Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy Aims to Build Mega-Trail

If you’ve ever felt the urge to hike a couple hundred miles without backtracking or switching trails, your wait might be over soon.

photos by Rhett Landry

Lovers of the outdoors soon could have the option of trekking more than 300 miles on one network of connected hiking trails in Allegheny County. 

The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy is working on a project, “Many Trails — One Community,” that will eventually connect several major parks and trails from the Alle-Kiski Valley to Pittsburgh’s North Hills. The conservancy is best known for its annual Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, a 34-mile endurance hike.

John Stephen, a trails network development coordinator who works as a consultant for the conservancy, said the conservancy is focusing on giving people who live in urban and suburban areas access to more green space. They hope to connect the following trails within the next two to five years: 

Hartwood Acres in Indiana and Hampton townships to Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel. This trail will also connect to others in O’Hara Township and, eventually, the Allegheny River.
The Rachel Carson Trail in Harrison Hills Park in Harrison to the Baker Trail in South Buffalo and Allegheny townships. Though this will be the easiest segment for the conservancy to complete, it’ll be the most difficult for future hikers. 

The Allegheny Valley and Plum Creek Greenway will be connected by linking existing trails in Harmar, Oakmont, Verona, Plum and Penn Hills.

“Based on the popularity of our Rachel Carson challenge and the growing participation in the hikes, there seems to be an opportunity to try to harness this simple stewardship strategy to those trails to take advantage of our large and open spaces throughout the North Hills and beyond,” Stephen said. 

Stephen said the biggest time constraint facing the conservancy is building relationships with government agencies and the property owners of the land they will need to develop connector the trails. He said the exact route of the new trails still is up in the air until the conservancy has made official agreements with these property owners. 

“Even for those who don’t walk on the trails, I think there are more opportunities for easy exercise,” Stephen said. “Plus, having a green space or open space near their community will only benefit the property values in the long run.”

Categories: The 412