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PITTSBURGH'S BEST HIKING TRAILS

16 PLACES

UPDATED JUL 8, 2020

We love hiking at fan-favorite Ohiopyle. But there’s so much more to explore around PGH. From popular waterfall destinations and quiet trails that let you get away from it all, these are our go-to hikes in the Burgh.

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. If you're a beginner — no worries. There are plenty of shorter, more mellow parts of the trail perfect for a casual day hike, like the 11-mile trek from Route 30 to 271.

Forbes State Forest nearly 60,000 acres and three counties of Laurel Highland territory. And among that vast expanse is nearly 100 different trails to explore. Our suggestion? Take the Summit Rocks Trail and follow the yellow blazes until you reach the red blazed Timberslide Trail. Keep going, hop on the Tub Mill Trail and connect to the High Point Trail to reach to Mt. Davis summit, where an observation tower offers 360º 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 get on the 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 a handful of beginner-friendly hiking trails, all of which are less than a mile. For a tour of the whole area, start at the Spring Hollow Trail, then jump on the Pine Hollow Trail, the Meadowview Trail, the Woodland Trail, and back on Spring Hollow to complete the loop. Oh, and best to download this map so you don't get lost.

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. Take the Riverview Park Loop Trail for a scenic stroll. While you’re there, check out the Allegheny Observatory, Mairdale Watershed, and Snyder’s Point.

You'll find 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. Expect to encounter old oil machinery and abandoned homesteads in addition to waterfalls and scenic vistas.

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 prefer to just do a little outdoor exploring within the city limits, then Frick Park is the spot. For a short, woodsy route, check out the Tranquil to Riverview to Iron Gate to Firelane Loop. Want more mileage? The Frick Park Tour Loop is great — it's just short of five miles and is dog-friendly.

Although lacking in solitude (you’ll encounter far more people than peace and quiet), North Park is a great option for hiking. The best part? Every trail offers something different. For a scenic route, hit up the five-mile paved loop around the park's 75-acre lake. If a woodsy adventure is what you're after, take the Green Trail — keep an eye out for wildflowers in the spring. After, refuel at Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe and snag a seat on the patio overlooking the lake.

McConnell’s Mills is pretty awesome, in part, because of the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail, a challenging trek featuring steep climbs and rocky terrain. Along the way, you’ll encounter stellar sights, including huge boulder formations, covered bridges, and crazy kayakers cruising past down whitewater rapids. There’s also an amazing waterfall that cascades down the hillside. If you’re feeling adventurous, 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 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 thru-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 paths and back roads, through forests and farmlands, from Pittsburgh to the Allegheny National Forest. Planning a thru-hiking trip? You'll find nine Adirondack-style, open-front shelters for overnight camping along the route.

On your next trip to Moraine State Park, trade a day of fishing or floating on Lake Arthur for a day of hiking. Hikers can enjoy a handful of 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 the aforementioned lake.

Rugged. Natural. Beauty. Those are the words that best describe what you’ll experience at Ohiopyle. Fair warning: one day will not be long enough to fully explore the park's nearly 80 miles of hiking trails. We suggest starting with the Great Gorge Trail — it's a classic and includes the famous Cucumber Falls waterfall. And if you want some spectacular views of the Youghiogheny River, take the roughly 10-mile, point-to-point Ohiopyle to Confluence trail.

As the only designated wilderness area in Pennsylvania with a marked trail, Hickory Creek is the spot to go for a secluded hiking experience. The dense forest is packed with undisturbed vegetation and flourishing wildlife and a single-track, 12.8-mile loop that'll take 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. So be careful not to lose your way among the fields of wildflowers, fern forests, and dense pine groves that line the trail.

Looking for a city hike with a view? Try the hiking paths 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. Heads up: Some trails include rustic portions, which can be dicey post rainstorms. So, make sure things are dry before hiking.

Editor's note: COVID-19 may have affected the operations of these areas, check with the parks service before heading out.

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