Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on July 20, 2022.
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When it comes to parks in Pittsburgh, many of the staples have been protected for decades and even generations. But that doesn't mean the work to protect our area green spaces is finished.
Groups like the Allegheny Land Trust are working hard to protect great nature spaces in the region and regularly purchase land to pursue their conservation efforts.
Girty's Woods near Reserve Township and Millvale is one such green space, and the trust purchased 155 acres in just 2021. So, naturally, we decided to pay this somewhat wild park a visit to see what it is all about!
What You Can See at Girty's Woods
At its core, Girty's Woods is primarily a green space on the outskirts of Millvale. That is to say, most of the hiking trails are through dense trees and other vegetation that simply makes for a serene (albeit intense) hike through nature.
While highlights here can be considered to be few and far between, you may get lucky with some partial views of downtown skyscrapers, a view into Lawrenceville, seeing the back of the giant water tower you normally see rising high over Millvale, and more. From there, the density of the trees is said to make for great bird watching, and we saw no shortage of small forest creatures (squirrels, chipmunks, etc.) running about too.
Suffice it to say, if you choose to visit Girty's Woods, you can expect to see the recovered woodlands first and foremost as it truly is the star attraction.
- Note: Girty's Woods may allow for some archery hunting in the fall and winter (with a permit), so be careful when visiting this time of year. Reflective colors are always recommended when hiking in mixed-use lands like these.
Hiking at Girty's Woods
For those who are about to hop into their car to quickly go explore the three miles of trails at Girty's Woods, you need to know a few hiking tips in advance. This park may look relatively straightforward and peaceful, but hiking here can be anything but that.
The reason for this is the 155 acres of land that comprises Girty's Woods can be found on a hilltop. For those who enter on the Millvale side, as we did, the vast majority of your hike is a steep, uphill climb to the summit of the hill before descending back down to the Reserve Township side. We turned back at the hilltop, but we anticipate the other side will have a similar climb as well.
The steep hills make for rather interesting terrain, and we found ourselves hiking on loose rocks, dirt, tree roots, and more during our climb and descent. To say this park is kept fairly wild is an understatement, so while the trails themselves can be quite wide at points, you have a lot of things to consider when hiking- so don't skimp on the footwear here.
Likewise, the trails that coincide with the climbs look to be eroding slightly when it rains, so it is entirely likely the paths will be quite muddy after a recent storm. Throw in some exposed areas, especially on the hilltop, and you will be baking in the sun at times if visiting on a hot summer day like we did (the temperature really dropped significantly every time we got under tree cover, we have to admit).
On the signage front, apart from a few small signs denoting the entrance to the park, we saw virtually no blazes on the trails. So you will do well to remember where you turned when you wish to make your way back to your car as many trail routes loop within each other. Thankfully, this park is not terribly big so finding your way back isn't the hardest out there if you have a map on your phone.
Overall, we love it when the Allegheny Land Trust buys land for conservation and having this green space near Millvale and Reserve Township is a treasure, especially for those who are local and want to go out in a hike in the woods. Just be prepared when visiting this one as the hike up the hill is strenuous, the weather concerns are real, and be prepared to simply enjoy a reasonably quiet walk through nature at this one!
Girty's Woods is located in Millvale and Shaler. Trailheads are located on Seigel Street in Millvale and Irwin Lane in Reserve Township.