Last Updated on November 24, 2020 by Jeremy
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With so many rivers, streams, and creeks in and around Pittsburgh, you'd imagine there have to be a few waterfalls- and you'd be right.
The region is home to a significant number of waterfalls worth exploring, but we do have to note a caveat that many are lacking in size compared to falls you'll find in nearby states (the tallest near Pittsburgh is just about 30 feet whereas waterfalls in upstate New York a few hours away can break 200 feet!).
In fact, most of what we'd consider waterfalls here may only be five or six feet in height in total which are notable highlights when exploring a local park, but perhaps not the sole reason you'd visit a specific park on its own. To make matters worse, many of these are also heavily dependent on the rains such that they may just be a trickle during dry spells.
While the latter still affects even our biggest waterfalls, in this guide we wanted to only feature some of the biggest and most inspiring waterfalls near Pittsburgh. But to hit these, you'll have to go on a bit of a drive!
Fall Run Park
To start this guide, we hit the closest waterfall to Pittsburgh- Fall Run Park in Glenshaw just off of Route 8. The roughly one-mile out-and-back trail to the falls at this park was renovated a few years ago and is a nice and easy stroll to a roughly 25-foot cascade near the trail's terminus (although it can be muddy at spots).
The base of the falls here is accessible (if you go when it is busy you'll likely see kids playing at the base) and there are a set of stairs that take you to the top of the falls on the left-hand side which helps you appreciate this one from several angles.
Overall, this one can be enjoyed in a fairly quick trip as the park is small and the waterfall can be accessed in just a short hike from the parking area.
Fall Run Park is located at 187 Fall Run Road in Glenshaw, PA.
Hells Hollow Falls
Most visitors head to McConnells Mill State Park (~45 minutes north of the city) to check out the beautiful mill, covered bridge, and loop trail near these (which has some offshoot trails to waterfalls that are notoriously difficult and sometimes unsafe). But while visiting, you'll do well to drive a bit further around to the western side of the park to tackle the half-mile trail to Hells Hollow Falls.
This ~15-foot tall waterfall is a beautiful cascade that is easily reached on a rather flat trail. Just be sure to stay to the right at the fork in the trail near the trailhead and you'll reach the falls.
It is worth noting that there is a through-trail to reach the mill and covered bridge at the main section of the park; however, it is roughly six-miles one-way and the park does not offer any return transportation. As such, we recommend driving over to the falls from the main section of the park (a roughly 15-minute drive southwest).
Hells Hollow Falls is located at McConnells Mill State Park. The trailhead for the falls is located at 1436 Shaffer Road in Portersville, PA on the western side of the park.
Jones Mill Run Dam Falls
Can a dam also be a waterfall? We would argue yes, but we'd prefer it to look aesthetically pleasing to qualify. Jones Mill Run Dam Falls at Laurel Hill State Park (about 75 minutes southeast of the city in the Laurel Highlands) is just that.
This dam was constructed by the CCC in 1935 and is just over 10-feet tall by our estimation. While on the smaller end, the reason why we're featuring it here is that the rocks are stacked in such a way that creates a rather beautiful cascade into Jones Mill Run below.
This waterfall is easily reached in roughly one-mile on the Pumphouse Trail and signs are clearly listed where you'll need to jump off to reach the falls (~50 feet away). From there you could make a longer hike continuing down the Pumphouse Trail and connecting to the Martz and Water Line Trails, or take a shorter hike back on the Tram Road Trail and the Shay Connector to return to the Pumphouse Trail about a half-mile or so down.
It is worth noting that the parking area for the Pumphouse Trail is located about halfway down the main road that cuts through Laurel Hill State Park. Signs are present at the turn-off here but you could just as easily miss it. As such, it is worth driving slowly and paying attention (more so for other trailheads than this one, but worth noting all the same).
Laurel Hill State Park is located in Somerset, PA.
Frankfort Mineral Springs Waterfall
Raccoon Creek State Park is a massive, 7,500 acre park located about 40-minutes west of Pittsburgh that is worth a visit for its many trails and wildflower reserve (which explodes in color in both spring in fall).
Much like Hells Hollow Falls at McConnells Mill (above), the Frankfort Mineral Springs waterfall is best reached via car as it is only located about five minutes walking from the parking area. When you reach the falls here you'll note its unique rock formation as the water falls off an overhang, and the mineral springs are located on-site here as well.
So while this one is maybe on the smaller end (just about 10 feet), it makes up for it with a rather beautiful ambiance that is a great addition to any hike you may take at the park- although a short loop trail exists near the waterfall too!
The Frankfort Mineral Springs Waterfall can be found right off Route 18 that passes through Raccoon Creek State Park and is visible on the park map here.
The waterfall at Braddock's Trail Park in Irwin, PA, is best to be visited after a strong rain as the water flow of this 20-foot fall can slow to a trickle otherwise.
But if you time your visit right, you'll get to check out a gorgeous waterfall as well as have a brief hike in the 148-acre park!
Braddock's Trail Park is located off of Robbins Station Road in Irwin, PA.
While Buttermilk Falls is a fairly generic name that is actually used to describe a number of waterfalls in the state, when we think of Buttermilk Falls, we think of the one located in Beaver Falls, PA near the Route 18 onramp of the turnpike.
This ~25-foot tall waterfall is easily reached in a very short walk from the parking area and offers a rather beautiful viewing angle of the falls and the green-tinted pool below. The falls can also be viewed from above; however, you'll have to drive up 1st Avenue to near the Methodist Church to access that short trailhead.
As this waterfall does not have an associated park attached to it, you may do well coupling it with a larger exploration of the area- perhaps donuts at the famous Oram's Donuts if visiting in the morning or a beer at Beaver Brewing Company if visiting later in the day!
Buttermilk Falls is located just next to the Route 18 and PA-76 interchange in Beaver Falls, PA.
Ohiopyle Falls is located right in the heart of Ohiopyle town (in the state park of the same name) and there are many lookouts where you can take in these gorgeous ~15 foot tall falls- including from a modern visitors center with prime views from its floor-to-ceiling windows.
This waterfall is also the widest one featured in this guide as it runs almost the entire width of the Youghiogheny River. The best part is that since this one can be reached in just a few feet on paved walkways from the parking lot in Ohiopyle town, it is likely the most accessible of all waterfalls featured in this guide!
Ohiopyle Falls is located near the state park visitors center on Main Street in Ohiopyle, PA.
We started this guide with the closest appreciable waterfall to Pittsburgh, and to end it we wanted to feature one of the largest waterfalls in southwest PA entirely- Cucumber Falls at Ohiopyle State Park!
This 30-foot waterfall is located just a short drive away from Ohiopyle Falls and is easily reached via a set of stairs that lead down to the falls from the parking area. From there, visitors can appreciate the falls from a distance, walk behind the falls thanks to the falls coming off an overhang, or climb down the rocks to explore this one from the water's edge- make sure you are wearing good shoes if you do this one as it can be a bit tricky.
It is truly a must-see when visiting Ohiopyle State Park and is quite impressive even when the water is running low. When visiting this one, make a morning or afternoon out of it and take a hike from Cucumber Falls to Cascade Falls (another, much smaller waterfall found in the park but beautiful to visit in tandem). It is one of our favorites!
Cucumber Falls is located just south of Ohiopyle town off of Ohiopyle Road. Head South on 381, turn right on Ohiopyle Road, and a small parking area will be visible about 1,000 feet down the road on your right.
Have a favorite waterfall in the area that we haven't featured yet? Comment below to share it! After we visit we may add it into this guide to feature even more waterfalls near Pittsburgh.
Many of the waterfalls above were found in our friend UncoveringPA's book, Waterfalls of Pennsylvania. If you want to explore more waterfalls in Pennsylvania (not just near Pittsburgh), we highly recommend picking up this resource. It is also a great purchase in tandem with 60 Hikes in 60 Miles: Pittsburgh which we've referenced a lot for even more trails!