05 Oct Trail Discovery Guide
Welcome to the Allegheny County Parks Foundation’s
Trail Discovery Guide
Here’s your quick, easy-to-follow snapshot of featured trails in the 9 Allegheny County Parks. Download the free Allegheny County Parks Trails app available at popular app stores for the comprehensive mapping of all the trails but use this quick resource guide with easy-to-follow directions to get started.
This handy guide is designed for hikers who want to explore all 9 Allegheny County Parks but aren’t sure where to start their adventure. Each park has unique features and our Trail Discovery Guide offers a variety of distances, surfaces, scenic features and elevations. There are trails for everyone and every ability. Visit a park you’ve never seen before. Try them all!
White Trail: At 2.4 miles, this moderate trail is the most popular loop in North Park’s South Ridge. Park at the far end of the Pie Traynor lot. At the end of the lot there is a sign for the soccer fields. Follow that gravel path to the right. At the end of the path make a left turn onto the white blazed trail. The trail descends into the valley, away from the busy South Ridge area, and passes through a rocky woodland. Cross over a few small streams and pass through shaded pine forests before ascending back out of the valley along former service roads. The second half of the trail closely follows the South Ridge Loop Road but stays tucked back far enough to offer a nice respite from busier park areas. As you wind your way back to the parking lot, pass beneath towering oaks, home to many creatures including the Great Horned Owl.
Lake Loop: This five-mile paved path circles the scenic North Park Lake, the largest in Allegheny County. It attracts fitness enthusiasts of every ability level all year long. The lake provides a habitat for several species of fish, turtles, birds, amphibians, and mammals. Start at the Boat House parking lot. The Boat House, constructed in 1936 with New Deal funding, is one of the most well-known buildings in Allegheny County’s nine parks. Exit the parking lot to the right onto the path that borders Pearce Mill Road. Take in the beautiful views of the lake on the right side. As you approach Babcock Boulevard, look across the lake to the right to see an island. In the winter this island is one of the most common areas where our Bald Eagles perch atop the tall trees. In the spring time, the Double-crested Cormorants come in large groups to perch in the trees. Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Mallard Ducks, and other birds are also commonly seen here. Crossing the dam, the new North Park Meadow will be on the left. The observation mound at the heart of the meadow offers stunning views of the area for all that climb atop it. As the trail follows Ingomar Road, keep your eyes on the water. There are active beaver lodges in this area, and you might just catch a glimpse of a beaver swimming or gnawing on a tree. The next leg of the trail meanders along Lakeshore Drive for a quiet escape from the busier roadways. Keep any eye out for a variety of wildlife along this quiet one-way lane. Finally, return to Tennis Court Drive and finish the trail walk with a stop at the Boat House for a bite to eat. Upgrades to the Lake Loop were made by Allegheny County, in partnership with the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, that widened this busy path for safer use by pedestrians and bicyclists.
Hartwood Acres Park
Purple Trail: This is a loop of moderate difficulty with minor elevation changes. It’s 2.25 miles in length and starts and ends at the Hartwood Acres Mansion parking lot which is accessible from Saxonburg Blvd. To find the entrance to the trail, look for the security gate just to the right as you exit the parking lot. Walk past the gate and look for a purple blaze on a tree on the left side of the road. This purple blaze marks the trailhead. The historic Hartwood Acres stables are visible from this trail as you meander along the crest of the hillside through a mixed hardwood forest. The trail will gradually descend through a rocky forest offering views of pastureland in the valley below. It will then climb back to the top of the ridge and wind in and out of oak filled valleys as you travel along old bridle trails and narrower hiking trails. During your journey you will pass through a pleasing variety of shaded and sunny sections offering a variety of plants and wildlife.
Paved Trail: Hartwood Acres features a paved trail system that stretches from one end of the park to the other. It measures 1.5 miles in length and is the perfect surface for walkers and strollers alike. Park at the Mansion lot and access the trail beside the towering North Light sculpture (1982) by David von Schlegell, which is part of the Sculpture Garden at Hartwood Acres. The road is restricted from motor vehicles and leads to the Amphitheater. Along the way, pass through groves of hemlocks and pines and mixed hardwood forests. You will then have the opportunity to choose multiple paths once you reach the Amphitheater area. Visit the sprawling concert grounds and enjoy some of the sculptures that are located there or follow the loop to the field behind the Amphitheater to view the beautiful wildflower meadow. These paths altogether will add about 1.5 miles to your trek or you can head back to the Mansion along the service road just before the dog park. As you climb back up from the Amphitheater area, you will get an excellent view of the Hartwood Acres Stable Complex. The Mansion is only a short walk along the service road from the stables so feel free to explore a before you head back.
Deer Lakes Park
Purple Trail: Access this 1.5 mile moderately difficult trail by parking at the back of the Anglers Shelter parking lot off Cattail Drive. Enjoy a view of the quiet Upper Lake as mature oak trees and beds of moss line both sides of the trail. Cross a small footbridge and walk through a shallow stream to continue deeper into the forest. The trail will cross an access road, pass through an area full of mature pine trees, and then bring you across the road again. The path then descends into a valley, where it takes a curve. You will pass the Disc Golf Course and come to a foot bridge that will lead back to your starting point.
Green-with-Red-Dot Trail: This one-mile trail is an easy loop and ideal for all experience levels. The trail access can be found behind Carp 1 Shelter, where a restroom is conveniently located. The trail shares the beginning section with the Blue Trail. The Green-with-Red-Dot Trail then continues straight, diverging from the Blue Trail. The next section of trail is flat and will lead to mild elevations changes. The trail then flattens out again as it approaches a cemetery on the right, just beyond the park’s boundary. The trail gets rocky before entering a meadow. Pause in the meadow to take in the sights and sounds of the flora and fauna that surround you. Once you exit the meadow, you will be led to a much wider section of trail that returns to the beginning. Add about two miles to the hike by connecting it with the Blue Trail.
Harrison Hills Park
Green Trail: The trail starts across the street from the lower Environmental Learning Center parking lot. This is a moderate loop trail of 2.13 miles with mild elevation changes. A restroom is located at the beginning of the trail. The first section is very wide, meandering above a creek bed and wetlands that attract birds, mammals and amphibians. This low, flat section takes a left turn and follows a tributary uphill. After crossing the spring that feeds the tributary below, the trail descends to a steeper rocky section, passing under dense tree canopy. It leads back to a road, which is a short walk from the parking lot starting point if you want to cut your trek in half. The trail then cuts through the old farm field which is a great opportunity to see some local bird species. The trail will make its way back into the forest and eventually come out along the field near the edge of a bluff overlooking the Allegheny River. There is a nice bench to enjoy a break and take in the view. The Green Trail next dips down into a small valley and can become a little swampy in the spring but provides great opportunities for birding. Finally, the trail climbs out of the valley and follows a ridge line back before descending to the parking lot again.
Red Trail: This five-mile loop circles the entire park, starting and ending at the Overlook parking lot. It’s a moderate-to-difficult hike that offers stunning views of the Allegheny River. Restrooms are located at the trailhead and benches are scattered throughout. Find red blazes on the trees lining the fence at the end of the parking lot, marking the start of the loop. Turn right and cross a bridge at the top of a deep boulder filled ravine that is lush with wildflowers in the spring. The trail will follow the edge of this ravine where you can enjoy views of the Allegheny River. The trail then leads toward the South Pond, where a bird blind sits at the end of a boardwalk. Look for a variety of birds and amphibians as the walkway passes over sensitive plant species. The trail then climbs up out of the grass fields that surround the pond and through a mixed woodland before crossing Woodchuck Drive and passing Baneberry Shelter. The trail next winds through a mature upland forest before descending to cross Cottontail Drive where it combines with the Green Trail for a half mile. As you continue along the Red Trail, you will pass several little streams and then climb out of the bottom land and follow along the edge of an old farm field; take your time as this is a great place to look for birds. The trail heads north passing an old farm pond, eventually joining with the Rachel Carson Trail. It then passes a cell tower before it goes back deeper into the forest and passes through its most spectacular section. The last mile of the Red Trail positions you right next to the edge of the bluff for amazing views of the Allegheny River before returning to the parking lot.
Montour Connector Trail: This crushed gravel, unblazed trail, is family-friendly and two miles long each way (four miles out and back). It meanders through the woods, into a quiet valley with a stream crossing before it connects to the Montour Trail. Park at the Game Preserve parking lot on Sesqui Drive and look for the trailhead to the right of the bike racks. This trail is not a loop, so it can be shortened by turning back at any time. You will meander up and down though mixed woodlands and once you pass the model air field, the trail is a continuous downhill path to the creek. As you travel along the lower sections of the creek, keep your eye out for an old stone quarry where the stone for sites like the Vale of Cashmere, the Cascades, and many of the original shelters was quarried. Be prepared for an uphill journey on the way back. This trail is mostly shaded but does have some sunnier spots along the way.
Vale of Cashmere Trail: At just under one mile, this short, easy hike winds through some of the earliest historical features of South Park, dating back to the 1920s. Traveling north on East Park Drive from the roundabout, look for the trailhead in the small parking lot on the left side of the road not long after the road enters the woods. This unblazed trail quickly descends to a shallow creek and crosses a bridge. A short walk leads to the Vale of Cashmere, what was once a series of five interconnected stone and earthen pools. It gets its unusual name from a beautiful place described in a poem. This site now features the stunning remains of the largest pool and watercourse. The path follows along its stone walls up the valley, passing more of the Vale along the way, including subsequent pools and channels, though none as grand as the first. The trail winds through a sunny wetland area; stay to the right and cross a shallow creek. The trail then climbs back up almost to the road and stays to the right following the creek downstream. Pass a small stone-lined spring and see views of the Vale below. The trail leads back to the bridge near where the hike began. (Improvements to this area are coming soon and will include new and additional bridges and walkways as well as improvements to the natural resources like wet meadow plantings and riparian restorations).
Green Loop Trail: Park at the Boyce Park Soccer Fields to access this 2.25-mile trail. Walk about 100 feet past the Chimney Swift Habitat Tower to find the first green blaze on your right. The first half of this hike meanders through mixed woodlands. This easy-to-moderate trail then crosses the gravel service road and stays in the forest for a short distance before it quickly turns back out adjacent to the road and then back into the woods for the remainder of the hike. The last section follows along some of the largest oak trees in Boyce Park. The trail exits just uphill from the Archery Range then crosses over the service road and back to the Soccer Field parking lot.
Carpenter Log House Loop: This 1.2-mile, easy-to-moderate hike begins at the Carpenter Log House on Pierson Run Rd. The trailhead is across the road, marked by a log house trail sign. Ford the stream at a rock hardened crossing then continue on to cross the utility corridor and follow a newly designed section of trail up the small creek valley. Stay left at the “Y” and follow the trail to a clearing by the airfield. At the opening take a sharp right and stay to the left to stay on the Yellow Trail – continue to stay left at the next intersection. You will wind through young forest and pass through an interesting section of forest that is mostly Spice Bush. As you come out of the Spice Bush patch, the forest opens up and large oaks are numerous. You will exit into a small opening in the canopy – take a hard turn (almost 180 degree turn back into the woods). As you enter back into the woods, take the first left to an unblazed trail and follow a series of flowing downhill turns. This trail crosses an old access road (Yellow with Black Dot Trail) and drops down into a scenic valley of large oak trees and beautiful wildflowers in the spring. Stay to the right at the bottom of the hill (Yellow with Red Dot Trail) and eventually cross a small bridge at the bottom of a valley. Stay to the left and follow the trail you started on back to the parking lot.
Round Hill Park
Harmony House Trail: This unique park features a variety of farm animals and crop fields. This easy-to-moderate trail is unblazed and is 2 miles long. Park at Harmony House Shelter. The trailhead is marked by a section of split rail fence. Follow this path through the forest and fields, stay left at the “Y” and the trail will meet a wide clearing with a fire ring that is used for scouting groups. The trail continues at the far end of the clearing. Stay left and go through a small strip of forest and proceed downhill through another small field. Stay left again and climb up a small knob and through a small pine grove. As you descend the knob, continue following the edge of the wood line and stay to the left through the next few intersections. The trail will open to a utility corridor where you will turn right and descend along the right side of the corridor. You will see several trails off to your right as you descend – these meander through the forest, but you are going to follow the utility corridor to the base of the hill. At the bottom you will see a parking area to your left and another trail to your right – head right through the woods into another large field. Once in the field, stay along the right side to climb to the top of the field (sometimes the lower left side will be mowed and is an optional route as well). At the top, turn left, and follow the path as it parallels the wood line. You will enter the woods again at the far corner of the field. Once in the woods turn left and then descend to where you will find a small bench and a stream crossing. Cross the stream and follow the trail up hill. This section is a much narrower path through the woods. At the top of your climb, the trail will widen again and then open into a field. Cross the field following the wood line on your right-hand side. You will pass over a small creek and then arrive at the lower Harmony House parking lot. Walk up hill on the side of the road to reach Harmony House Shelter parking lot.
Harmony House Trail Short Walk: This walk follows along part of the same path but is just over 1 mile long and has far less elevation changes. Park at Harmony House Shelter. The trailhead is marked by a section of split rail fence. Follow this path through the forest and fields, stay left at the “Y” and the trail will meet a wide clearing with a fire ring that is used for scouting groups. The trail continues at the far end of the clearing. Stay left and go through a small strip of forest and proceed downhill through another small field. Stay left again and climb up a small knob and through a small pine grove. As you descend the knob, you’ll enter a small field. Take a sharp right turn to begin your journey back. You will come into another open field where the trail will “Y” again – stay to the left (right will take you back on the route you just came from.) Follow along a series of fields, some fallow and others may have crops planted depending on the time of the year. The trail will curve through a final section of forest and then open into a final field where you will be able to see the road again. You will pass through a restoration tree planting and then meet the road just below the Harmony House Shelter parking lot.
Settlers Cabin Park
Waterfall Trail / Green Trail Loop: One of the newest features of Settlers Cabin Park, the Waterfall Trail, has been reconstructed to allow greater access for the whole family. It is an easy-to-moderate hike which begins at Waterfall Trail/Off Leash Dog Park parking lot. The trailhead entrance is located between two stacked stone piles and marked with a sign and green blazes. This trail leads to a picturesque natural waterfall nestled in a cool hemlock ravine. The trail winds through the woodland, offering views of the valley bottom along the way. As the trail begins its decent into the valley, it narrows and you pass through a hemlock grove and descend a set of timber steps. As you step up to the split rail fence you will be greeted with your first view of the waterfall. Head down the timber and earthen steps to your left and follow the Waterfall Trail sign as you make the final decent to the stream below. Follow the trail back to the parking lot for a one-mile round trip.
Looking for a longer adventure? Continue along the Green Trail – either by taking a left and following the green blazes from the split rail fence view point or you can turn around at the waterfall and follow the trail downstream to a stepping stone crossing. Cross the stones and stay to your right at the next intersection to stay on the Green Trail and continue into the valley (you can cross the second set of stone steps and follow the Green Trail back up to the top at this point as well). As the trail meanders along the creek in the valley, you will see many species of trees and wildflowers. Large boulders and rock outcroppings jut out from the edges of the valley all around you. The trail makes a right turn at the end of the valley and follows a small spring that climbs up out of the bottom. Along this section you will be treated to some impressive views of the valley below. The trail tops out onto a flatter area and turns right to join the Red Trail for a short while. Again, the Green Trail will turn right as it splits from the Red Trail, descending back down into the valley just above the waterfall. Cross a small bridge and then a wet crossing above the waterfall. The Green Trail will complete the loop at the stairs and split rail fence. Follow the timber stairs back up and out of the valley to the parking lot. The whole loop will be a little over 2 miles.
Red Trail: Something for the more adventurous. Bring a lunch and enjoy an all-day trip. Park at the Panhandle Connector lot to access this 7.75-mile, moderate-to-difficult adventure. The trailhead marker is underneath the large tree at the corner of the parking lot. Take the trail into the woods and follow it to a clearing in the utility corridor; follow the Red Trail down the hill and back into the forest. At times, the trail parallels a small stream that cascades over rocks, leading to a small pond. Go right for better views of the pond and continue the hike along the beautiful Pinkerton Run valley; filled with a variety of wildflowers in the spring. The trail winds its way back up to a utility corridor and into an open meadow. Follow the Red Trail to the left to Greer Road. Cross the road and follow the trail to the Gilbert Love Shelter parking lot. The trail crosses the park entrance road and into the Algonquin Shelter parking lot before dropping back into the woods. The Red Trail meets the Blue Trail and together they pass the dek hockey rink and tennis courts before returning to the woods. The Red Trail then crosses the Waterfall Trail/Green Trail. (Follow the Green Trail through the valley and connect back to the Red Trail for a scenic detour.) Before the Blue Trail breaks away from the Red Trail at the Tomahawk Shelter parking lot, you will travel through a beautiful section of White Pine forest and see some upland bogs off the trail on the left. The Red Trail continues along the valley where it joins the Green Trail for a short distance. The Red Trail then joins with the Yellow Trail before breaking away the final time and crossing the Panhandle Connector Trail. (Cut the hike short by taking the Panhandle Connector uphill back to the parking lot.) The Red Trail drops down into a small valley and then back up the hill before entering the lower Pinkerton Run Valley. Pass a picturesque cascade on Pinkerton Run and then shortly you will find yourself at the first utility corridor. To finish your hike, head up the hill to the right and return to the parking lot.
White Oak Park
White Trail: This moderately difficult trail is about 2.5 miles long and travels nearly the entire perimeter of the park’s main section. Start at the Wedding Gardens parking lot. To access the trail, cross the field to the wood line. The trailhead is located on the right side of the field about halfway between the parking lot and the restrooms; look for a White Trail blaze. Follow the trail through the woods and shortly you will cross a rocky creek. Proceed sharply uphill for a short section. The trail meanders through forested areas with eye catching valley views on the left. About halfway through your journey, the White Trail wraps around the furthest shelter in the park, Redwood Shelter. The trail hangs on the edge of the park’s steep hillsides and offers views deep into the valley. Once you are nearing the end of the loop, the White Trail will split. Stay right following the parking lot trail marker to climb out of the valley and past the Off-Leash Dog Park where you can walk down the park’s entrance road back to the Wedding Gardens parking lot. Left will lead you out to McClintock Road. You can cross at the intersection with Muse Lane and follow the trail (currently unblazed) to access the Park Office parking lot which can be an alternate starting point.
Parks for People. People for Parks.
The Allegheny County Parks Foundation partners with Allegheny County to improve, conserve and restore all 9 Allegheny County Parks.
Boyce Park | Deer Lakes Park | Harrison Hills Park | Hartwood Acres Park
North Park | Round Hill Park | Settlers Cabin Park | South Park | White Oak Park
Allegheny County Parks Foundation acparksfoundation.org 724.327.7627