Category Archives: Travel Info

How not to get to Seven Springs Mountain Resort

In this technological age, many of us turn to MapQuest, Google Maps or our GPS devices to get directions when traveling to a new destination. If Seven Springs Resort is your destination, and you are driving from the east (via Somerset) drop the technology because MapQuest and GPS’s direct you the shortest way to the Springs but that route is certainly not  the best one.logo for Seven Springs Mountain Resort

In all fairness, I must point out that both Google and MapQuest show the correct route as a secondary choice. However, who among us chooses the alternate route over the primary one unless we have a specific reason? Well, I’m about to give you several reasons.

All listed routes will get you from the exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike through the town of Somerset. Simply go straight after exiting the toll booth until you come to the first STOP light. (Ignore the FLASHING light unless you choose to stop at McDonald’s for a Big Mac.) At the light, make a RIGHT onto N. Center Avenue (RT 601 S) and proceed .5 miles to the intersection of Main St. (RT 31 W). Make a RIGHT on Main St. Here’s where they go wrong, and we’ll follow the route just to show you how bad it really is.

Harrison Ave Somerset PA
The poorly marked turn onto Harrison Avenue from Main St

After turning right onto Main St., both Google and MapQuest direct you to proceed .7 miles and make a left on to Harrison Ave. The left turn onto Harrison Ave is often missed because there is no sign to mark it. If you’re paying attention you will see several signs for RT 281 south, but there is nothing with the name Harrison on it. If you decide to follow this route in spite of what I recommend, make sure you’re in the left lane long before you get to the intersection or you may get cut off from doing so. Following this route, after turning onto Harrison Ave, you will take the first RIGHT onto Tayman Ave. (RT 281 south). Keep a close eye on your odometer, especially if you’re following the Google route, or you’ll miss the next turn.

 

 
The wind blown Weimer Flats on RT 281 south of Somerset
The wind blown Weimer Flats on RT 281 south of Somerset

Several miles outside of Somerset you’ll come across a straight stretch of road called Weimer Flats. If your trip to Seven Springs is in the winter, Weimer Flats alone is a good enough reason not to take this route. Weimer Flats in the winter can be one of the most vicious, wind-swept sections of road in all of Somerset County, and other sections of RT 281 S can be nearly as bad. Even with minor snowfall, white outs, drifting snow and accidents are common along Weimer Flats and other sections of this route.

If you are following the Google route, 5.6 miles after turning onto RT 281 S you will make a RIGHT on Cross Road. Never mind the fact that there is a sign directing you to keep going straight to get to Seven Springs. After all, are you going to believe your lying eyes or the omnipotent Google? If you’re following the MapQuest route you will NOT turn onto Cross Rd, but will continue another mile to the village of New Centerville and make a right onto Copper Kettle Highway.

New Centerville, PA
The turn onto Copper Kettle Highway in New Centerville

About 100 yards before the intersection there is a sign for Seven Springs indicating the turn. This sign is often missed and there is no sign at the intersection itself. In fact, this turn is so easy to miss that 3 miles further south on RT 281 you’ll find a gas station, the New Lexington Market, that actually posts directions to Seven Springs outside for all of the people who missed the turn.

New Lexington Market on RT 281 S
If you see the New Lexington Market, you missed the turn.

The Google route now directs you to proceed 1.5 miles to State Route 3029. SR 3029 is actually Copper Kettle Highway so at this point the Google and MapQuest routes are the same. State Routes are not well-marked, so after you have turned onto Cross Rd the directions should say “proceed 1.5 miles to the first stop sign and turn right”. Copper Kettle Highway (SR 3029) will turn into County Line Road in 1.9 miles, if you’re following Google, or 4.1 miles using the MapQuest route. Continue on County Line Rd for 4.1 miles and you will come to the entrance to Seven Springs on your left.

Now, for the best route we go back to the point where both Google and MapQuest direct you to turn left onto Harrison Ave (RT 281 S). When you’re on Main St (RT 31 W) stay in the RIGHT lane and instead of turn onto Harrison Ave, keep going straight on RT 31 W and continue for 7.1 miles. A large Seven Springs sign will direct you to turn LEFT onto Trent Rd.

Trent Road to Seven Springs Resort
The well marked turn onto Trent Road from RT 31

Proceed 3.8 miles to the first STOP sign and turn right onto Copper Kettle Highway. In 1.1 miles Copper Kettle Highway turns into County Line Rd. Proceed 4.1 miles to the entrance of Seven Springs on your left. This well-marked route is only about half a mile longer than the MapQuest or Google routes and offers several other advantages. For winter travelers, road condition is probably the most important reason to take the RT 31 route over that via RT 281. RT 31 is not nearly as wind-swept, so white outs and drifting snow is not nearly as big of a problem. Services are another reason to take the 31 route. If you follow the Google route, there will not be even one gas station or store until you reach the bump in the road at Trent which has a very small convenience store. The MapQuest route is only slightly better with New Centerville offering a pizza shop, one restaurant and one additional convenience store. The 31 route offers numerous services including gas stations, a major grocery store, several convenience stores, a beer distributor and a bar that serves great pizza. In addition, you have Moo Echo Dairy, a great country store which makes cheese, ice cream, fresh-baked goods and a wide range of deli products. And perhaps most importantly is Route 31 Bike, Board and Ski, the area’s largest and most experienced  outdoor sports retailer. If you need your skis or snowboard waxed or serviced or if you need equipment rentals, this is the place to stop. The retail store offers everything you’ll need on the mountain including: Oakley goggles and sunglasses, Under Armour base layers and outerwear, and top winter sports brands like Burton, Fisher and Solomon. And finally, in the event I wasn’t clear enough, the Google and MapQuest routes are very poorly marked compared to the 31 route. So, unless you know the turns, it’s not snowing and you’re sure you don’t need to purchase anything, go ahead and follow the “short” route. Otherwise, I suggest you follow the alternate route via RT 31 W.

Route 31 Bike, Board & Ski, Somerset PA
Route 31 Bike, Board & Ski, Somerset PA

Buying Booze in the Keystone State

Pennsylvania is one of 19 states which in some way have a monopoly over retail and/or wholesale sales of liquor, beer and/or wine. The specifics of Pennsylvania’s law is often baffling to the out of state visitor and can cause many inconveniences for the traveler coming to the Laurel Highlands.

The worst aspect of Pennsylvania’s effort to protect its citizens from the “demon spirit” is their total monopoly on the sale of liquor and wine. For you touristas, that means you cannot buy a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer in a grocery store or a gas station as you can in many states. This would be but a minor inconvenience if there were a reasonable number of liquor stores run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, however the fact is that the entire state of Pennsylvania has only 621 retail outlets. That averages out to 1 store in every 74 square miles. Compare this to neighboring New Jersey which has about 1800 liquor stores or 1 store to every 5 square miles. And it’s even worse in the rural counties which make up the Laurel Highlands region, which is dependent on tourism. Somerset County, the home of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley resorts, has only 4 State Stores to purchase wine and liquor or 1 store to every 270 square miles. The point is that if a traveler to the Laurel Highland doesn’t plan ahead, he can find himself in a pretty dry situation. The PLCB lists all of their stores along with their hours of operation on their website. Pay close attention as many stores have very limited hours and most are not open on Sunday. If you are traveling the Great Allegheny Passage through Meyersdale for example, the State Store there is only open 3 days a week for seven hours each day!

liquor bottles

Purchasing beer is a bit easier than liquor and wine, but still not as easy as in most states. Again, you cannot purchase beer in a grocery store or gas station. A distributor wholesales beer in Pennsylvania both to restaurants, bars and to the public. Wholesale means you can only purchase beer in kegs or full cases. You cannot stop in for a six-pack or two. To purchase six packs you must go to a retail licensee such as a bar or restaurant. The catch is that you may only purchase 192 ounces at a time, necessitating the ruse of buying two six packs, taking them to your car, and then returning for another two six packs.

One exception to this madness is that Pennsylvania considers wine produced in the state as an agricultural product. This means that if you are near a winery you may purchase up to 16 bottles of wine just as you would in any other liquor store. And better yet, most are open on Sundays. The Pennsylvania Winery Association has a tool on their website to find the locations of wineries and also offers “wine trails” to plan a tour of the various wine regions in Pennsylvania. One winery of particular note to those skiing at Hidden Valley or Seven Spring’s resorts is the Glades Pike Winery. Located on Route 31, the winery is only 5 miles from Hidden Valley and a bit over 10 miles from Seven Springs. If you are traveling to either resort from the east (Somerset) you will drive right by the winery.

You must also keep in mind that is illegal to transport any alcoholic beverages into Pennsylvania from another state and even the possession of liquor from another state is illegal. The penalty for this “transgression” is a $25 per package fine, the cost of prosecuting the case and up to 90 days in jail. However, for some strange reason, Pennsylvania does allow you to bring in booze from another country, after pay duties and taxes of course.

One final issue to consider is Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act. Enacted in 2008, it bans smoking in a public place or workplace. However, like most regulations there are exceptions. Bars may be exempted if they don’t admit anyone under the age of 18 or if the bar is separated from the dining area by doors which can be closed. In practice, there are many establishments with great food who do not have the option of segregating the bar area and therefore won’t admit minors. The Taverne, in Somerset, is an example of a place that was previously kid friendly but now bans minors and as a result, your kid’s won’t be able to eat the best pizza in town. Bottom line, call ahead to confirm a restaurant’s smoking policy before arriving with your kids.

Pennsylvania has much to offer the traveler to the Laurel Highlands, but availability of spirits is not one of them. It is essential for the tourist to plan ahead to ensure your trip isn’t a bit drier than you had intended.