In 1935, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a modern vacation house for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family, boldly extending it over a waterfall in a beautiful forest.
Today, Fallingwater is a famous National Landmark visited by over 135,000 people every year. We at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy hope you enjoy this landmark property, and while visiting thank you for respecting it by staying on designated paths and staying out of the stream.
The map below provides you with an overview of the site. While visiting with us you may want to use this as a guide for exploring the grounds around the house. Most people allow at least 30 minutes before or after their tour for walking around the grounds. The areas highlighted on the map are places you may want to visit while on the site.
1. Bear Run
As you walk down the board walk from the Visitors Center you’ll begin to hear Bear Run, its banks protected by the roots of rhododendron bushes. Bear Run is the lively mountain stream that nourishes this tiny, forested valley. Once hunting grounds, this land later supported the village of Bear Run, producing timber for railroad ties and mine posts. As resources were used up, the community declined.
Bear Run later became a summer camp for Kaufmann’s Department Store, with a clubhouse, dance hall, rustic cottages, and a streamside pool—a two-hour train ride from Pittsburgh. In 1933 the camp became the Kaufmann family’s private country retreat. Their greenhouse once stood here between the apple orchard and the gardener’s cottage.
Stop and listen to Bear Run; feel its breeze. Native brook trout thrive in cool, clear and aereated streams. Acid mine drainage from small coalmines once threatened this watershed. Today, Bear Run is an Exceptional Value stream— Pennsylvania’s highest designation for healthy waterways.
The rock outcroppings around the property began 600 million years ago as sand at the bottom of a vast inland sea. The compressed sand became hard sedimentary sandstone. Rain and flowing water slowly washed away the softer layers and exposed the hardest stone. These earth patterns inspired Frank Lloyd Wright.
Pause where you first glimpse Fallingwater. The regenerating forest is rich in biodiversity, with hardwoods like oaks, maples and hickory; understory trees and shrubs like sassafras and witch-hazel; and our state tree, the evergreen eastern hemlock.
In 1952, Frank Lloyd Wright commented, “If you look at the design, you can hear the waterfall.” Can you?
7. Birds-eye View
Bear Run falls swiftly west from Laurel Ridge to the Youghiogheny River, [yaw-ki-gay-nee] along a rocky path begun millions of years ago. Its waters carved out this valley, forming a moist microclimate where native rhododendron thrives. Their white blossoms dot the landscape in midsummer.
Optional Trail Hikes
8. Paradise Overlook Hike
The Youghiogheny River’s rapid waters flow north into the Ohio River watershed. Enjoy a spectacular view of the twisting river gorge, traversed by trains, rafts, and bicycles today. From this trailhead, follow Peninsula Trail to the left, then take the spur marked Paradise Overlook. 20 minutes roundtrip, easy hiking.
9. Lower Bear Run Trail Hike
A horse-drawn wagon carried summer campers down this old road to a tiny train station where Bear Run flows into the Youghiogheny River. Look for small cascades along this moderate hike down the narrow ravine, where some old-growth hemlocks still stand. 35minutes roundtrip, steeper on the return.