Easy Trails in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Ohiopyle State Park, Ohiopyle, PA (Westmoreland County)

Ohiopyle is popular state park has many hiking trails to choose from. We enjoyed 2 of the easy trails in one day in addition to a visit to the great Visitor Center (maps & info. here!) and a stroll around the scenic Ohiopyle Falls nearby.  The little village of Ohiopyle is right across the street from the falls and visitor center and there are cafes & bakeries to enjoy before or after hiking or pack a picnic lunch!

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Ohiopyle Falls – Ohiopyle State Park

We walked over the Youghiogheny River on a walking/biking bridge to the Ferncliff Penninsula.  IMG_1155

Enjoyed the fairly easy Ferncliff Trail – a 1.7 mile loop along the river and through woods. The trail is walkers only, narrow dirt path and a little rock scrambling near the river. I really enjoyed this pretty trail!

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The woodsy part of the trail is in the shade. This park is on the edge of the mountains of the Laurel Highlands and can be cool in spring & fall – wear layers.

 

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Ferncliff Trail – there’s the ferns!  🙂

 

We drove to another, less popular area of the park in the afternoon and walked the Jonathan Run Trail – a 1.7 mile, out & back trail through dense woods. We forded small streams a couple times. This trail ‘ends’ at the Great Allegheny Passage (trail).

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Stream to cross on the Jonathan Run Trail at Ohiopyle
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Jonathan Run Trail

 

Mingo Creek Park in Washington County, PA

The park has an easy, level paved path that follows a creek through the park. The path is about 5 miles round trip (out & back) & is also popular for those on bicycles. The park includes two covered bridges, playgrounds, pavilions. This is a pretty walk in spring, summer and fall. There are additional trails through the woods that I haven’t tried yet.

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The Montour Trail

This is a rails-to-trails trail that runs through, mostly, Allegheny and Washington Counties. There are about 12 different trailheads and almost 50 miles of trail that is for walkers and cyclists. Some trailheads have restrooms or (in season) porta-johns. We walked out & back about 5 miles from Cecil Park. The park itself has a playground and other activities including a  pretty creek with fishing permitted.

After accessing the trail, on a sunny April Sunday, we turned left and walked up through the National Tunnel. Walking through trees and along edges of neighborhoods, it wasn’t the most scenic trail I’ve seen. But it is nice, wide pea stone trail with a few gently inclines to the tunnel and back.

An interesting feature (besides the tunnel) was a “Little Free Library” right on the trail near Cecil Park trailhead.

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“Little Free Library” ON the Montour Trail!

Cross Creek Park in Washington County

This county park has a very pretty out & back hike that starts at the main park area off Route 50 (near Avella). Look for signs to “Lake Trail” that goes into the woods above the lake, down a bit of steep hillside, and then follows the lake on a dirt trail.

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Autumn in Cross Creek Park on Lake Trail
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Little foot bridge & dirt trail

The later part of the trail is flat and in the sun. This trail is all dirt & grass and can be muddy if there’s been rain! The trail is a mile, or so, long & ends at a small parking lot & boat launch.

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Along Lake Trail in Cross Creek Park

There are restrooms on both ends of the trail. And the main park area has a nice playground, picnic tables, pavilions, fishing & boat launch areas.

Greene River Trail (Greene County, PA)

This is another rail to trails trail that follows the Monongahela River. I’ve walked this in the early Spring when there are better views f the river & in the fall when the heavily tree-lined, wide pathway is very pretty. Have used the trailhead in Millsboro at the Greene Cove Yacht Club. It is an out & back trail which passes through Rice’s Landing (small town). There are lovely views of the river most of the way and often boat traffic to add interest to the walk. The trail is mostly level, pea stone and also for bicycles.

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The well-maintained Greene River Trail.
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Monongahela River  – in Rice’s Landing, PA (just off Greene River Trail).

Love this interesting sculpture of a hiker along the trail:

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At the end of a 5+ mile walk, drinks at the Greene Cove Yacht Club – open seasonally & to the public. (closed when it’s not ‘boat season’). IMG_1452

Three Rivers Heritage Trail – Pittsburgh, PA

This is a wonderful urban trail system (walkers & cyclists) along all three river banks of Pittsburgh. The trail is paved with some areas of crushed (pea) stone and crosses several bridges and goes along sidewalks in some areas. I’ve walked two sections so far. One Labor Day morning, we parked at Station Square area, walked up to and over the Smithfield Street Bridge, down to Point State Park, over another bridge and along the North Shore.  IMG_1690

There are many interesting landmarks to see: the fountain at the Point, blockhouse, statue of Fred Rogers, baseball and football stadiums, WW II memorial and much more. The architecture of the old bridges, buildings and boat traffic on the three rivers are all interesting as well!

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Another day in the early Spring, we walked from The Strip District, across the 16th Street Bridge and down the North Shore (away from the Point) to Washington’s Landing where we circled the island and returned to the Strip for lunch.

 

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Backyard rambles…

Here we are at the end of Summer. There’s been enough rain to still have lush, rich green yards and hillsides. When you live in the country, you have some pretty good scenery right outside your door…

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Baby birds in a nest by the porch door.
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A fence cannot contain this garden!
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Summer skies.
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Butterflies congregate on this flowering weed.

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Day 8 – Trip West

June 29:

Our last full day of vacation & we made the most of it. Another sunny morning & we left The Beartooth Inn @ 7:30 AM after our comp. breakfast. 50 miles from Cody to Yellowstone on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway. And it IS scenic: through the Shoshone National Forest (1st National Forest to be established in USA!), followed the pretty Shoshone River, past ranches & saw MANY impressive rock formations called hoodoos.

Hoodoos on Buffalo Bill Highway
Hoodoos on Buffalo Bill Highway
Natural Bridge

8:30 AM: Entered Yellowstone & drove through mountainous, rugged area. Passed large (past) wildfire area with charred, dead pines. Saw several pockets of forest like this in the Park during our travels. Also, the park lets trees lie where they fall unless they block roads or trails. So there are tons of downed trees throughout park. Not unsightly, just natural… & interesting.
Stopped at Fishing Bridge General Store for a bit of shopping and got huckleberry yogurts for future lunch stop.
9:30 AM – It was a pretty morning & not too warm yet so we decided on a hike stop. Parked in the Bay Bridge Marina lot and found Natural Bridge Trail Head. This was a pretty, fairly flat hike (3 miles roundtrip) through pine woods with glimpses of the bay. It was quiet… not many others on trail at all though we saw handful of folks hiking out as we returned. My husband had the bear spray in hand but only animal sightings were chipmunks! 🙂

11 AM – Quick restroom & coffee stop at marina store near where we parked.  Headed south past Yellowstone Lake. Saw elk in field.  Gorgeous day & getting warmer…. glad we hiked when we did!

Suddenly, we came to complete stop right beside Lewis Lake.  LONG line of cars & none coming from other direction. Shut off car & wonder if it is a big animal jam (we had only encountered very brief animal crossings during week, no real ‘jam’ or delay). A few people walked down road & we heard that someone went off road & almost into lake.  Finally go past this vehicle – nose down on a steep bank & almost in water.  This was an hour-long delay. I felt bad for folks just entering the park or people with kids. And I was glad we weren’t on a tight schedule for a flight today.

12:50 PM  – Left Yellowstone through South Entrance. What an amazing park! And now back in those glorious Tetons. 86 degrees now but no humidity. Hot!

1:20 PM – Stopped for a picnic lunch at Colter Bay. Got a picnic table right on the stony beach overlooking the mountains on the far side of Jackson Lake. People are swimming / sunbathing.  575

View from our picnic table: Jackson lake & The Tetons.
View from our picnic table: Jackson lake & The Tetons.

Go through Colter Bay’s Visitor Center’s interesting exhibits & then head south through the park. Stop at Willow Flats pullout & see large, male moose in the distance. At 3 PM, my husband announces we have put 1,000 miles on the rental car. It doesn’t seem like we drove that far/much as there is constant beautiful scenery, animal sightings, etc., to see along the way. The entire week was one lane roads – all in pretty good shape. And traffic was not bad at all.
Postponing our departure from the mountains views, we stop at Dornan’s for a drink & strike up a conversation with a woman from Dover, NH!
4:30 PM – Checked into Miller Park Lodge in Jackson & discovered the best room of the week: huge room with Jacuzzi tub, plush carpet, king bed, fireplace, kitchenette & little 2nd floor deck with table & chairs! Lovely… and all for about $150. It was walking distance to restaurants & downtown. Returned the rental car, cooler & UN-used bear spray to Dollar to streamline the next morning. Called Teton Mountain Taxi for a 5 AM pick up for next day (blah!). Walked around town & in shops. Dinner at The Snake River Brewery – noisy but fun place with good meals. Sat on our room’s deck… it cooled off nicely. What a full & wonderful final day in Wyoming!

“All good things are wild and free.” ~  Henry David Thoreau

June 30: Taxi arrived promptly at 5 AM & our flight home left at 7:15 AM.  Sigh…
I already want to plan my next trip to Grant Teton & Yellowstone National Parks.

Our plane at 7 AM. Good bye to the Teton Montains!
Our plane at 7 AM.
Good bye to the Teton Montains!

Day 7 – Trip West

“My restless, roaming spirit would not allow me to remain                                                      at home for very long.”  ~ Buffalo Bill Cody

June 28:

This is our day in Cody with very little driving! Enjoyed complementary motel breakfast. The morning brings cloudless blue skies (again!) and it was going to be a hot one: highs in mid-80s. We drove through town and visited the Buffalo Bill Dam which is an historic site. Dam built in 1905-09. The Visitor Center is like a small museum – husband enjoyed the history & details of how they built the dam.

Next stop @ 10:30 AM – Buffalo Bill Center of The West. This is like 5 different museums in one:  Firearms Museum, Museum of Plains Indians, Museum of Natural History (of the area), Western Art Museum AND Life of Buffalo Bill (William Cody). This is a huge place and of Smithsonian Museum quality. Well worth the $18 admission (which is good for 2 days). We spent 4 hours here & could have spent a bit more time. There are also some great sculptures outside. The museum’s café is nice – we had lunch there (good salad bar!).

Rested back at motel in late afternoon. It’s hot! Headed out @ 5 for Cody Cattle Co. – buffet dinner and music show. This is a large cavern-type open room & we arrived early.  Got seats front & center by stage. Buffet is bountiful, simple food but tasty. An elderly couple from Louisiana sat across picnic table from us & we had a nice chat. He is 82 & just retired! His company gave him a trip West. The show was an hour long and great fun: a family act with wife on guitar, husband on fiddle & 14 year old son on bass. Band leader on guitar also… all very talented. Sang country classics. At 7:30, we drove a short block to the Cody Rodeo. Two hours of roping calves, barrel racing, bucking broncos, bull riding & rodeo clown banter.  Enjoyed a beautiful Wyoming sunset during the show. It was still quite warm (upper 70s) at 10 PM, when show ended.

Cody Cattle Co. Show
Cody Cattle Co. Show
Buffalo Bill Statue @ Museum
Buffalo Bill Statue @ Museum
Cody Rodeo!
Cody Rodeo!

Day 6 – Trip West

Bison in Lamar Valley
Bison in Lamar Valley

June 27:
Quiet night. Drove through Roosevelt Arch at 6:50 AM. Bright blue, cloudless skies & in the upper 50s.   Four elk are bedded down near the Arch.
7:30 AM – turned onto road toward northeast entrance and into Lamar Valley. Large, glacier boulders are strewn through the area. We would say, “Boulder or bison?” Saw herds with many baby bison. Saw elk and deer. No wolves.   Passed Soda Butte, a dormant cone geyser. Lamar Valley is vast & peaceful looking with sagebrush & winding rivers.

8:30 AM – exit the park & stop at nice rest rooms @ Chamber building in Cooke City. Last of civilization before the Beartooth Highway.  Wild & fantastic scenery, dramatic drive!

Beartooth Highway vista
Beartooth Highway vista
on the Beartooth Highway
on the Beartooth Highway

The road goes up, up, up… switchbacks, cliffs & drop offs. Incredibly stunning views – pictures just can’t do it justice (but I took a lot anyway!). Turned around to return rather than going all the way to Red Lodge.
11:30 AM – Onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway which is another beautiful drive. Stopped for picnic lunch overlooking the Absaroka Mountain Range. It’s in the upper 70s – crazy, after being in SNOW on the Beartooth.  Stop at Dead Indian Hill Summit & read several historical signs about the flight of the Nez Perce Indians.

1:40 PMCody, Wyoming! Drive through town & 13 miles out to Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. Small, interesting museum that tells the story of the Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp during WWII. Over 10,000 Japanese-Americans shipped here from the West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Not a proud incident for the USA.

3:30 PM – checked into The Beartooth Inn (on outskirts of town on 17th Street). Huge room with fridge, coffee maker & microwave.  Chill in room a bit – temps now in high 80s.  Stroll around downtown area & watch the free ‘shoot out’ skit in front of the Irma Hotel.  Walk down a block to Adriano’s Italian Restaurant. Good dinner.

Heart Mountain
Heart Mountain
Shoot Out show in front of the Irma Hotel
Shoot Out show in front of the Irma Hotel

Day 5 – Trip West

Overlooking Swan lake
Overlooking Swan lake

June 26:

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir

Up early, breakfast in room, packed up & headed north. Sunshine & 50 degrees.
Pretty drive past Yellowstone Lake again. Through Hayden Valley, bison dot the hillsides.
Everything is so green.

Once we passed the Canyon area, things became mountainous. By the time we reach Dunraven Pass, it’s overcast and views aren’t too impressive.  Patches of snow dot the roadside. A coyote ran off the road. This stretch of road is closed from mid-October to mid-May.

9:30 AM – Just north of a little road construction, we stopped at Tower Fall. There is also a store (coffee!) & restrooms at same parking area so it’s a multi-purpose stop. The fall is a short walk. Just a few people around.  We’ve put 500 miles on the rental car at this point.

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Tower Fall

Took Blacktail Plateau Drive – a 7 mile, one-way loop on dirt road with pretty views. Saw mule deer with fawn & bison with a couple calves (reddish in color). Then took super-short hike/walk to Wraith Falls (just south of Mammoth area).

11:45 AM – arrive in Mammoth Hot Springs area. & have lunch at Terrace Grill.  Tour through the Visitor Center and walk through historic fort area.

The area was rather crowded. We walked part of the Lower Terraces & drove the Upper Terrace Loop and stopped a few places.

Breezy, sunny & afternoon temps in the upper 60s.

Headed out of Mammoth (toward Norris) and stopped at pull out overlooking Swan Lake & had a drink sitting on tailgate & checked out some sandhill cranes in distance with binoculars.

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Marmot seen on Wraith Falls Trail
Lupines on trail to Wraith Falls
Lupines on trail to Wraith Falls
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Mammoth Hot Springs, Lower Terraces
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Roosevelt Arch, Northern Entrance
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Palette Spring, Lower Terraces

Back through congested Mammoth Village (female elk in middle of the rotary!). Drove out Northern Entrance, through Roosevelt Arch which I really loved, for some reason.  Entered MONTANA where we stayed one night in Gardiner at the Travel Lodge. Nice room & motel has laundry facilities. Relaxed a bit & did a load of laundry.  Dinner at The Raven Grill. Excellent meals. Walked from restaurant down the ‘main drag’ to the Arch where a few elk, with a baby, were hanging around. Checked out a few shops.  Drove out of Gardiner a few miles, past Devils Slide.

Day 4 – Trip West

June 25:
Awake to another drizzle. This is our Canyon Day plus whatever else we ramble to…

It’s in the mid 40s when we leave Grant at 7:45 AM. Pretty drive along the lake and through the Hayden Valley. The valley is open with the Yellowstone River winding through it & gentle hillsides of sagebrush.   Saw many bison and geese. Stopped for a couple bison to cross the road.

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Hayden Valley
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Brief bison jam
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Lower Falls from Artist Point – Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The drizzle stopped just as we arrived at The Grand  Canyon of Yellowstone & Artist Point. Amazing views of the canyon & lower falls. Canyon walls, like other rock in the park, are yellow in hue – how the park got its name. Drove both South & North Rim drives & stopped at all overlooks, walk around, took many pictures. Don’t hike as much as planned due to wetness, chill & threat of more rain.

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Upper Falls

Toured through Canyon Visitor Center – interesting volcano exhibit. Stopped at the Canyon store for coffee & a snack. Then head to Norris area with a detour on the 2 mile, one-way Virginia Cascades Drive. Spent over an hour at Norris Geyser Basin walking the Back Basin (1.5 mi.) loop. Wood board walks again with lots of pines around & mountain views. Prettier than some other geyser areas.

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Steamboat Geyser was quiet, North Geyser Basin
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Emerald Spring, Norris Geyer Basin

Quick visit to Museum of the National Park Ranger. Basically, this is a small, 2 room museum – small but interesting.
Drove north as far as Obsidian Cliff in search of picnic area… turned around & stopped near Norris area for a quick lunch (chilly & breezy). Aided a family from Montana with a dead pick up in picnic area. Tried jumping them with no luck & gave woman a ride back to Canyon Village service station.

Drove back through Hayden Valley with herds of bison in distance. Over Fishing Bridge, drove up to Lake Butte Overlook. Great vista over the lake & hillside covered with wildflowers. Turned around back toward Fishing Bridge & saw a BEAR on bank by road! We were able to pull off the road for some good pictures. Stayed IN car.

Stopped in Lake Village and walked around. Went into Yellowstone Lake Hotel – huge lobby with large windows overlooking the lake. Had a drink, enjoyed the view & music courtesy of piano player. Hotel was built in 1890.

Drive back to Grant Village & saw a large, male elk right by the road!  I am a happy Yellowstone Camper!   Dinner at Lake House Restaurant in Grant Village.  Not as good as Applebee’s but at least it is right on the lake so the views are nice.

Elk by the road
Elk by the road
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Bear sighting!

 

 

 

 

 

“Adopt the pace of Nature:  her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake