says the number of year-round residents is probably closer to a dozen.

Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands, speaks during a press conference in Ohiopyle on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands, the official destination marketing organization for Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties, said that many people were responsible for Ohiopyle’s victory, but that the community’s most valuable assets are its supporters.

“Thank you to the Fayette Chamber, our commissioners, all of our legislators but, most importantly, to you the residents and business owners here in Ohiopyle,” Nemanic said. “You do it every single day for all the reasons that are important: Because you love Ohiopyle.”

The popularity of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands has been showcased multiple times by USA Today 10Best, which provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world. Its staff is made up of a collection of local travel experts that specialize in the region or city they write about. Keystone State Park was named the Best Destination for Fall Foliage in the U.S., and the Foggy Goggle at Seven Springs Mountain Resort was chosen the Best Apres-Ski Bar in North America. Ohiopyle outfitter Wilderness Voyageurs was voted one of the 10 Best Whitewater Rafting Tours last year, and Greensburg’s El Diablo Brewing Co. was one of the nation’s top new breweries. The Great Allegheny Passage was recently in a contest for the top recreational trails in the U.S., and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Mill Run – just a few miles outside of Ohiopyle – is currently a nominee for Favorite RV Campground.

Mountain Biking in Ohiopyle

About Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands
A magnificent mountainous region, the Laurel Highlands is an outdoors lover’s paradise that spans 3,000 square miles in southwestern Pennsylvania. Located just an hour east of Pittsburgh, the beautiful four-season destination offers spectacular natural scenery, outstanding skiing, hiking, biking and golfing opportunities, historic sites and attractions, family activities and world-class resorts. Notable destinations within the region include four architectural masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright – Fallingwater®, Kentuck Knob, Mäntylä and Duncan House – as well as Nemacolin, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Flight 93 National Memorial, Idlewild and Soak Zone, whitewater rafting in Ohiopyle State Park and much more.

Located within 200 miles of the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Washington D.C., Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands can be easily accessed from exits 67, 75, 91 and 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Visitors to the Laurel Highlands can find information online at Established in 1958, GO Laurel Highlands, formerly known as Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, is the official destination marketing organization for Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.