Outdoors in Western Pennsylvania
One of Pittsburgh's best kept secrets is the incredible wealth and
diversity of outdoor recreational amenities available in this region.
It's a fact that just about every outdoor activity you could possibly
want can be found within a 90-minute drive of downtown Pittsburgh.
If it's hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, rock-climbing, whitewater
rafting, caving, fishing, sailing or a host of other outdoor activities,
western Pennsylvania provides some of the best all-around opportunities
of anywhere in the country.
Pennsylvania has nearly achieved the vision of Dr. Maurice Goddard,
the first Secretary of the state's Department of Environmental Resources,
whose dream was to ensure that there would be a state park within
25 miles of every Pennsylvania citizen. What's more, Pennsylvania
has built more miles of rails-to-trails (970) and has more miles
under development (640) than any other state in the Union.
A couple of years ago, BIKE magazine named Pittsburgh as
one of the top five cities for mountain biking in the country. This
recognition was not only for the terrific trails - it was also for
the convenience and ease of access to these trails. With our network
of trails in Pittsburgh's four primary city parks, the 11 county
parks and multiple state parks within an hour's drive, including
the mountain bike meccas of Laurel Mountain and Blue Knob, enthusiasts
have a mix of terrain to use year-round.
And with so many magnificent rivers, it's no wonder paddling and
boating draw thousands of people annually. In fact, Pittsburgh is
home to the second-highest number of registered pleasurecraft in
Ohiopyle, located in the Laurel Highlands about an hour southeast
of downtown Pittsburgh, is the birthplace of whitewater paddling
in this region and it remains a thrilling location for adventure.
But the Youghiogheny, Conemaugh, Kiskiminetas, Allegheny, Clarion,
Beaver, French Creek, Chartiers Creek, Slippery Rock Creek, and
even the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers provide countless miles of
flat and whitewater navigable by canoe and kayak for everyone from
the beginner to the expert, with plenty of outfitters and liveries
to help manage the trip.
The popularity of paddling has grown to where Venture Outdoors now
operates a kayak and canoe rental concession in downtown Pittsburgh
- the first of its kind in this region - so that downtown office
workers can get out on the river during their lunch hour. And yes,
paddlers can go through the locks - it's great fun.
All those streams and rivers offer great and abundant fishing as
well, from steelhead in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania to
the thrill of a native brook trout in the Laurel Highlands to the
28 different species caught in 2003 from downtown's Point State
Park. That includes three threatened or endangered species that
are finding their way back again.
Don't forget all the glorious hiking. City and county parks provide
ample opportunities to walk five miles or more on dirt trails and
occasionally glimpse downtown's skyscrapers through the canopy of
foliage. Quebec Run Natural Area in the Laurel Highlands, the old
growth hemlock stands of Cooks Forest and the 70-mile end to end
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, are just a few of the many state,
county, and municipal parks that offer a wealth of beautiful places
If it's more adventure you crave, consider caving - we have several
commercial caves, such as Laurel Caverns and Indian Caverns, and
many other private caves located nearby. Or rock-climbing at McConnell's
Mill State Park and nearby Coopers Rock State Park in West Virginia.
Or the latest craze - geo-caching, which is kind of a high-tech
treasure hunt. According to geocache.com, there are more than 1,100
geo-caches located within the city of Pittsburgh.
Winter has its own outdoor adventures. With several good snowy winters
recently, the region has seen a surge in people out cross country
skiing, downhill skiing, and even snowshoeing. All those summer
hiking trails become great winter tracks - it's not unusual to have
all the skis and snowshoes in a rental shop out on the trails. On
your way to the trails, look up and you may see some ice-climbers
on the frozen waterfalls overlooking the local highways. And SKI
magazine has named Seven Springs Mountain Resort, located about
an hour from Pittsburgh, as the #1 ski resort in the Mid-Atlantic
And Western Pennsylvania's forests and countrysides continue to
be among the best deer hunting grounds in the Eastern United States.
There really is more recreation within a short drive of downtown
Pittsburgh than almost any other city in the country. Many people
are just now discovering these local treasures, but for the variety
and ease of access to so much outdoor recreation, it's hard to beat
Mike Schiller is
the Founder and Executive Director of Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh-based
non-profit organization with 1,300 members whose mission is to get
people outdoors. Mike can be reached at [email protected]
or 412-255-0564 x22.