Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on October 17, 2023.
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When it comes to hiking at the many parks in and around Fox Chapel, the trails feel a bit disjointed but also connected at the same time.
Running north to south, the loosely connected Eliza Fox Trail network starts at Beechwood Farms, passes through Hardie Valley and Riding Meadow, and later continues through Scott, McCahill, Salamander, and Fay Parks before reaching O'Hara Township.
Although we were not able to hit every park in the above list in our first outing, we managed to take in a roughly 3 1/2 mile out-and-back hike starting at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve through to Riding Meadow and back and made for an enjoyable morning out!
What You Can See at Eliza Fox and Riding Meadow Parks
Admittedly, highlights in the form of views within these green spaces are somewhat minimal. You are really just walking through parks with gorgeous views of nature.
Perhaps our favorite segment of the trail was near the Hardie Overlook segment as the trail rises above Hardie Valley Park and has some (admittedly, obstructed) views down into the valley below. A different change of pace that was quite beautiful!
From there, the Eliza Fox Trail segments closer to Beechwood Farms follows a small creek through a fairly wide open path in nature. In this section you can see numerous houses from the developments nearby, and makes this part of the trail feel a bit more like a nature access point for residents just as much as hiking in a park.
Beyond these two areas, there is a third trail, called the Lockhart Trail, which branches off near the Hardie Valley Overlook on the southern end of the above two trails. We did not get a chance to hike around this one on our first outing, but it seems to loop another residential area and approaches the Trillium Trail as well (another trail that is not seemingly connected to the network properly, but could be a close walk on a surface road).
In our next outing we hope to tackle the southern stretches of the trail and see more of the parks in the Fox Chapel area!
Hiking Tips for the Parks
When it comes to hiking the Eliza Fox Trail Park and Riding Meadow Park, things are relatively straightforward, with a few details of note to keep in mind.
First, it is worth noting that most of the trails here are off-leash for dogs. Signs are abundant on where leashes are required (generally near streets and parking areas), but do not be surprised if you see hikers with dogs outside of these areas too. A side trail to Hardie Valley Park, for example, required dogs on leash but we saw a large group with dogs off-leash despite the fine warnings.
Second, most of the trails are pretty wide and easy to navigate; however, there are some small stream crossings that require walking on rocks to pass, some small hill climbs, and for the Hardie Overlook Trail specifically, a narrow bit with a steep dropoff on one side.
These aren't too terribly challenging for most able-bodied hikers, but are things to keep in mind all the same- there could be some tight squeezes especially if passing another party with dogs.
Third, you will have to cross some roads to continue on the trail network. When we say the paths are loosely connected, we mean it, but in the northern stretches the trailheads are quite easy to find just across the road from each other. Further south, we can't say with as much certainty.
That said, while most of the road crossings have parking areas for the trails, virtually all of them had a “no parking, permit only” style sign visible which would not make for a great access point for the network. We parked at Beechwood Farms (and were admittedly not sure if we should or not) and saw other cars parking in the grassy area near the firehouse across the street (but not in front of the firehouse, which also had no parking signs).
This is one significant limitation of the trail network in Fox Chapel, we have to admit.
Finally, there are some side trails seemingly leading to private houses. Some are easily marked showing the trail path, and others are marked as no trespassing. All things considered, the trail is incredibly easy to follow but does have minimal signage to highlight.
Overall, while the natural highlights of the Eliza Fox Trail network are indeed minimal, the trail offers a fairly quiet walk out in nature for residents and visitors. Just be sure to be aware of the dogs you may pass and enjoy your walk!
The Eliza Fox Trail loosely connects several parks within Fox Chapel. We only hit the northern section of the trail network during this visit, but hope to visit the southern areas for another hike soon!
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