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The beautiful rural landscape of Somerset County, PA is perfect to visit in the fall. As part of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, Somerset County has history, natural wonders, and plenty of great places to eat and stay.
We recently spent a day in Somerset County and stopped at many unique places. Follow along on our trip – and maybe plan one for yourself!
Somerset County is divided by Route 219 running north-south, while Route 30 and Route 76 run east-west. While Route 76 may get you somewhere faster, Route 30 follows the historic Lincoln Highway and is a slower, more scenic path through the county.
Flight 93 National Memorial
Flight 93 National Memorial is a powerful tribute to the heroic passengers and crew of Flight 93, who stopped the hijacked airplane from flying into the United States Capitol Building on September 11, 2001. The crash site near Shanksville in Somerset County is preserved under the National Park Service.
We spent about an hour learning about the history in the Visitor Center. We then walked a short trail down to the Wall of Names and Memorial Plaza. If you have more time, you can take a longer trail and pass the Memorial Grove of 40 trees honoring the passengers and crew.
The Wall of Names and Memorial Plaza is a quiet place to reflect on the heroism of passengers and crew. The Wall of Names, which lines the “flight path” of the airplane, includes the names of each passenger and crew member. The Memorial Plaza pathway follows the edge of what was the debris field of the crash. It is the closest the public can get to the impact site, which is marked with a large boulder. The Visitor Shelter includes interpretive signs, a place to leave condolences, and seating to hear presentations from park rangers.
On our way out of the memorial, we stopped at the Tower of Voices
Whether you have firsthand memory of September 11 or have learned about it in history books, visit Flight 93 National Memorial to hear the stories and ensure no one ever forgets.
Coal Miner’s Cafe
After leaving the memorial, we had lunch at the Coal Miners Cafe in Jennerstown. This restaurant themed after Pennsylvania’s coal mining heritage includes a delicious selection of sandwiches, salads, hot meals, and desserts. It is also appropriately decorated with antiques ranging from coal mining equipment to fine glassware.
Quecreek Mine Rescue Site
Another recent chapter in Somerset County’s history is the Quecreek Mine rescue. In July 2002, nine coal miners were trapped in a flooding mine 240 feet underground. Rescue efforts brought first responders as well as national attention to Somerset County. 77 hours after the accident, all nine miners were miraculously rescued through a shaft drilled on the historic Dormel Farm.
Today, the rescue site has become a historic site and memorial. At the visitor center, hear the story and see artifacts including the small capsule that brought the miners to the surface. Outside, you can see the capped rescue shaft.
Also on the property is the Monument for Life park, which honors the brave efforts of rescue workers everywhere. The park includes nine evergreen trees representing the miners and a 7-foot cast bronze sculpture of coal
Somerset Historical Center
We then stopped at the Somerset Historical Center, a 150-acre historic site and museum that gives a broad history of the county. The museum includes a short film and impressive exhibits spanning centuries of history.
With much of Somerset County’s economy focused on agriculture, the museum shows how farming has changed over time. Discover how people have utilized the land, including Native Americans and immigrants from various ethnic backgrounds. Marvel at fascinating equipment from handheld tools to large tractors and machines for processing crops.
Your exploration continues outside. Tour historic log homes and a reconstructed log cabin representing different eras in history. Walk over the 1859 covered bridge, which was both a picturesque and practical way to protect bridges for travel and commerce. Also on site is a cider press and maple sugar camp, both of which offer demonstrations at certain times of the year.
Laurel Arts Center and Guild of American Papercutters Museum
We then headed into the town of Somerset to enjoy some beautiful artwork. With collections of paintings, drawings, photography, paper arts, jewelry, and more, the Laurel Arts’ Philip Dressler Center for the Arts houses changing exhibits that show diverse talent both locally and nationally.
The Center also houses the Guild of American Papercutters’ national museum, which showcases works from the best professional and amateur
Glades Pike Winery
We ended our day at Glades Pike Winery, a family-owned winery tucked in the farmlands of Somerset. While the high-elevation landscape of Somerset County may seem like an unlikely place for a winery, Glades Pike has high-quality imported grapes and winemakers with excellent taste, resulting in a wide selection of whites, roses, and reds.
Stop in for a tasting or plan ahead to receive a tour of the facility. We loved our behind-the-scenes look at how the wines are processed, from dumping raw grapes into a machine that removes the stems to bottling the finished product.
Extend Your Visit
You could easily extend your visit to Somerset County! Hike the highest point in Pennsylvania at Mount Davis, explore fall scenery along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, or hit the slopes at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. What destinations would you like to visit on your day trip?