PITTSBURGH'S BEST HIKING TRAILS

16 PLACES

UPDATED FEB 6, 2020

In Pittsburgh, we're lucky to have so many gorgeous trails and beautiful views close to home. And now, planning your next outdoor adventure just got even easier. We've rounded up a list of all of the best hiking destinations in the area. Happy hiking!

author

JOE VENNARE

FITT PITTSBURGH CONTRIBUTOR

Experienced and well-conditioned hikers will enjoy the challenges presented by this 70-mile backpacking trail stretching from Laurel Mountain at Ohiopyle to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. Beginners needn’t be discouraged, though — there are plenty of shorter, more mellow parts of the trail perfect for a casual day hike.

A multitude of adventures await every visitor of Forbes State Forest. From hiking and camping to horseback riding and mountain biking, there’s lots of exploring to do across the nearly 60,000 acres and three counties of Laurel Highland territory that Forbes covers. If you venture out this way, be sure to budget enough time to summit Mt. Davis, where there is an observation tower offering 360-degree views from the highest point in PA.

Stretching from New York to North Dakota, the North Country Trail covers seven states and some 4,600 miles – including 175 miles in Pennsylvania. The PA stretch starts at the New York/PA border in Allegheny National Forest. From there, hikers can hop on this trail at Cook Forest and travel along the Clarion River corridor. Otherwise, the trail is easily accessed in Moraine State Park, McConnell’s Mills, Wampum, and Darlington before it continues on into Ohio.

The Beechwood Reserve is a 134 acre nature sanctuary in Fox Chapel. It includes five miles of hiking trails, educational classrooms, a center for native plants, the DiscoverGround Nature Play Area, and more, making it a perfect place for families and field trips.

There’s no doubt that Riverview Park is a prime location for outdoor concerts and movies in the summer. But it’s also packed with trails perfect for walking, biking, hiking, or trail running. While you’re here you can check out the Allegheny Observatory, Mairdale Watershed, and Snyder’s Point. Getting to each of these areas within the park is made easier with a map in hand and healthy snacks in tow.

Take on this 36-mile hike in Oil Creek State Park, located between Titusville and Oil Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania. The park itself totals over 7,000 acres of hills and hollows that tell the story of the early oil industry in our region, beginning in 1859 with the drilling of the Drake Well. This period explains why passersby encounter old oil machinery and abandoned homesteads in addition to waterfalls and scenic vistas.

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The annual Trail Challenge here pits runners and hikers against the 35-mile trek that must be completed in just one day. But if you'd rather take it easy, the Rachel Carson Trail is great for that too. Plan to hike the trail, all 45 miles of it, section-by-section, over the course of a few weekends for a more enjoyable (and reasonable) set of workout sessions.

If you’re less of a hundred mile hiker and prefer to just do a little outdoor exploring within the city limits, then Frick Park is the spot. Walk, hike, or mountain bike. Play with your pup, or make your way down to the Nine Mile Run Watershed — there’s no shortage of sweat-inducing, outdoor activities within the city limits.

North Park is packed with recreational opportunities outdoors, from a 5-mile paved loop around the lake to a dog park, and pool. If single-track and multi-use trails are more your speed, there are 43 miles of trails for you to explore. Although lacking in solitude (you’ll encounter far more people than peace and quiet), North Park is a great option for walking, running, or biking on trails. And the fact that Over the Bar Cafe is onsite doesn’t hurt either...

Every single part of McConnell’s Mills is pretty awesome, but the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail takes the cake. The trek presents every hiker with steep climbs and rocky terrain that are challenging for all fitness levels. Along the way you’ll encounter stellar sights, including huge boulder formations, covered bridges, and crazy kayakers cruising past down white-water rapids. If that’s not enough to convince you, there’s an amazing waterfall that cascades down off of the hillside. Fitt tip: if you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb up the falls and explore the spacious cavern hidden behind the falling water. And plan on stopping at North Country Brewing on the way home for a great end to an even better day.

You don’t need to be an expert hiker to do some exploring here—The Wildflower Reserve, which contains over 700 species of plants, is perfect for anyone who craves a casual day hike. Although, more experienced hikers and backpackers shouldn’t overlook this park either. Believe it or not, there are 42 miles of trails available at Raccoon. The Heritage, Forest, and Appaloosa trails make up the green-blazed Raccoon Loop Backpacking Trail, complete with Adirondack-style shelters reserved for through-hikers.

If you like the thought of going off the grid for a little while, you’ll love traversing the Baker Trail. This 133-mile trail runs along dirt trails and back roads, through forests and farmlands, from Pittsburgh to the Allegheny National Forest. Through-hikers will find nine Adirondack-style, open front shelters for overnight camping along the route.

Bike, hike, boat, and swim on your next trip to Moraine State Park. Lake Arthur is the centerpiece here, a massive body of water perfect for floating and fishing. Hikers can enjoy various treks, including the more difficult Glacier Ridge Trail. Remember the North Country Trail from earlier? Well, Glacier Ridge is a section of that trail running through Moraine offering great views of Lake Arthur.

Rugged. Natural. Beauty. Those are the three words that encapsulate what you’ll experience at Ohiopyle. The Youghiogheny River Gorge is the center of a park that serves as the gateway to the Laurel Highlands. Fair warning: one day will not be long enough to fully explore the park, waterways, and trails totaling almost 80 miles in all. Natural water slides, whitewater rapids, mountain biking trails, and rock climbing areas round out the list of things to do. Consider camping overnight to experience all Ohiopyle has to offer!

Looking to rough it in the wild on your next outdoor adventure? As the only designated wilderness area in Pennsylvania with a marked trail, Hickory Creek is the spot to go for a truly off-the-grid hiking experience. The dense forest is packed with undisturbed vegetation and flourishing wildlife that’s with a subtle single-track, 12.8-mile loop taking you through Allegheny's ancient hardwood forest. Because it’s a wilderness area, the trail is minimally maintained, and the markers that it does feature are few and far between. Be careful not to lose your way among the lush fields of wildflowers, fern forests, and dense pine groves that line the trail.

Looking for a city hike with a view? Try the hiking trails at Emerald View Park. You’ll go on and off the beaten path, weaving through trails and neighborhood side streets for a steep but rewarding view of Pittsburgh. Try one of the five suggested routes, none longer than 2.5 miles. Fitt tip: Some trails include rustic portions, which can be dicey post rainstorms. Make sure things are dry before hiking.

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