Johnstown, Pennsylvania, situated in the scenic Laurel Highlands region, offers a wealth of activities and attractions within reach. From the tranquility of Amish country to the thrill of outdoor adventures, here’s a curated list of things to do near Johnstown, PA, starting with a visit to Smicksburg.

1. Visit Smicksburg Amish Community

Smicksburg, nestled in Indiana County, is a serene retreat into Amish country, offering visitors a unique glimpse into a way of life governed by simplicity and tradition. This quaint town, about an hour’s drive from Johnstown, is renowned for its Amish population and their expert craftsmanship. Visitors can explore over 20 specialty shops featuring Amish-made furniture, quilts, and other handcrafted items. The town also hosts seasonal events that celebrate Amish culture, offering an authentic experience through food, crafts, and demonstrations. A trip to Smicksburg is not just a shopping excursion; it’s a journey into a community that values hard work, family, and tradition, providing a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

2. Explore the Johnstown Flood National Memorial

The Johnstown Flood of 1889 is a pivotal event in the area’s history, and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial commemorates this tragic incident where over 2,200 lives were lost. Located in South Fork, about a half-hour drive from downtown Johnstown, the memorial offers visitors a chance to learn about the flood through exhibits, a documentary film, and a tour of the preserved South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club clubhouse. The site provides a poignant reminder of the impact of human engineering on the environment and society. It’s a must-visit for history buffs and those interested in understanding the resilience of the Johnstown community.

3. Hike or Bike the Ghost Town Trail

The Ghost Town Trail offers 46 miles of scenic trails for hiking and biking, winding through the Blacklick Creek Valley. Named for the mining towns that once thrived along the route, the trail now passes through tranquil forests and near streams, offering a peaceful escape into nature. Along the way, interpretive signs tell the story of the area’s coal mining heritage, making it an educational as well as a recreational journey. The trail is accessible year-round and provides opportunities for wildlife viewing, photography, and enjoying the beauty of the Laurel Highlands.

4. Visit the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

This site celebrates the first railroad to circumvent the Allegheny Mountains, a crucial development in the United States’ early transportation history. Located less than an hour’s drive from Johnstown, the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site offers a glimpse into the innovative spirit of the 19th century. Visitors can explore the remains of the portage railroad, including a reconstructed engine house and the Lemon House, a historic tavern that served travelers. The site’s museum and guided tours provide insights into how this engineering marvel facilitated westward expansion and commerce.

5. Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Prince Gallitzin State Park

Prince Gallitzin State Park, about an hour’s drive from Johnstown, is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. The park surrounds Glendale Lake, a popular spot for fishing, boating, and swimming. With over 6,000 acres of forests and wetlands, the park offers miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and opportunities for wildlife watching. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing. The park’s tranquil setting makes it an ideal location for a family outing or a solitary retreat into nature.

6. Tour the Flight 93 National Memorial

Dedicated to the passengers and crew of Flight 93, who heroically thwarted a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, this national memorial is a solemn and inspiring place. Located in Shanksville, about a 45-minute drive from Johnstown, the Flight 93 National Memorial includes a visitor center with exhibits, a memorial plaza at the crash site, and the Wall of Names. The site’s design and tranquil setting offer a space for reflection and understanding of the events of 9/11. Visiting the memorial provides a profound perspective on courage, sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Each of these destinations near Johnstown, PA, offers unique insights into the region’s history, culture, and natural beauty, making them worthwhile additions to your itinerary when exploring the Laurel Highlands area.

Discover Johnstown, PA: A Hidden Gem in the Laurel Highlands

Nestled in the picturesque Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, Johnstown is a city that boasts a rich tapestry of history, natural beauty, and resilience. Known for its pivotal role in the steel industry and the infamous 1889 flood, Johnstown and its surrounding area offer a unique blend of cultural heritage, outdoor adventures, and heartwarming community spirit. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking a new destination to explore, here’s why Johnstown, PA, should be on your travel radar.

A Journey Through History

Johnstown’s history is both tragic and inspiring. The Johnstown Flood National Memorial commemorates the catastrophic 1889 flood, which claimed over 2,200 lives and reshaped the community. A visit to this memorial offers a profound look at the impact of natural disasters on human lives and the incredible resilience of the Johnstown community. The city’s rich industrial legacy, notably its contribution to the steel industry, is another fascinating aspect. Exploring the Heritage Discovery Center or the Johnstown Flood Museum provides insights into the city’s steel-producing heyday and its recovery from multiple devastating floods.

Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities

The Laurel Highlands region is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and Johnstown serves as a perfect gateway to this natural paradise. The Ghost Town Trail, stretching 46 miles through scenic landscapes, offers an exceptional experience for hikers and bikers alike, weaving through areas rich in coal mining history. For a more tranquil outing, Prince Gallitzin State Park, with its expansive Glendale Lake, invites visitors to fish, boat, and soak in the serene beauty of Pennsylvania’s outdoors. Winter sports enthusiasts will find the nearby slopes and trails ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Cultural Richness

Johnstown’s cultural scene is a vibrant tapestry that reflects the diverse influences of its community. The annual Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally brings together thousands, showcasing the city’s lively spirit. The Flood City Music Festival is another highlight, offering a lineup of talented artists that captivate music lovers. For those interested in the arts, the Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art provide a platform for local artists and artisans to display their work, celebrating the region’s artistic talent.

Unique Local Experiences

Johnstown’s surrounding area is dotted with unique attractions that offer a glimpse into the simpler way of life and the rich heritage of Western Pennsylvania. Smicksburg, an Amish community known for its traditional crafts and goods, presents a peaceful retreat into the countryside. The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site marks an engineering marvel of the 19th century, telling the story of America’s early transportation history. Meanwhile, the Flight 93 National Memorial serves as a poignant reminder of the heroism displayed during one of America’s darkest days, providing a space for reflection and remembrance.

Community and Hospitality

One of Johnstown’s greatest assets is its warm and welcoming community. Visitors are often struck by the friendliness of the locals, who are proud to share their city’s story and attractions. This sense of belonging and community spirit is palpable throughout the city, from local eateries and shops to community events and festivals. The hospitality found here ensures that visitors leave with not just memories of the places they’ve seen but also the people they’ve met.


Johnstown, PA, and its surroundings are a testament to the enduring spirit of American towns that have weathered adversity and emerged stronger. This hidden gem in the Laurel Highlands offers a rich blend of history, natural beauty, cultural experiences, and a welcoming community. Whether you’re exploring its historic sites, enjoying the great outdoors, or engaging with the local culture, Johnstown promises an enriching and memorable visit. So why wait? Discover the charm and resilience of Johnstown, PA, and see for yourself why it’s a destination worth exploring.

FAQ: Visiting Johnstown, PA, and Surrounding Areas

1. Why should I visit Johnstown, PA? Johnstown offers a unique mix of historical significance, natural beauty, and a vibrant community spirit. From its rich history as a steel-producing city to the resilience shown during the infamous 1889 flood, Johnstown provides a deep and enriching cultural experience alongside outdoor recreational opportunities in the scenic Laurel Highlands.

2. What historical sites can I visit in Johnstown? Key historical sites include the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, which commemorates the devastating 1889 flood, and the Johnstown Flood Museum. The Heritage Discovery Center also provides insights into the city’s industrial legacy and the diverse cultural heritage of its residents.

3. Are there outdoor activities available near Johnstown? Yes, the surrounding Laurel Highlands area offers numerous outdoor activities. The Ghost Town Trail is perfect for hiking and biking, Prince Gallitzin State Park offers boating and fishing, and the region’s slopes are ideal for winter sports. Additionally, the Great Allegheny Passage nearby provides a scenic route for cyclists and hikers.

4. Can I learn about Amish culture near Johnstown? Smicksburg, located about an hour away from Johnstown, is a notable Amish community where visitors can explore traditional Amish crafts, foods, and furniture. The town provides a unique opportunity to learn about and experience Amish culture firsthand.

5. What cultural events and festivals can I enjoy in Johnstown? Johnstown hosts several cultural events and festivals throughout the year, including the Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally and the Flood City Music Festival. These events showcase the city’s lively spirit and offer visitors a chance to engage with the local community.

6. Is there a place to reflect on 9/11 near Johnstown? The Flight 93 National Memorial, located in Shanksville about 45 minutes from Johnstown, is a solemn site dedicated to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. It offers a place for reflection on the events of September 11, 2001, and the acts of heroism that occurred that day.

7. What makes Johnstown’s community special? Johnstown’s community is known for its warm hospitality and resilience. Visitors often praise the friendliness of the locals and the sense of pride they have in their city’s history and cultural offerings. The community spirit is evident in the city’s festivals, events, and everyday interactions.

8. Are there accommodations for visitors in Johnstown? Johnstown offers a variety of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals. Many accommodations are conveniently located near the city’s main attractions and provide a comfortable base for exploring the area.

9. How can I get the most out of my visit to Johnstown and its surroundings? To fully enjoy Johnstown and its surroundings, consider visiting a mix of historical sites, engaging in outdoor activities, and participating in local events or festivals. Interacting with locals and exploring the area’s natural landscapes can also enhance your visit.

10. When is the best time to visit Johnstown, PA? Johnstown can be visited year-round, but the best time depends on your interests. Spring and fall offer beautiful foliage and comfortable weather for outdoor activities, while summer is ideal for festivals and winter for snow sports in the Laurel Highlands.

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