Scenic views make Buttermilk Falls a pleasant hike

Kiara Lutz, 10, right, and Cierra Mosholder, 18, both of Austintown, watch Frankie Sainz, 24, of Beaver Falls, Pa., scale the rocks in the Homewood Stone Quarry that lead to the cascading water known as Buttermilk Falls in Homewood, Pa. Tribune Chronicle photos / Virginia Shank

HOMEWOOD, Pa. — Listen for the rushing water as you cross from Ohio into Pennsylvania.

About halfway between Warren and Pittsburgh, just off Interstate 76, a 40-foot sandstone formation and waterfall beckons passers-by to take notice — and pause.

For some visitors, the Homewood Stone Quarry is their destination.

For others, it’s a convenient, scenic stop along the way.

For Frankie Sainz, it was long a topic of conversation among friends who, in his opinion, did not underestimate its charm and luster when describing the natural attraction to him.

“At first, it doesn’t seem like much. It’s a nice walk and the water and rocks are cool. But then you get to the end of the path and wow, it hits you,” Sainz said. “It’s great.”

Sainz, 24, a California native, recently moved to Beaver Falls, Pa., about 15 minutes from the quarry. In May, he visited the increasingly popular spot with friends.

He described his opportunity to stand behind the cascading water, known as Buttermilk Falls, without getting wet as “fantastic.”

The waterfall

It takes, on average, about five to 10 minutes to hike from the parking lot just off state Route 18 to the bottom of the falling water and pool into which it flows. The Buttermilk Falls Natural Area sign at the entrance immediately south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, near the Beaver Falls, Pa. exit, points visitors to the quarry that otherwise might go unnoticed.

Buttermilk Falls is a 35-foot plunge on Clark Run in Homewood, Pa. According to information posted at the site, a group of Civil War soldiers and their wives named it Buttermilk Falls in 1870 as they raised their buttermilk-filled glasses to toast after a picnic. However, because several areas are known as Buttermilk Falls, the waterfall is also commonly referred to as Homewood Falls.

From the parking area, visitors have the option to go left along a path that leads to a stairway, making the hike more manageable. There is also the option to walk or drive the hill to the parking lot at the top where there are trails that end above the waterfall for a view of the quarry from the top.

The quarry

A sign posted at the site explains how the Homewood Stone Quarry was one of numerous quarries along the Beaver and Connoquenessing rivers in western Pennsylvania. In 1852, the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad was constructed through the developing hamlet that became the town of Homewood.

Homewood Sandstone, named after the town, was among the principal rocks quarried from the area. It was used to construct roads, canal locks, bridge abutments and buildings, including the Western Penitentiary that became known as the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh.

Bituminous coal and limestone were also extracted from the area.

Above the gorge is a working railroad and visitors to the quarry often can hear and see trains passing above the gorge.

The journey

The trip through Buttermilk Falls Natural Area took Sainz and his friends, who spent some time scaling the rocks and maneuvering the dramatic cliffs along the path, about 45 minutes. There were frequent stops along the way to take in the view. Some visitors find spots to read, picnic, take pictures or relax. Although portions of the trek are uphill, the journey is not exclusive to seasoned hikers or outdoor enthusiasts.

If you are in decent health and able to climb a set of stairs, you should have no problem negotiating the trek at your own pace.