Last Updated on January 31, 2020 by Jeremy
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Since founding Discover the Burgh, we've made it our mission to see, do, and experience everything Pittsburgh has to offer. One of our goals was to explore each of the nine county parks of Allegheny County, and over the last two years we finally completed our task of visiting them all.
What we discovered about these Pennsylvania parks from our visits is pretty incredible. The nine parks in Allegheny county cover 12,000 acres (that's 18.75 square miles), have well over 60 blazed trails covering over 70 miles (our estimates), and feature numerous other activities throughout the year that will keep even the most active busy for a considerable period of time.
To help you determine which of the Allegheny County parks you should visit on your next outing, we put together this guide which shares some our favorite aspects of each park in the county. For more information about each park, click the link in the description to be taken to our full article!
Deer Lakes Park
Deer Lakes Park, located in Tarentum, is a 1,000 acre park that is known for its three beautiful man-made fishing lakes that are stocked with several kinds of fish for locals looking to catch a meal. The finished trails around these lakes offer a perfect one-mile walking opportunity for those wanting to take in scenery without the exertion of being on a dirt hiking trail.
For those that are looking for a bit more, Deer Lakes Park is home to some wonderfully maintained hiking trails as well as one of the best disc golf courses we've seen in the region. The only downside to a visit to Deer Lakes Park is that the entrances to the hiking trails are not well marked at the park, so you would do best to check out the online directions on the Allegheny Parks website to find the starting locations for each trail. Thankfully, once there the markings are well maintained!
Harrison Hills Park
The 500 acre Harrison Hills Park is located next to the Allegheny River in Natrona Heights. Although this one does have some picnic and recreational facilities, we think this park is best for hikers who want to get out and explore. Our favorite, the Rachel Carson Trail, is a two-plus mile trail that runs along the cliff overlooking the Allegheny River. There are steep drop-offs here as well as decent grade changes which are worth noting, but the views of the river are pretty beautiful even if they are somewhat hidden when leaves are on the trees. As such, this one is best visited between late fall and early spring to have the best view.
For those looking for a longer hike, the nearly four-mile Scouts Trail connects up to the Rachel Carson Trail at both ends to form a long loop around the park.
Hartwood Acres Park
Hartwood Acres covers over 600 acres in Hampton and Indiana townships, and is home to a beautiful estate, many hiking trails, biking trails, and an amphitheater for free summer concerts. In addition, this park features more main roads located close to the beautiful scenery as compared to other parks, making it a perfect visit for those who need more accessibility than on a dirt trail (although the paths may be gravel at points).
Those who love architecture and house tours will find a visit to Hartwood Acres for the estate worth it alone, as this estate is one of the most stunning in the region. Tours are offered in the main property and seasonal tours are also available for the stables just a bit down the road.
For those who want a mix of everything, South Park should have it. Between the numerous (and spread out) pavilions to the fairgrounds, wave pool, plenty of playgrounds, and even the famous Hundred Acres Manor haunted houses in the fall, South Park is the kind of place that you can get in and have a full day no matter what your interests are.
The only downside to this particular park is that blazed hiking trails are few and far between, and access to the trials are not well marked.
Much like South Park, North Park in Allison Park is a great place to visit for those who want a bit of everything. But unlike its appropriately named neighbor to the south, this park has plenty of walking and hiking trails both in the woods and around the stunning North Park Lake, making this one the kind of gathering spot for those who want more vigorous activity in addition to all of the other more traditional park amenities that are available.
If there is any park in Allegheny County that rivals North Park and South Park with the sheer number of activities available, it would be Boyce Park in Plum, PA. This park is home to numerous seasonal activities including a wave pool, ski and tubing hills, a skate park, and so much more. A log cabin which was built by Jerimiah Murry in 1822 still stands within the park and is open for tours on Sunday afternoons in the summer months- a nice added touch for those who can swing a visit at the right time.
This park has well marked hiking trails, and is a gem for those who love mountain biking.
Settlers Cabin Park
Settlers Cabin Park is located near Robinson Township is one of the smaller parks in Allegheny County, and as such only has three blazed trails totaling just over five miles (there are numerous unblazed trails, however). As such, this park is perfect for those looking to go on a long hike as you can quite literally walk all of the trails in the park in the course of one outing. The highlight of this park for us is a small waterfall that can be found at the halfway point of the green loop, located down in between the trails.
For those who are interested in checking out the cabin that gives this park its name, you'll have to make an added bit of effort to drive around as it is located on the park's outskirts (unlike the cabin in Boyce Park above), and can be missed if you do not go out of your way to look for it.
Round Hill Park
Round Hill Park, located in Elizabeth Township, is a 1,100 acre park on the southeastern tip of Allegheny County. While this park has numerous picnic areas, unblazed hiking trails, and a children's playground that will put most others to shame (to name a few), the pride and jewel of this one is the “exhibit” farm that is found on site.
The exhibition farm is a working farm that is open for visitors every day of the year and includes various farm animals including pigs, goats, donkeys, chickens, and even horses who have retired from work with the Allegheny County police department! Although this one is perfectly suited for families with small children, animal lovers of all ages can appreciate a visit.
White Oak Park
White Oak Park is what we would describe as a gathering park only. This 810 acre park in White Oak is setup with many pavilions nestled between the trees, and most have restroom facilities and other amenities connected to each (ranging anywhere from kids play sets to bocce courts or volleyball nets). This makes the park perfect for those looking for a group outing, party, or even wedding while still maintaining some privacy from other events going on nearby.
White Oak Park is also home to many indigenous plants and trees that are not found anywhere else in the region, however, the hiking trails to reach many of these can be tricky and are not blazed. While the park does offer printed maps at the entrance for all visitors, we do not advise visiting this one for hiking opportunities unless you are prepared for some true exploring.
Overall, the nine Allegheny County parks are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting out and exploring nature in and around Pittsburgh. For more parks and green spaces in and around the city, check out our interactive Pittsburgh map in the post footer to check out even more articles!
Looking for more hiking opportunities in and around Pittsburgh? Check out the great book “60 Hikes in 60 Miles, Pittsburgh Edition” which we own and love for getting ideas of where to visit!