The Alleghenies includes nine adjacent counties of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Somerset. The geographic factor linking all counties is the Allegheny Mountain Range of the Appalachian Mountains. With some mountain ridges in each county, the mountains unite and define the region.
In socio-economic terms, the region is far greater than the sum of its individual counties, primarily because the counties are so distinctively different. They have different physical characteristics and resources, land uses, settlement patterns, and social characteristics.
The Alleghenies includes over 1.8 million acres of forested land, more than 20,000 acres of lakes and 9,500 miles of streams. Superb outdoor recreational activities such as bicycling, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, skiing offer a distinct quality of life to the region’s residents. With the humid continental climate, the region transitions between the four distinct seasons.
The Alleghenies remains a uniquely “stand-alone” region, geographically distinct, but yet close to large, expanding urban areas. The large Pittsburgh area lies relatively close to the west. The State Capital in Harrisburg is not far on the east. Penn State’s University Park campus in State College is not far to the northeast. And the outer areas of the Washington metro area are only a one-hour’s drive from the southern end of The Alleghenies. However, with the region’s ever-expanding highway system, Interstates I-70, I-99, I-80, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and U.S. Routes 22, 30 & 219, The Alleghenies remains a drivable destination for over 65% of the east coast population.
The history of the region is linked to coal, steel, railroads, and agriculture. Today, the region features a diverse mix of jobs in manufacturing, health care, service industries, retail and wholesale trade, tourism, and government. A few “heritage industries,” such as railroads and coal mining, have made or are making a partial resurgence. Four-year and two-year colleges and universities in the region have developed stronger links with the business community and are a vital part of the regional economy. The tourism sector is growing, with a variety of investments in lodging and attractions.