6 Reasons You Should Stay Outdoors This Summer in Pittsburgh
We’re proud of our gorgeous treetop adventure course in beautiful North Park, offering rope ladders, zip lines and safe obstacles through the canopy of a lovely pine forest bordering a 63-acre lake. But it’s far from the only outdoor adventure available to the people of the city of bridges.
The people of Pittsburgh have many reasons to spend the summer outside.
Pittsburgh exists because of its three rivers. The Monongahela and Allegheny come together to form the Ohio River here.
The city boasts more bridges than any other in North America, with more than 400 river crossings. But why would you want to cross them? There’s no better way to pass a beautiful summer day than out on the water.
Close in to downtown, where the waters are gentle and wide, the bright yellow flatwater boats of Kayak Pittsburgh are a common site. They’re affordable (they even offer season passes if you don’t want to own your own boat, but you do want to get out on the water often), and offer guided paddling tours or will simply rent you a boat to play with on your own route.
THEY HAVE SEVERAL LOCATIONS, INCLUDING ONE RIGHT IN NORTH PARK
A little further out, you can get a little more adventurous. The Youghiogheny is among the east coast’s best whitewater routes, with gentle beginner rapids in its middle stretch, intermediate challenges in the lower river, and some of the country’s most intense class V rapids on the upper river nearest the city. Pittsburgh’s unique history makes it a fantastic fishing destination. In the nineteenth and early 20th centuries, the city’s steel industry left the three rivers polluted. But in the 21st, the cleanup has solved much of that, and the many dams, bridges and walled banks left by industrialization are ideal shelters for many recovering species of fish.
CLIMB ON WORLD-CLASS GRITSTONE
The geology of western Pennsylvania makes it ideal for climbers, and Pittsburgh offers numerous ways to get involved in the sport.
Novice climbers may want to start indoors, where lessons and equipment rentals lower the cost of getting started. The fantastic indoor gym at The Climbing Wall makes that simple. But Pittsburgh residents have a great resource for starting outdoors as well, with the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh, which offers rock climbing school from mid-April to early June every year.
Once you get a little experience under your belt, you can head out to climb the fantastic gritstone of western Pennsylvania. A coarse-grained form of sandstone, this stuff is easy to grip and easily found within a day’s drive of Pittsburgh.
Ohiopyle State Park’s Meadow Run Climbing Area, Bruner Run Climbing Area and the walls along the Lower Youghiogheny section of the Great Allegheny Passage are all within easy reach. McConnell’s Mill State Park north of the city offers Rim Road Climbing Area and Breakneck Ridge, which are perfect for more experienced climbers looking for a challenge.
Explore Beautiful Urban Parks
You don’t have to drive far to experience the outdoors in Pittsburgh. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the city. The City of Bridges is home to more than 2,000 acres of parkland.
They offer a huge variety of outdoor adventures. Riverview Park on the north side features dense woodlands and trails suited for hikers, bikers, and even horseback riders. Three Rivers Park is 80 percent completed, and is already one of the longest urban waterfront parks in the world.
And just north of the city, Emerald View Park sits atop Mt. Washington and offers spectacular views.
The rich history of philanthropy in Pittsburgh has brought natural experiences from all over the world to the city as well. The legendary Phipps Conservatory in Schenley Park is one of the world’s richest garden collections, hosting plant species from all over the world in fourteen indoor and six outdoor garden spaces. The National Aviary in the Allegheny Commons is home to more than 200 species of birds.
Get in Shape Outdoors
Apart from shaping the city’s beauty, Pittsburgh’s geology does another good deed for its citizens – it keeps them in shape.
The city rises out of its rivers. It’s built on a steep slope – more than a quarter of Pittsburgh neighborhoods are named for hills or heights.
This massive elevation change necessitates the famous “Pittsburgh steps” – the city’s more than 700 sets of public stairways, which together comprise more than 24,000 feet of vertical rise. Maps of the city include hundreds of “streets” that are nothing but long stairways. Some of the city’s steepest roads have seemingly endless staircases for sidewalks. There are more than 100 public staircases here that have more than 100 steps.
Are your quads burning just thinking about it? Hikers, runners and fitness walkers love the City of Bridges, where nearly every route offers a calorie-burning challenge and spectacular views of the water.
Experience a Biker’s Dream
Those same topographical features make Pittsburgh a fabulous place to get out on your bike.
Urban biking up those steep streets is a fitness challenge, and biking back down is a childhood joy. This has led so many Pittsburgh residents to take up biking to work that the city has installed real-time bike lane counters on some commute routes to study the phenomenon.
When you don’t want to share the road with cars, the city parks boast many biking trails. The Pittsburgh Off-Road Cyclists club is working to categorize and map them all, and organizes group rides nearly every day of the year.
Looking for a weekend riding challenge? Pittsburgh is the starting point of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 335-mile biking route all the way to Washington, D.C., plotted mostly on canal towpaths.