The aptly named North Park in northern Allegheny County is a popular spot for those looking to enjoy a day out for hiking in the woods, walking along the paved lake path, or taking in one of the many other activities available.
No matter why you visit this one, there is enough to keep returning time and time again!
What You Can See at North Park
North Park is a 3,000+ acre park located at the northern tip of Allegheny County off of route 19 BVP (McKnight Road), and is the largest park in the county. As such, there is a lot to see- from the numerous wooded trails, open fields, to the large man-made lake, and the stunning North Park boathouse.
Our first visit to North Park was to explore the lake trail, a roughly 5-mile hiking loop that had views of the nearby woods and lake. This particular trail does not have as many highlights as other trails in the region; however, it does offer a perfect setting for those who are looking to exercise with beautiful scenery and relatively easy terrain.
In addition to hiking the lake trail, North Park offers catch-and-release trout fishing (a permit is required), an off-leash dog park, recreational facilities (many of which have seasonal hours), and weekly events from nature walks to yoga and everything in between.
For those who would rather be active out on the water, Venture Outdoors offers a number of options at the man-made lake including kayaking, stand-up paddleboards, canoeing, paddleboarding, and more.
We visited North Park for a kayaking outing and explored a good chunk of the lake with our one-hour rental; however, if you want to explore at your leisure renting for two hours may make a bit more sense (note that prices are per hour). We definitely hauled it back in before our 60 minutes were up!
If you are planning a trip to North Park for kayaking or any water-based activities, please keep in mind that most rentals are inflated by about $3-$4 per hour on weekends over weekday rates. So those who are a bit more flexible can save some cash.
Finally, North Park is also home to a gravity hill that is a fairly unique experience as well. This part of the park can be found at Kummer Road and McKinney Road (stop on Kummer while facing McKinney) and is an optical illusion. Put your car in neutral and it will go backwards down Kummer, but for those inside the car and outside will give the illusion of going uphill.
But be careful here as this part of the park is not marked as a gravity hill and is an active road. So keep an eye out for motorists coming from all directions (and may be best to go with a friend to act as a spotter!).
Go Ape North Park
There are many attractions and businesses inside North Park, and one of the more unique offerings is the Go Ape Treetop Course.
This course is comprised of five stations where you climb into the tree tops, cross various obstacles, and end each station with a zipline back to ground level.
It is a surprising workout and a whole lot of fun, but just be sure to do the extreme Tarzan swing on the last course- it is a rush!
Hiking at North Park
Overall, the lake trail at North Park is one of the nicest trails you will see in the region. The elevation grade is practically flat with only nominal gains here and there, the path is paved the vast majority of the loop thanks to the public roads that circle the lake, and most even include dedicated pedestrian bike and walking lanes as well.
As such, North Park is the premier spot for those looking to take a leisurely walk or to train for the next big race. The loop around the lake is approximately five miles, and it isn't uncommon to see distance runners multiple times as they loop the lake during a session. For those who are not interested in distance travel, it is worth noting that there is no shortcut on this trail and you either will have to commit to going the entire way around or make an effort to turn around before the halfway point.
Parking at the lake is plentiful, and no matter which direction you arrive at you should be able to find parking at any section along the trail (although those wanting a brief walk and the best lake views may wish to park along the east end of the lake).
North Park is located in Allison Park, PA roughly 20 miles north of downtown off of route 19.
North Park is also one of the features in the amazing book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Pittsburgh Edition” that we are working through as a part of this series. If you are interested in day hikes near the city we highly recommend picking this one up!