Another hot summer is finally giving way to fall. Days are shortening, nights lengthening, and, if you look around, you’ll see the natural order is changing in a whole host of other ways. Green leaves are slowly fading to yellow, as autumnal flowers bloom and birds prepare to journey south, away from the impending cold.
But you might miss all of this without some intentional time with Mother Nature, and what better way to enjoy Western Pennsylvania’s natural majesty than an invigorating fall hike?
Pittsburgh City Paper gathered a range of options sprawled across the Pittsburgh region, including some gentle options for those who need easier treks.
McConnells Mills State Park
In an earlier age, the steep ravines coursing through Lawrence County powered a grist mill that refined oats, corn, wheat, and buckwheat for the regional farming community. The mill has been out of service for nearly a century, but the building remains, along with more than 2,500 acres of parkland.
If you’re looking for something gentle, try the 1.2-mile loop through Hell’s Hollow, where water flowing down a set of naturally carved rock steps looks sublime at any time of year. More ambitious hikers might opt for the 15-mile Slippery Rock Gorge Trail for a varied tour through woodland, rivers, and clifftops.
The Audubon Greenway near Sewickley pairs open meadows with gentle woodlands and waterways, capturing much of the area’s natural diversity within a few square miles. This is a particularly good spot for sighting fall wildflowers.
A simple 1.6-mile loop offers an easy starting point, but enthusiasts can also try their luck on a sprawl of unmaintained paths shooting off from the circuit.
Urbanites who don’t want to rely on a car for their fall hiking can make use of the 456 acres of green space hidden within a pocket of the city.
For an easy introduction, try the 1.9-mile Panther Hollow Trail and allow the crimson woodland canopy to transport you far from the whirr and clatter of Forbes Avenue. For those who prefer to avoid inclines, Schenley also offers a flattering alternative in the Junction Hollow trail, a 1.5-mile there-and-back walk along the Park’s western flank.
Dead Man’s Hollow
The eerie name is well deserved in this case (supposedly, a group of boys out playing found an unidentified body there in 1874). Beyond that, though, the protected green space preserves a wealth of vibrant forest land between the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
The 1.9-mile Cool Spirit Trail winds through woodland, hillside, and riverside, promising a sequence of grand fall views. The trail also connects to the Great Allegheny Passage for anyone craving more.
Tucked away in Pittsburgh’s North Side, Riverview Park is perhaps best known as the home of an oddly placed space astronomical research laboratory, the Allegheny Observatory. But it also features a swimming pool, dog parks, and an extensive trail network.
The park offers two easy loops, the Riverview Park Trail (2.6 miles) and the Snowflake Trail (1.5 miles), as well as an entire web of paths for those who like to roam off-piste. As the name suggests, Riverview offers superb views, but be warned that comes at the cost of steep climbs.