Sometimes life moves so fast that every day blurs into the next. Fortunately, Pittsburgh offers plenty of opportunities for Pittsburghers to slow down and reconnect with nature. Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas feature a spectacular array of lush nature, natural history, and wildlife, making hiking a popular activity in the area just about all year long. Here are the top eight places to go hiking in Pittsburgh:
1. Greater Allegheny Passage
Perhaps the most well-known trail in the state, the 150 mile Greater Allegheny Passage stretches from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, then connects to the C&O Canal Towpath, which leads to Washington D.C. Hikers and bikers can safely trek the crushed limestone trail where motorized vehicles are prohibited. Travel only a small portion, part of the way, or the entire way to Maryland. Accessible daily from dawn to dusk, the Greater Allegheny Passage provides plenty of stunning natural scenery and bird and wildlife watching opportunities.
2. Three Rivers Heritage Trail
Escape the hustle and bustle of city by spending the day hiking the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The 24 mile trail takes hikers, bikers, inline skaters, and skiers (in the winter, of course) past such familiar sites such as the Carnegie Science Center, PNC Park, Heinz Park, and Rivers Casino as they go from the North Side to Downtown Pittsburgh, ending at South Side (or vice-versa, if going the opposite way).
3. Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve
Hidden in Fox Chapel, Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve welcomes hikers to its five miles of trails run by the Western Pennsylvania Audubon Society. The nine trails, each of which is under a mile, promise an abundance of wildflowers and natural scenery. Start with Spring Hollow Trail for the easiest walk which will give you spectacular views of a pond, a meadow, a stream hollow, and a forest. For a more challenging hike, hit the Pine Hollow Trail. At just under a mile, the hike takes approximately an hour and winds through hills, fields, and a pine plantation.
4. Ghost Town Trail
Hike past buildings long abandoned by humans, yet standing still in a bygone era as you hike some, or all, of the 36 mile Ghost Town Trail which runs from Indiana County through Cambria County. Once home to dozens of towns, including the largest of Wehrum, the remnants of the towns provide a unique glimpse into the industrial era. Start your hike at one of nearly eight access points, including Saylor Point, Twin Rocks, and Ebensburg.
5. Rachel Carson Trail
Spend a day exploring the Rachel Carson Trail, a nearly 36 mile hiking trail that spans from Harrison Hills County Park to North Park. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, especially if you plan to hike the entire route which ranges from easy to extremely rugged, in some points requiring hikers to cross through streams due to the absence of footbridges.
6. Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Grab your backpack. Put on your best hiking shoes and get ready to embark on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, a 70 mile trail in the heart of Laurel Ridge State Park. Keep track of how many miles you've traveled with the convenient mile markers as you make your way through four different counties that include forests, state parks, and game land. Charge your smartphone or camera batteries so you can capture the awe-inspiring scenery that abounds all year: from the blooming flowers in the spring to the changing colors of the trees in the fall.
7. Westmoreland Heritage Trail
Explore the lush scenery of the nine mile Westmoreland Heritage Trail, which winds past oil wells, coal mining, and salt mining sites between Saltsburg and Delmont. Hikers will have plenty of opportunities to bird watch, to cross now-defunct railroad bridges, and to take photos of the tributary. Plans to expand the trail to 20 miles, including adding bridges and extending to Murrysville, are already in motion.
8. Meadow Run Trail
A breathtaking 30 foot waterfall, Cucumber Falls, awaits you at the end of the moderately difficult, three mile Meadow Run Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. Open from May through September annually, the scenic trail offers plenty of shade from the towering trees and hikers can jump in the water and slide down the Natural Water Slides along the way. Bring your pooch along, as long as he remains on a leash.