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Caitlin Venczel is the founder of Hike It Baby Pittsburgh, a local baby- and kid-friendly free hiking group that treks all over the city throughout the week. Since I love hiking in the Fall, I asked Caitlin to share her five favorite hiking trails in the city for families.
By Caitlin Venczel
Looking for family-friendly hiking trails? You’re in luck because I’ve got some great advice – grab your family, go to a trail and start walking – bam! Family-friendly hiking trail. In all seriousness, most trails ARE family-friendly.
Don’t be intimidated by super long trails. Get .5 mile in. Do more another day! Maybe a hike has some technical footing? Throw (well, place) your child in a child carrier (some go up to 50lbs!), grab a hiking pole and go hiking! Maybe you feel like because you can’t get a “good” hike in, it’s not worth going at all. Yes, it takes time to get your kiddos ready and get out the door. But getting outdoors, even for a small walk in your local park, can make everyone happier. And the more you do it, the more you’ll love it and the easier it’ll be.
Here are five of my favorite hiking spots to get you started. Interested in finding more? Join me over at Hike it Baby Pittsburgh – a free group dedicated to getting families outside.
Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel
This gem of a place offers a unique, natural play area, a pond filled with schools of goldfish and wonderfully maintained trails. The trail around the pond is less than a mile and great for little walkers. Strollers can manage as well but there are some roots to watch out for. There are many other trail options in Beechwood Farms. Grab a map in the visitor center and hike around their five miles of trails!
Tranquil Trail in Frick Park
A favorite of HIB Pittsburgh, this trail is exactly as its name suggests – tranquil. Relatively flat, and with a wide packed gravel & dirt path, this trail is excellent for walkers and strollers alike (though something with shocks is recommended). Expect to find fairy houses in the roots of some of the trees, and have fun tossing fallen sticks and leaves into the creek that follows part of the trail. For more info on the Tranquil Trail and other wonderful trails in Frick Park, check here.
Three Rivers Heritage Trail
Explore Pittsburgh’s riverfronts! The 24 miles of trails that make up the Three Rivers Heritage Trail are usually paved or hard-packed gravel/dirt paths. You’ll see lots of bikes on this trail – that’s one way to know a trail works for strollers too! There are tons of different segments of this trail and each one offers different views of Pittsburgh.
A favorite of mine is along the North Shore – it passes the Science Center, Heinz Field, the Water Steps, and PNC Park and offers a spectacular view of Downtown. This would be a fun trail to treat as a project. Print a map and mark off the different segments of the trail as you hike them with your family. Once you get them all done, it’s time to celebrate! For more info on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system, check this out.
Emerald View Park
Looking for a hike that’ll also be a great workout? Have older children that want a destination to hike to? Hike the George & Guy Trail in Emerald View Park. Offering one of the best (maybe THE best) views in the city, the hike along Mt. Washington is absolutely worth it. Though the trail is wide, there are some portions that get a little steep so this hike is best for children out of the darting phase. Also, this trail is not necessarily stroller-friendly, so may be best for older kids or babies in carriers. You can always use a child carrier to contain some of that energy as well ;). This hike offers both an urban and secluded feel – it’s a very special park.
The trail along Fall Run travels up a valley bottom crossing several bridges and passing by several waterfalls. One large waterfall waits for you about ¾ of a mile up the trail. This is a great hike for kiddos that might need some extra motivation on the trail because they can count the waterfalls and bridges along the way. If you can time the hike with warm weather, the stream is great for splashing and playing in as it is fairly shallow, with flat rocky sections. There’s also a playground at the trail head in case your little ones still have energy after the hike. Please note: this trail may not be the best for strollers!
Enjoy the trails! And as always, happy hiking!