Do you ever get to feeling like you just need to spend more time in nature? You know, unplug and decompress. Wander through the woods, hike up a hill side or run on a backroad instead of a city street.
Yeah, us too. Luckily, around here, we don’t have to search very hard for a hiking trail worth hitting up. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, Pittsburgh has more than its fair share of parks and green spaces, mountainside and riverfront trails, Which means that, if you’re looking for an adventure you won’t have to venture too far from the city.
And now, planning your next day trip just got even easier because we’ve put all the information you need at your finger tips. Here are 14 trails, perfect for hiking, walking or running in and around Pittsburgh. Happy exploring.
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. But beginners needn’t be discouraged, there are plenty of shorter, more pleasant parts of the trail perfect for a casual day hike.
If you like the thought of going off the grid for a little while, you’ll love traversing the Baker Trail, a 132-mile backpacking trail made up of dirt trails and backroads, 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.
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 50,000 acres and three counties Forbes covers in the Laurel Highlands. If you venture out this way, be sure to budget some time to summit Mt. Davis, complete with 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 100 miles in Pennsylvania. The PA stretch starts at the New York/PA border, in the 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.
There’s a 134 acre nature sanctuary in Fox Chapel. Who knew? Well, we did. And now you do, too! But, what’s found within that acreage is even more impressive. The Beechwood Reserve includes five miles of hiking trails, educational classrooms, a center for native plants, the DiscoverGround Nature Play Area, and the Natural History Library. Sounds like the 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 observe 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, abandoned homesteads, and the Drake Well museum, in addition to waterfalls and scenic vistas, along the Gerard Trail.
Just because some people out there try to take on the entirety of the Rachel Carson Trail in one day, doesn’t mean you have to do the same. The annual Trail Challenge pits runners and hikers up against the 34-mile trek that must be completed in one day. Sure you could try that. Or you could plan to hike the trail, section-by-section, over the course of a few weekends for a more enjoyable, and reasonable, set of workout sessions.
If you’re thinking, “Forget about all of these hundred mile hikes! I just want to do a little outdoor exploring within the city limits.” Well friend, Frick Park is for you. Walk, hike or mountain bike. Play with your pup or make your way down to the Nine Mile Run Watershed. See, there’s no shortage of sweat-inducing, outdoor activities within minutes of the city.
North Park is packed with recreational opportunities outdoors. Perhaps the paved loop around the lake looks good to you. How about the dog park or pool? Still not satisfied? If single-track and muli-use trails are more your speed there’s 43 miles of trails for you to explore, just 13 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Although lacking when it comes to solitude (you’ll encounter far more people than peace and quiet) North Park does make good on trails for walking, running and biking. 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 has to be the most epic part of this park. This trail presents every hiker with challenges like steep climbs and rocky terrain. All of which is worth the workouts because along the way you’ll encounter stellar sights including huge rock formations, covered bridges and crazy kayakers cruising past. 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. Especially if you’re looking for a casual day hike. The Wildflower Reserve is perfect for anyone who falls into that category. But, more experienced hikers and backpackers shouldn’t overlook this park. Believe it or not, there’s almost 20 miles of backpacking 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.
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. And all of the hikers out there can enjoy various treks, including the more difficult trail – Glacier Ridge. 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 and scenic tour of the surrounding area.
Rugged, natural, beauty. 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 waterslides, whitewater rapids, mountain biking trails and rock climbing areas round out the list of things to do. Which means you should add camping to that list and stay a night, or two.
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