Hooked on Hiking? 3 Delightful Pittsburgh Trails

Staffers at the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy recommend a trio of excellent hiking trails in the region.


TRAIL PHOTOS BY CHUCK BEARD
 

After spending almost the entirety of my 20s in outdoors-loving Colorado, I am forever hooked on hiking. All winter I look forward to the spring thaw so that I can trade my snow boots for hiking boots. I’ve spent only one summer in Pittsburgh, so I knew I needed hiking advice. I called the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, where members of the staff recommended some of their favorite trails:

»Harmony Trail:

Hike a mile along the railroad tracks of the old Harmony Short Line, which used to connect Pittsburgh to Harmony. The hike is flat and accessible, with a crushed limestone path. 

Get there: From Interstate 79, take the Wexford exit. Travel east for 2 miles on Route 910. Park at the bottom of the hill on Route 910 across from the Brennan Road intersection.
 

»Rachel Carson Trail:

This 37-mile route that connects North Park with Harrison Hills Park is a great choice for people who prefer to customize their own hike length with an out-and-back option. Parking in North Park will get you a more gentle, rolling terrain. Park near Harrison Hills for steeper terrain and the cliff views over the Allegheny River. 

Get there: North Park trailhead: From Interstate 279 North, take the McKnight Road exit. Travel north for 6.4 miles. Take the North Park/Ingomar Road exit east, and turn left at the third traffic light onto Babcock Boulevard. The parking lot is on the left at the next intersection.

Harrison Hills trailhead: From Route 28, take exit 16 and turn east at the end of the ramp. Follow Millerstown Road to the intersection with Freeport Road. The parking area is on the left.

»Crooked Creek Lake:

An hour northeast of Pittsburgh is Crooked Creek Lake. Take a hike along the Baker Trail (132 miles in its entirety), which runs past the Crooked Creek Lake dam. You can head down the spillway through the woods to see cornfields and fishermen. Or head away from the dam and along the contours of the lake for 3 miles to a covered bridge. 

Get there: From Route 28 North, take Route 366 through Tarentum to Route 56 East to Route 66 North. Turn left on Crooked Creek Dam Road. Drive over the dam and park on the left; there are restrooms and a connection to the trail.  
 

#Nutrition: What to eat this month

We’re ready to add salmon, with its lean protein, low saturated fat and Vitamin D, to our backyard barbecues this month. Salmon has omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower the risk of heart disease, fight against naturally occurring inflammation and help with brain development in young children, says registered dietitian Kim Autore. “Anyone can pick their favorite herbs and spices, combine them with citrus juice and customize their own dry rub and marinade. That will give it an extra kick of extra antioxidants and really highlight [the] flavor of the fish,” Autore says. She recommends eating fatty fish twice a week in 3- or 4-ounce servings. If you’re baking or grilling, follow the basic rule of thumb of eight-10 minutes of cooking per inch of thickness. You’ll know it’s done when the internal temperature of the fish is 145 degrees at its thickest point or if it flakes with a fork.

 

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