Brady's Run Park
Phone - (724) 846-5600
Website - www.co.beaver.pa.us/recreation/brady.htm
Admission Fee – None
Directions – Fallston; on PA 51, east of the intersection with PA 60. The park entrance is the first right.
Samuel Brady was born near Shippensburg in 1756 and before he was 20 was serving in the Colonial Army outside Boston. He crossed the Delaware River with Washington’s troops and fought in every engagement until being seriously wounded in the Battle of Brandywine. By 1780 he was back on the Pennsylvania frontier and, after his brother and father were killed in Indian raids, swearing vengeance against “the entire race.” Captain Brady cut a wide swath as an Indian fighter and woodsman; spawning legends in his wake that rivaled those of Daniel Boone. In the Beaver Valley he escaped torture after capture by snatching a baby and tosssing it in a fire. Most famously, he outmaneuvered Indian pursuers on both flanks by leaping across a 22-foot gorge in the Cuyahoga River near Kent, Ohio (the first gold medal in the 1896 Olympic Long Jump, contested without buckskin and not carrying a rifle, was won with a jump of 21 feet). Samuel Brady isn’t remembered much anymore in the county park that began in 1946 and bears his name. Today, the park is best known for its annual Maple Syrup Festival that attracts 30,000 visitors each spring.
Looking for a good workout for your trail dog? Brady’s Run Park will fit the bill. The North and South trails can be welded into a 5.6-mile loop that visits all of Beaver County’s largest park and countless ridgetops and drops. Most of your dog’s hiking day will be spent under leafy hardwoods (the park comes by that maple syrup honestly) on natural surfaces. That is for serious canine hikers. Entry level travel dogs can test out the flat, one-mile Walker’s Loop along the PA 51 corridor and Ed Calland Arboretum at the other end of the park. This 3/4-mile loop will introduce some of the dips and rolls you will experience on the main Brady’s Run trails.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural dirt footpaths
Workout For Your Dog – More than an hour of canine hiking
Swimming - Your dog can cool down in Brady Run and, if it’s not busy, jump into Brady Lake
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed to hike the trails but can’t join in the feast at the picnic shelters
Without question, the greatest tree in America prior to 1900 was the chestnut. Rot resistant with fine-grained wood, the chestnut tree supported both vibrant wildlife populations and entire rural economies.It was estimated that one in every four trees in the eastern forests was a chestnut tree - some as old as 600 years. But in 1904 an Asian fungus was discovered in the Bronx Zoo in New York and the blight soon decimated the chestnut population. By 1950 millions of acres of woodlands were left with dead, standing trees. The chestnut blight remains 100% fatal - young chestnuts may reach 20 or 30 feet but are doomed to succumb to the disease. A specimen of this original prince of the American forest can be seen in the Calland Arboretum.
Forbes State Forest -Mt. Davis Natural Area
Phone - (724) 238-1200
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/maps/ForbesMtDavis.pdf
Admission Fee – None
Directions - Meyersdale; west of town via Mt. Davis Road (SR 2004) from the US 219 Bypass.
How long has Mt. Davis been the highest point in Pennsylvania? Well, always, of course. But it wasn’t recognized as such until 1921 when the U. S. Geological Survey established the fact that the crest of Negro Mountain is 3,213 feet above sea level. This survey officially snatched the honor of “Pennsylvania’s Roof” away from Bedford County’s Blue Knob. The slight rise in the 30-mile plateau of Negro Mountain was named for the long-time 19th century owner of the land, John Nelson Davis, rather than recognizing the heroic expoits of the unidentified black man who fought heroically during the French and Indian War and was buried on the mountain. Davis, himself was a Civil War veteran and naturalist who was said to be able to identify all the shrubs, wildflowers and plants growing in the area. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased thousands of acres of land on Negro Mountain in 1929. The observation tower affording 360-degree views was constructed in 1935 (open steps may inhibit your dog from getting those views).
As tagging state highpoints goes, Mt. Davis is unique. Scaling mountain peaks does not spring to mind. Assuming you don’t drive to the summit and take the short, flat walk to the highpoint, your dog’s approach to the top of Pennsylvania will be a hike of nearly a mile from the Mt. Davis Picnic Area on the High Point Trail. This sliver of path is essentially a straight shot through an area recovering from a destructive 1951 fire. After a gentle ascent your dog will reach the highest natural point in Pennsylvania - a rock. A network of footpaths and old logging roads surround the Natural Area in Forbes State Forest where you can cobble together canine hiking loops around Negro Mountain from seven to 10 miles.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural dirt tails away from the summit
Workout For Your Dog – About an hour around the summit to a half-day on Negro Mountain
Swimming - Tub Mill Run is best suited for splashing
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted to hike around Mt. Davis
After a spring snowfall in 1849 several of Henry Baughman’s cows wandered away from his farm atop Negro Mountain. Baughman and two of his sons set out to track down the wandering bovines.Twelve-year old August had trouble keeping up and his father, known to be of ill-temper, struck him hard with a stick. Believing he had killed the boy, he dumped the body among a pile of deeply crevassed boulders and returned home. He bullied his other son into silence and the next day reported August missing. After an extensive search for several weeks Baughman’s suspicious behavior led to his arrest for murder. His family testified against him and he was convicted despite no trace of the body being found.He served 11 years in prison and returned to Negro Mountain to live out his life, all the while proclaiming his innocence. Years later a skull and bones were found in a nearby swamp, believed to be August Baughman and giving rise to the theory that the boy revived long enough to try to get home but perished in the swamp.Baughman Rocks can be seen near the intersection of SR 2004 and South Wolf Rock Road.
Forbes State Forest -Quebec Run Wild Area
Phone - (724) 238-1200
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/maps/ForbesQuebecRun.pdf
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Hopwood; east of town off US 40. At the top of the mountain turn south on Skyline Drive after the Laurel Summit Inn. Go 1.8 miles past Laurel Caverns and bear left where the road goes downhill to the right. This is unmarked and unimproved Quebec Road. Drive carefully down to the parking area on the right in 1.3 miles.
Forbes State Forest takes its name from General John Forbes, a Scotsman who led a methodical march on French-held Fort Duquesne in 1758. Forbes commanded the cutting of a wagon road out of the wilderness over the Allegheny Mountains, building a series of fortifications along the way to serve as supply depots. Forbes’ army was repulsed in its first attack on Fort Duquesne in September and he fell back to wait until spring for his next attempt. In the interim Indian support for the French fell apart and on November 25, 1758 the British were able to occupy a deserted and burned fort. Forbes immediately ordered the construction of a new fort between the rivers, which he called Fort Pitt after British Secretary of State William Pitt the Elder. Gravely ill from his campaign, Forbes left a week later, heading back to Philadelphia to die. His stay in the area was short but his legacy long-lasting. Before he left he named the settlement “Pittsborough.”
Quebec Run, covering 7,441 wooded acres, is one of 16 state forest areas designated as a “wild area” - no amenities, no developments, including access roads. The forest on the east slope of Chestnut Ridge is laced with a honeycomb of footpaths and abandoned logging roads that make possible a variety of canine hiking loops. Budget at least two hours for any route you devise however. The hemlock and rhodedendron-shaded waters of Quebec Run that split the forest are a prime destination for most visitors. These lively waters are traced by the Rankin Trail that is intersected by a trio of trail to compose hiking loops. Deeper incursions lead to Tebolt Run and Mill Run. Just off Mill Run are the the ruins of an old water-powered grist mill.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic mostly with a few mountain bikes. Weekends - especially in late spring when the rhodedendrons are in bloom - will be busy enough you might see another trail user every half hour or so.
Workout For Your Dog – A full day is possible
Swimming - Quebec Run and Tebolt Run are mostly for frolicking but Mill Run is deep enough to support a doggie swim
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome in the state forest
Standing along Skyline Drive atop Chestnut Ridge is the last fire tower in the Braddock Division of the Forbes State Forest. Built in 1937, the 80-foot high tower is no longer manned but is open to the public briefly in the fall for unparalleled views of three states. The grounds also house a cabin once used by the full-time fire watcher, plus a pavilion and a topographical marker.
Forbes State Forest - Roaring Run Natural Area
Phone - (724) 238-1200
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/maps/ForbesRoaringRun.pdf
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Champion; from PA 31 turn south on PA 711/PA 381. After a mile make your first left on County Line Road. Wind through the town to the parking area on the left after 1.8 miles. Parking is also available at the top of Laurel Ridge off PA 31. Use the McKenna Trail to reach the Roaring Run hydrospectacular.
Roaring Run Natural Area was created in 1975 with the acquisition of more than 3,000 acres on the western slope of Laurel Ridge. The property protects nearly the entire watershed of Roaring Run that had been threatened by the intensive logging for over 100 years. The hillside was clearcut as recently as the 1960s. Waters from Roaring Run spill into Indian Creek on their way to the Youghiogheny River.
This is an exciting place to hike for any trail dog who enjoys splashing through streams - there may be as many as 30 unbridged crossings of Roaring Run and its little branches. Depending on the time you come these fords may be dry or impassable. You get several routing options in the natural area but essentially you are working either up or down the mountain slope along Roaring Run - the stream drops 1,200 feet in five miles from its source on Laurel Ridge. You are rewarded with views in a few places in the mossy woodland, including on the Panther Rock Trail and Birch Rocks off the South Loop Trail. Although the options are plentiful, budget a full afternoon with your dog when hiking through Roaring Run, much of which takes place on old logging roads.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Wooded dirt trails
Workout For Your Dog – As much hiking as your dog wants
Swimming - Plenty of splashing but not as much swimming will be in store for your dog in Roaring Run
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome in the state forest
Near the head of the McKenna Trail at the top of Roaring Run you will find a squat obelisk monument with the inscription of three names: “D.A. SHEETS, C.K. BAKER, CATERINE SAYLOR”. Under the names it reads “KILLED JAN 19, 1896.” The three children died that day in a sleigh accident while returning from church.
National Historic Site
Phone – (724) 725-9190
Website - www.nps.gov/frhi/
Admission Fee - None
Directions – New Geneva; one mile south of town. From I-70 take Exit 46 (US 51) South to Uniontown and US 119 South to Point Marion. Turn onto PA 166 north for 3 miles to park entrance.
When Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery reached the Three Forks of the Missouri on July 25, 1805, more than 2,500 miles from their starting point on the Mississippi River, the expedition had once again come to a critical juncture, the con-fluence of three previously uncharted rivers. The explorers named the rivers after Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Albert Gallatin. Presidents Jefferson and Madison are well-known but the honor reflects the esteem with which the Swiss-born Gallatin, largely forgotten today, was once held. Nineteen-year old Albert Gallatin and a partner landed near Boston in 1780 with $400 and a load of tea to sell. When he failed to make a profit, he took a job teaching French at Harvard. In 1786, while surveying for another partner, he bought 400 acres of land he called Friendship Hill, hoping to persuade other emigrants to settle on the Monongahela River. Gallatin lived here for 40 years although elected and appointed positions, including Secretary of the Treasury in two administrations, kept him away most of the time. One of his last events at Friendship Hill before selling in 1825 and moving to New York City was hosting the Marquis de Lafayette during his tour of America on the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution.
The nine miles of trails at Friendship Hill serve up the best combination of woods and meadow hiking in southwest Pennsylvania. The Main Loop Trail visits it all in the course of 3.8 miles, commencing and fin-ishing at the Gallatin House. The paw-friendly natural surface trail picks its way through old growth forests and rhodedendrons down to an old farm road on the banks of the Monongahela River. This is flat, easy going for your dog for half the hike. Don’t forget to look up the hill at the rock formations as you mosey along here. Once back atop the bluff, several loops explore the meadows on the property. Although mostly paw-friendly grass, these wide trails across gently rolling terrain can be wet and squishy after a rain. Otherwise they are a delight in the sunshine.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The Main Loop Trail is blazed in green; secondary loops are marked in red and cut-offs are designated in yellow. If you can’t get a trail map from the office there are frequent “You Are Here” mapboards posted around the park and directional signs at junctions.
Workout For Your Dog – Easy going but plenty of hiking available
Swimming - In several places your dog can scramble down to sand/mud beaches for a swim in the Monongahela River. Keep your dog out of the streams on the property where the surface water may be contaminated from mine seepage.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed across the Friendship Hill grounds
Albert Gallatin began building the brick and stone two-story house that is the centerpiece of the park in 1789, the same year he brought his wife Sophia to the edge of the wilderness over the objections of her family. Sophia died after only six months at Friendship Hill and she is buried in an unmarked grave - at her request - in the woods below the mansion.
Phone - (412) 682-7275
Website - www.pittsburghparks.org/Frick17.php
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Pittsburgh; Forbes Avenue dissects the park. For the Tranquil Trail, turn south on South Braddock Road to parking on the right beyond the tennis courts. For the Frick Environmental Center, turn onto Beechwood Road.
Henry Clay Frick was born in Westmoreland County in 1849 into the Overholt Whiskey Distillery family. At 21, vowing to be a millionaire by the age of 30, he struck out on his own to manufacture coke for the steel industry. He was employing 1,000 workers by his deadline. In 1882, while on his honeymoon in New York City, he met Andrew Carnegie and struck up a partnership that propelled Frick into one of the most influential industrialists of the Gilded Age. Although he spent his later years in New York City, Frick bequeathed 150 acres south of his Point Breeze mansion, Clayton, to the City of Pittsburgh for a public park. He provided a $2 million trust fund to help with long-term maintenance and the money was used to purchase more land, enlarging the park to 600 acres and making Frick Park the largest of the city’s four major parks.
Frick Park has something to enthrall any level of canine hiker. Just out for an easy stroll with your dog? The Tranquil Trail travels gently up the spine of the park through Fern Hollow Valley, tracing and crossing the stream for more than one mile. If the wide, crushed gravel and dirt path isn’t paw-friendly enough, grassy shoulders abound. For trail dogs sniffing out more of a challenge, head over to Riverview Hill and the trails that wind up and around the wooded promonotory. Or leave the Tranquil Trail and make the short spirited climb up the Biddle Trail or the longer but considerably more scenic pull up the Falls Ravine Trail to Clayton Hill and the Frick Environmental Center. Here your dog can trot the exceedingly agreeable North/South Clayton Loop for just over a mile. This is all shaded hiking for your dog.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Plenty of use for these packed dirt trails and crushed gravel walkways
Workout For Your Dog - You can complete a satisfactory canine hike in under an hour or spend several
Swimming - Swimming holes in the park include Hot Dog Dam and shallower water for splashing can be found along the Falls Ravine Trail
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome to hike in the park and plenty do. Pittsburgh’s first official dog park is in Frick Park off the Tranquil Trail at Hot Dog Dam.
The stone Frick Gatehouses provide an elegant gateway to the park. The French-style gatehouse at the north end of Tranquil Trail on Reynolds Street was designed by John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial.The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy completely restored the gatehouse, cleaning the stonework and adding a new clay tile roof and historic lighting. New cypress doors, matching the originals, were installed, reusing some of the historic hardware.
Harrison Hills Park
Phone - (724) 295-3570
Website - www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/hhfac.aspx
Admission Fee – None
Directions – Natrona Heights; at 5200 Veterans Lane. Take PA 28 North to Exit 16, Freeport-Millerstown. Make a right onto Millerstown Road and another right on Freeport Road after a bit more than a half-mile. Climb the hill and turn left into the park at the sign.
Harrison Hills is the northernmost nugget in the necklace of Allegheny County regional parks. Each park is developed around a theme and here it is birdspotting from the bluffs high above the Allegheny River. The centerpiece of Harrison Hills is a whitewashed wooden river overlook site dedicated to Michael Watts, a lifelong resident of the area who monitored pollution of the river and reported problems to the state environmental agency. One half of all fine money collected was given to Watts, who returned his share to the county with the request that it continue his efforts to keep our rivers clean.
The red-blazed Scouts Trail is the best way to see all of Harrison Hills’ 500 acres. This 5-mile loop will take in the rolling dirt path along the Allgheny Bluffs, cross ravines and pass seasonal waterfalls, traverse the heavly-forested interior and pass a woodland pond. If you are on a time budget, the Allegheny cliffs that begin right at the parking lot should be your destination. This is easy going for your dog but there are no guardrails atop the sheer cliffs so keep a rein on a rambunctious trail dog. You can retrace your steps at any point or pick up an interior trail like the Wetlands Trail to get your dog back home.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The trails are named and honestly blazed; an excellent trail mapboard is available for study at the parking lot but there is nothing to take along with you
Workout For Your Dog – Going up and down the bluffs will qualify as a workout
Swimming - The Allegheny River is out of reach but your dog can content herself with paddling in the park pond
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on these trails
Rachel Carson was born on May 27, 1907 in a five-room farmhouse in the newly formed borough of Springdale, overlooking the Allegheny River. After her schooling Carson went to Baltimore to study and teach at Johns Hopkins University. Eventually she joined the zoology department at the University of Maryland. She indulged a lifelong love of the sea by leaving for a post with the Bureau of Fisheries in Washington as an aquatic biologist in 1936. She began writing and editing for the government before leaving to write about biology fulltime in 1952. By this time Carson had gained world fame with the award-winning book, The Sea Around Us. Her seminal work, Silent Spring, was published a decade later and introduced Americans to the dangers inherent in widespread use of chemical pesticides. Rachel Carson died of breast cancer shortly thereafter in 1964 and is buried in Rockville, Maryland. The Rachel Carson Trail runs 35.7 miles from the park to North Park; a spur leads to the Carson Homestead.
Phone - (412) 767-9200
Website – www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/hwfac.aspx
Admission Fee – None
Directions - Pittsburgh; Take PA 28 North to Exit 5, Etna-Butler, onto PA 8. Turn right in 3/4 mile onto Saxonburg Boulevard.
For parking at the mansion continue on Saxonburg for four miles. For trail parking, turn left quickly onto Middle Run Road after exiting from PA 8 and continue to parking before the elementary school.
William Flinn’s family left Manchester, England for Pittsburgh’s Sixth Ward in 1852 when he was barely one year old. Young William left the Pittsburgh public schools at the age of nine to work the city streets. His father had been a small contractor but William eyed contracting on a larger scale. Mixing in Republican politics, Flinn won much of the paving and construction business in Pittsburgh during the exploding industrial times of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Flinn’s daughter Mary used her inheritance to create one of the region’s most magnificent country estates, pivoting around an elegant 16th century Tudor manor house. In 1969, she offered the estate to Allegheny County as a park and just like that the county had a ready-made crown jewel in its park system.
When you bring your dog to Hartwood Acres, you come to walk. There are no recreation or sport facilities on its 629 acres. The manor house, stable and outdoor sculptures are still in place to admire before heading out on the rolling dirt and paved pathways through the wooded countryside. A spiderweb of short and long trails and immaculate bridle paths conspire to provide delightful canine hiking in Hartwood Acres. You can hike with your dog here every day for a month and never take the same route. For lovers of sunshine begin your dog’s day in the Middle Run Lot and enjoy the macadam paths through manicured fields around the Stage, a concert ampitheater. You’ll leave most of the trail users (many with a dog in tow) behind if you slip off the main paved paths onto the whimsically named natural trails. The Heebie Jeebie Trail utilizes tght switchbacks to climb a short hill. The Perfectly Good Trail is just that - a shady circuit in a remote corner of the park through a junkyard of fallen hemlock trees.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Grass and dirt and asphalt
Workout For Your Dog – More than an hour of delightful canine hiking
Swimming - Fox Run in the wooded northern area of the park is deep enough for minnows to swim but not dogs
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed throughout Hartwood Acres and there is a large, fenced off-leash dog area
The European sport of Orienteering was first introduced to this country in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club holds meets in the art of map and compass in Hartwood Acres. Try it and challenge your dog’s nose in a wayfinding contest.
Jennings Environmental Education Center
Phone - (724) 794-6011
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateParks/parks/jennings.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Slippery Rock; southeast of town on PA 528, west of PA 8.
The terrain of the park was formed by a leading edge of the Wisconsin Glacier that marked the end of the last Ice Age 14,000 years ago. The natural valley was used by the Seneca Nation to travel to other members of the Iroquois Confederation. The Venango Trail - now Route 528 that cuts through the park - was heavily used by such travelers as George Washington. Once settlers arrived the land was steadily plundered for its timber and underlying coal. In 1905, Dr. Otto Emery Jennings, who would later become the first president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, was a 28-year old botany teacher when he happened upon a patch of showy purple flowers clustering on 6-foot stalks. The blazing star wildflower is native to the Great Plains, not the Pennsylvania hills. Jennings had discovered a relict finger of midwestern prairies that today is the center of the park and Pennsylvania’s only public and protected prairie.
The compact park is laced with a series of diverse short hiking loops - you can conquer a half-dozen with your dog in less than hour. The woodlands behind the Education Center on the south side of PA 528 are characterized by stream gullies and ridges. The Ridge Trail at the back of the property is the park’s most challenging as it climbs the prehistoric glacial ridge. Across the road are the easy-going trails through the blazing star prairie - come in the late summer for the best wildflower displays. Your dog will be trotting on soft grass through this unique Western Pennsylvania landscape. Behind the prairie the Oakwoods Trail, the park’s longest at a few pawfalls over a mile, rolls easily among forests of oak, maple, hickory and cherry. Ambitious canine hikers can use the Jennings trails to head out on the Glacier Ridge Trail that leads deep into Moraine State Park. This challenging trek is a great place to disappear with your dog for a couple of hours.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Soft grass trails and natural dirt paths
Workout For Your Dog – You can spend just a half-hour in the Blazing Star prairie or several hours to completely experience Jennings Environmental Education Center with your dog
Swimming - The shady Big Run slips almost unnoticed through the park, save for a little stretch of the Black Cherry Trail where your dog can splish-splash but not swim
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted to hike these pleasant trails
The massasauga rattlesnake is smaller by a third than its timbler rattler cousin and much more rare. The name “Massasauga” comes from the Chippewa meaning “great river mouth” and indeed the reclusive viper typically favors swamps. But its wetlands are gone and the snake has adopted the rare eastern prairie ecosystem here as its home. Its venom is more powerful than the timber rattlesnake but its smaller size makes its bite less potent. Still, keep your dog on the trails to minimize the even remote chance to meet this endangered critter.
Laurel Hill State Park
Phone - (814) 445-7725
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/laurelhill.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Trent; from the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) take the Donegal Exit and pick up PA 31 East. Go 14 miles and follow the directional signs to the park
Pennsylvania’s white pine and hemlock were the nation’s most valuable natural resource in the mid-1800s. The timber built America and the bark tanned leather. The state’s ancient forests were ravaged and laid bare. The Laurel Hill Valley’s rugged slopes staved off the onslaught until the 1880s. But the developmetn of 70-ton Shay locomotives that could haul timber up 15-percent grades with ease ended that. It took logging companies only a few decades to clearcut the trees from the steep stream vallies here. In the 1930s the National Park Service targeted five areas for restoration and reforestation, including Laurel Hill. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees, built roads and trails and developed recreation facilities. In 1945 the federal government turned over the park centered around Laurel Hill Lake to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Laurel Hill State Park is a tails-up treat for any dog, featuring a variety of diverse trails with several highlights. You get a choice of eight, all but one between one and two miles in length. A good appetizer is the Pumphouse Trail that targets Jones Mill Run Dam. Like many park trails, this one uses an old logging road grade and is roomy enough to accommodate the snowmobiles that frequent Laurel Hill in the winter. Also like most of the park trails it doesn’t loop so you have a choice of park roads and trails to craft a return trip. The most intriguing is the Tram Road Trail that hopscotches across Jones Mill Run several times. After this easy warm-up the Lake Trail beckons with 500-foot climbs above Laurel Hill Lake before dropping to the shore. This slice of scenic canine workout is 1.75 miles in each direction. The marquee attraction of Laurel Hill State Park is a six-acre stand of virgin hemlock trees that somehow escaped the logger’s axe. These slow-maturing beauties can be more than 300 years old - the record age for an eastern hemlock, designated the Pennsylvania state tree in 1931, is 988 years. An interpretive loop leads your dog through this quiet arboreal shrine, hard by the banks of the rushing Laurel Hill Creek.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural paw-friendly paths
Workout For Your Dog – Most individual hikes with your dog can be completed in an hour or less but you will want to combine several on your visit
Swimming - Laurel Hill Lake will host canine aquatics. The current in Laurel Hill Creek is generally too strong but there are pools and easy access in places. The best doggie swimming hole may be beneath the Jones Mill Run Dam.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome on the trails but not in the campground or in swimming areas
By looking at tree stumps you can often tell when a forest was logged. Higher stumps were cut by two-man saws held above waist level, a technique used in pre-mechanized days. These stumps last longer because they were cut as high as 40 inches off the ground.
Laurel Summit State Park
Phone - (724) 238-6623
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/laurelsummit.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Rector; from the east take Laurel Summit Road off US 30, just west of Jennerstown. From the west, turn off US 30 onto Route 381. Follow Linn Run Road through Linn Run State Park up to Laurel Summit Road and turn left to park.
At six acres, Laurel Summit is one of Pennsylvania’s smallest state parks (Sand Bridge State Park, half the size, is the smallest). Established in 1922, the Laurel Summit campground was the highest in the Keystone State at 2,739 feet. After World War II the “Summit” was designated a state park picnic area.
While a picnic in the coolish air of the tiny picnic park may be plenty for some dogs, canine hikers will view a trip to Laurel Summit as a jumping off point for the Wolf Rocks and Spruce Flats trails in the surrounding Forbes State Forest. The Wolf Rocks are a jumble of sandstone boulders that provide a 180-acre view of the Linn Run Valley. They are reached on a two-hour loop hike through airy, second-growth woods that were last timbered in 1908. Like all the hiking on Laurel Ridge the trip is generally flat but not always easy as there is plenty of rock hopping under paw. The Spruce Flats Trail can be used as an entry to the Wolf Rocks Loop but don’t take it in the spring and early summer or you will miss a tunnel of flowering rhodedendron and mountain laurel. Use the wide, flat, old logging roads through Spruce Flats on your return, however. Expect sloshy going during wet times of the year here. If your dog is just getting warmed up after viewing Wolf Rocks there are plenty of other trails up here to sample, including a slice of the long-distance Laurel Highlands Trail. To really get a feel for Laurel Summit, however, take off with your dog down the Fish Run Trail that mimics the route of the Pittsburgh, Westmoreland and Somerset (PW&S) Railroad. This line began in 1899 to haul logs off Laurel Hill and evolved to also tote passengers to the summit. Grades were as steep as 12% and locomotive brakes needed to be replaced once a week. The trail uses part of the PW&S route that was abandoned in 1916.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: No motorized traffic but you may run into a few mountain bikes. The hike to Wolf Rocks is one of the most popular routes in Forbes State Forest.
Workout For Your Dog – At least two hours
Swimming – Sorry, no
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed to enjoy these trails
It takes a special plant to make a life in a nutrient-challenged environment like the Spruce Flats Bog. Some have evolved to draw their sustenance from juicy insects. The wood bog is a good place to observe these insectivorious plants. Ewer-shaped pitcher plants lure insects with the promise of a sweet nectar meal from which they slip into a deadly trap for consumption by a cocktail of digestive fluids in the pitcher. Tiny hairs pointing downward prevent the doomed victims from crawling to freedom. Small sundews growing low in the bog secrete a gooey substance to snare their next meal.
McConnells Mill State Park
Phone - (724) 368-8091
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/STATEPARKS/parks/mcconnellsmill.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Portersville; from the
intersection of US 19 and US 422, take 422 west and quickly make the first left onto McConnell’s Mill Road into the park.
The ancient 400-foot Slippery Rock Gorge was carved by glacial meltwater that happened so quickly it left rocky outcrops, massive boulders scattered across the canyon floor and swift water that remains to today. In 1974 the 930-acre Slippery Rock Gorge was designated a National Natural Landmark. Daniel Kennedy built the first gristmill on Slippery Rock Creek. Thomas McConnell purchased the mill in 1875 and modernized it, installing water turbines and one of the first rolling mills in the country. For a half-century the mill ground corn, oats and wheat until it ceased to be profitable. The mill survived the transfer of the property to the Commonwealth and remains at the center of the state park that opened in 1957.
All of your dog’s hiking day at McConnells Mill will be spent in the six-mile Slippery Rock Gorge. Luckily for those without a car shuttle or a hankering for retracing pawprints, there are two bridges, one open to traffic and one not, that allow a hiking loop on both sides of the turbulent waters. This 2-mile loop begins at the Old Mill and welds the Kildoo Trail on the east bank to the North Country National Scenic Trail on the west. There is plenty of rock-hopping in store for your dog - more on the east side - and, yes, they can be slippery. But with the heart-stopping scenery in the gorge you won’t be in any hurry to be moving at an unsafe speed. You are seldom more than a few bounds from Slippery Rock Creek that does calm down enough in places for safe dog-paddling. This is often signalled by pockets of sandy beach. Unless it is mid-week or a lousy weather day you probably won’t score one of the four parking spots at the Old Mill so you will need to start at Alpha Pass and hike into the gorge. This dirt path between boulders winds under dark hemlocks and serves as a nice warm-up for the more rugged going downstream from McConnells Mill. The hike to take to give your dog bragging rights with her friends is the titanic 6.2-mile, one-way Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. Confined to the west side of the gorge, this footpath climbs to hillside overlooks and plunges into deep ravines. The all-day hike begins - or ends - in the Upper Hell Run Valley. A parallel strolling path here leads to Hell’s Hollow Falls where your dog can stand inside an old lime kiln, reminiscent of the gorge’s industrial past.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The park map and accurate trail markings will keep you going in the right direction but study beforehand to find the trailheads
Workout For Your Dog – At least two hours
Swimming - Yes, but be careful and keep your dog close to shore - you don’t want to discover that your dog doesn’t understand how to use the life preservers provided along the trail.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are restricted to the trails
Slippery Rock Creek is 49 miles long and filled with foot-challenging boulders but is named for just one exceptionally slick rock. Located below the Armstrong Bridge and not on any park road but accessible by road, a shelf of sandstone at an Indian trail ford was made exceptionally slick by a natural oil seep.When oil wells were dug in the 1800s the oil seep was drained and Slippery Rock is no longer covered in oil.
Mingo Creek Park
Phone - (724) 228-6867
Website - www.washcochamber.com/recreation.asp
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Eighty-Four; east of town, via 136. Turn north on Mansion Hill to the park.
Mingo Creek Park was originally a 304 acre farm owned by a Scottish immigrant named Enos McDonald, a participant in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. The property he called “Cathness” was purchased in 1817 by John Henry who later built a stone house still standing in the park. Descendants of the Henry family continously occupied the house until 1961. Today the county-owned facility covers 2,600 acres of wooded hills. The Mingo Creek Park Observatory was built in 2004 that has become the largest amateur astronomical observatory in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The first stop for dog owners in Mingo Creek Park is the No-Leash Area located on the west side of the park road, just south of Chapel Hill Road at Parking Lot #3. This is not a fenced dog park but open, grassy field areas separated by patches of woodlands. A faint field trail leads steadily uphill to pine woods at the top and long views across the Mingo Creek valley. There is no real delineation to where the No-Leash Area ends so your trail companion will get plenty of chance to romp across the fields like a farm dog. The star trail at Mingo Creek is a route that circles the park for about five miles. This multi-use pathway climbs to the top of hillsides and travels along the bottomlands of the creek, mingling long, solitary stretches with walks through the developed areas of the park. For a hiking-only experience take your dog to the Hemlock Trail that begins across Mingo Creek off Park View Road. This short loop is hard to discern and there actually aren’t that many hemlocks but the walk is lovely and the path super soft and paw-friendly.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: A rough map can be downloaded from the website but nothing is available on-site. Trail markings are scarce and signage spotty so you can almost count on getting mis-directed at some point on longer explorations.
Workout For Your Dog – Fifteen miles of rolling trails await
Swimming - Trout love the quick riffles of Mingo Creek and there may be a few pools deep enough for dog paddling
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome throughout the park and off-leash in places
Pennsylvania still has 208 covered bridges standing, including two in Mingo Creek Park - Ebenezer Covered Bridge and Henry Bridge. Romantic tales of their origin in the early 1800s include scaring off evil spirits and enticing jittery livestock to cross running water but the practical reason for covering bridges is simply to protect the wooden deck and support timbers from the environment. The bridges in this area were always painted red due to an early paint formula. Red oxides in the local soil were a natural insect-proofer. In early September the Mingo Creek spans are a focal point of the Covered Bridge Festival held in Washington and Greene counties every year since 1970. Ironically, the popular caboose-like Ebenezer Bridge wasn’t even in place when the festival started. The bridge, whose beginnings are unknown, was placed on stone abutments from an earlier bridge in 1977.
Moraine State Park
Phone - (724) 368-8811
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateParks/parks/moraine.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Portersville; bisected by PA 422 running east/west and PA Route 528 running north/south. To access the South Shore Recreation Area, take the South Shore Exit off of PA 422. To access the North Shore from PA 422 East, take the North Shore Exit.
As glaciers move across the landscape they shove around enormous piles of soil, rocks and rubble. This mass of debris is known as a moraine. This area was visited by at least four glaciers in intervening Ice Ages. The piles of stone blocked streams, creating three glacial lakes and shaping the topography.When settlers arrived they downed the forests and mined the sand and minerals exposed by the scraping of the glaciers. The discovery of soft bituminous coal here led to the development of deep mining and later the land was strip-mined. In the late 1800s gas wells were drilled. When the wells dried up, they were abandoned and left unsealed. In 1926, Frank W. Preston moved to Meridian from England. A glass researcher by trade, Dr. Preston was also a geologist and naturalist. On a trip to the Muddy Creek Valley he began entranced by the exhausted land and spent decades studying the landforms. Preston led the push to form the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to purchase land to recreate the glacial landscape and preserve open space, leading to Moraine State Park in 1970.
As you might expect from a park that covers 16,725 acres, this is not the destination of the casual dogwalker. There are not many trails for such a large park and expect to invest at least an hour on any canine hike here. If you don’t mind the drone of high-speed traffic, the Pleasant Valley area on the South Shore is a good place to start with two trail options. The Sunken Garden Trail traces one of the many fingers of restored glacial Lake Arthur between ridges of pines. The price you pay for excellent access to the water for a doggie dip is a low-lying trail that ranges from squishy to impassable during wet times. Across the road is the sporty Hill Top Trail that rolls through an attractive mix of hemlocks and hardwoods. Like a good rollercoaster, the route drops down immediately and offers a choice of short and long loops with one last climb to the finish. For a completely different experience you can wrap your dog in silence on the Wyggeston Trail, named by Frank Preston for his boyhood school inEngland, reached off PA 528 on Christley Road. There is a 1.5-mile loop on the heavily wooded knob above Lost Cove. Your dog can bound across a 1.5-mile loop or set off on a three-mile leg to the Forestry Office. The North Shore of the park is your gateway to the arduous North Country Trail that climbs and falls steadily from ridge to ridge. This five-mile leg can be tested as an out-and back or a car shuttle. This is a hike to separate the pups from the dogs.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The North Country Trail is enthusiastically blazed and maintained but the other trails are not quite so energetically marked. Park maps and signposts will keep you oriented but the Wyggeston Trail is ill-defined in places, hampered by windfalls and will challenge even your dog’s wayfinding nose.
Workout For Your Dog – Many hours to a full day
Swimming - There is plenty of dog paddling waiting in Lake Arthur, both from the trails and boat ramps
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome on the Moraine State Park trails
The United States Congress has authorized eight long-distance National Scenic Trails for their particular natural beauty. The most famous are the Appalachian Trail in the East and the Pacific Crest Trail in the West. The longest will one day be the the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST), which will stretch more than 4,600 miles from Crown Point in eastern New York to Lake Sakakawea in western North Dakota. Until that time when you can spend a year hiking with your dog across the northern United States he can content himself with 25 or so miles through Moraine State Park and neighboring McConnell’s Mill.
Ohiopyle State Park
Phone - (724) 329-8591
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ stateparks/Parks/ohiopyle.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Ohiopyle; from the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76), take Exit 91, Donegal. Turn left onto PA 31 east. Travel about two miles, turn right onto PA 711 and PA 381 south. Travel ten miles to Normalville, turn left onto PA 381 south for 11 miles to park.
By the 1870s the railroads had penetrated the rugged Youghiogheny River Gorge and reached Ohiopyle, chasing the timber trade. Quickly enough the breathtaking scenery held sway and soon the Baltimore & Ohio railroad was hauling tourists as well as lumber. It cost $1 to ride from Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle and back. Hotels popped up along the gorge, including the four-story Ferncliff Hotel built on a 100-acre peninsula where the Youghiogheny River doubles back on itself. But roads were slower to arrive than rails and with the rise of the automobile vacationers were diverted elsewhere. Hotels fell into disrepair and were torn down. In 1973 the Ferncliff Peninsula was declared a National Natural Landmark in recognition of its many rare and interesting plants, many being Southern species at the northern reach of their range.
Just about anything on your dog’s canine hiking wish list is on the menu in the nearly 20,000 acres of Ohiopyle State Park. Waterfalls. Swimming holes. Overlooks. Easy hikes. Vigorous workouts. The mandatory canine hike is luckily the easiest and most centrally located - the three miles of trails that sweep around and across the Ferncliff Peninsula. Hugging the water for most of its 1.7 miles, the hemlock-draped Fernwood Trail leads to detours through mature hardwoods and carpets of ferns and past hotel ruins. Waterfalls can be tracked down with little puchase on Jonathan’s Run Trail, the Great Gorge Trail and Meadow Run Trails. Along Meadow Run the water sluices through waterslides that you don’t need a kayak to enjoy. Strap on your dog’s climbing gear and check out valley views along the Kentuck Trail and atop Baughman Rock.The Youghiogheny River Trail is a hike/bike trail so fine that it was tabbed by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the “The World’s Best Walks.” Your dog won’t have to do all 27 miles through the park to agree. Ohiopyle is also the southern terminus for the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Trail, one of Pennsylvania’s permier footpaths. That would be a highlight of most parks; here it is scarcely a footnote.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Many of the trails in the eastern part of the park are multi-use but most of the highlight hikes are foot traffic only
Workout For Your Dog – Many hours to many days
Swimming - Your water-loving dog won’t leave Ohiopyle without a swim, whether in a calm spot in the Youghiogheny or in a pool formed by one of the many runs racing down the mountains
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome to hike in the park but are prohibited in all overnight areas
The famous Lower Yough begins after the Ohiopyle Falls and flows seven miles downstream to the Bruner Run Take-out. This is the busiest section of whitewater east of the Mississippi River, studded with Class III and Class IV rapids. A half-dozen alone can be viewed from the Ferncliff Trail.
Raccoon Creek State Park
Phone - (724) 899-2200
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateParks/parks/raccooncreek.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Hookstown; on PA 18, south of US 30 and north of US 22.
In the 1930s, in an effort to add recreation lands near metropolitan regions, the National Park Service (NPS) purchased submarginal farmland to become park lands. Outside Pittsburgh the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) created the Raccoon Creek Recreation Demonstration Area, carving trails, building roads and setting up cabin camps. The federal government transferred this outstanding area to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1945, becoming one of the state’s largest parks at over 7,500 acres. A tranquil lake was added in 1948, a swimming area and picnic area in 1950 and the tent and trailer campground in 1956.
The trail system in Raccoon State Park includes about 44 miles of footpaths. Experienced canine hikers will want to add the green-blazed Raccoon Loop to their Life List, a 19.5-mile circumnavigation of the entire park. Overnight shelters are available but camping permits must be obtained ahead of time if you don’t want to swallow this ridge-hopping trek whole. The best day-hike can be found in the eastern section of the park, wedding a pair of mis-matched opposites, the Lake Trail with the Forest Trail, to create a four-mile loop. After an easy ramble along Traverse Creek to Raccoon Lake, the narrow dirt band of the Lake Trail begins moving carefully up the hillside, providing an appeteizer of what’s in store when you meet up with the Forest Trail to head home. You immediately drop down but you aren’t headed back to the level ground of the Lake Trail. Instead you and your dog have waiting two major ridges and a couple of minor ones. For a breather, take your dog to cabin area across the road and sample some of the short loops and park roads in the camp area.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Biking and horses are permitted on some trails but not enough to make it attractive for such users
Workout For Your Dog - Several hours to an entire weekend
Swimming - The Lake Trail taps Raccoon Lake with easy access for your dog; most of the trails touch on a stream for at least a splash
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed to enjoy these trails and stay in the campground but are not allowed in the Wildflower Preserve
Levi and Mary Davis Dungan were early settlers in Beaver County, arriving in 1772 and eventually building a large log structure over “an excellent spring.” A generation later James Dungan erected a three-story brick hotel that could house as many as 200 guests at a time. Soon travelers from across America were arriving at the Frankfort Hotel to take the “cure from the mineral spring in the cool, romantic glen, thickly studded with forest trees.” Cave Spring contained a cocktail of carbonic acid, carbonate of magnesia, muriate of soda and sulphuretted hydrogen gas said to “regulate the bowels, strengthen the stomach, improve the appetite, clear the skin and cause great freedom of urination.” The area attracted thousands of visitors until it was destroyed by fire in 1932. Although the flow of spring water has diminished, you can still take your dog to the historic Frankfort Mineral Springs via trails in the southern region of the park.
Phone - (412) 682-7275
Website - www.pittsburghparks.org/Riverview53.php
Admission Fee - None (and none for the Allegheny Observatory either)
Directions – Pittsburgh; take I-279 to the Perrysville exit. Make a left at the end of the exit ramp to the stop light and turn right. Follow Perrysville Avenue to Riverview Avenue and turn right into the park.
When Pittsburgh got its first glistening downtown park from Mary Schenley in 1889 it didn’t take neighboring Allegheny long to get its hackles up. Mayor William Kennedy personally spearheaded a grass roots financing campaign and residents pooled their money to buy Samuel Watson’s old place where his family had been grazing dairy cattle since the 1700s. They then donated it to the City of Allegheny in 1894 for their very own showcase park. There was a band shell, a small zoo and an elk herd. Work was begun on a fabulous observatory. The Allegheny folks knew their 200-acre park was second to none. But then the City of Allegheny became part of Pittsburgh in 1907. Over the years the park has grown to 287 acres but also faded in prominence in relation to its sister city parks.
Riverview Park has more trails and many less visitors than any of the either three city parks - a winning combination for dog owners. It’s tough to find any verdant farms in Greenland and you won’t see any rivers from Riverview (although there is an inspiring vista of the city from Observatory Hill). What was once a park of open, grassy hills has been replaced by hillsides stuffed with large trees and most of your dog’s exertions here will be completely shaded. You will travel on circuitous, roomy crushed gravel and natural paths. For casual canine hikers, the Observatory Trail travels around the hilltop for a bit more than half a mile, beginning just past the tennis courts. Serious canine adventurers will want to drop down another level to pick up the Bob Harvey Trail, follow to the Wissahickon Trail and return on the Observatory Trail for a vigorous two-mile loop. Another popular hiking route is a two-mile loop on the park’s winding one-way Riverview Road. While seldom busy, it is an active roadway, still not prime dogwalking ground.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: There is hiking for your dog on grass, on asphalt and on natural dirt trails
Workout For Your Dog – Absolutely as you work your way around the hilltop
Swimming - No river views and no swimming, either
Restrictions On Dogs - None
The Allegheny Telescope Association began in 1859. Samuel Pierpont Langley, a 33-year old professor of astronomy at Western University (now the University of Pittsburgh), was named the first director. Langley would go on to become America’s leading authority on aviation and the favorite to be the first man to fly before the Wright Brothers beat him to the skies. The Allegheny Observatory became famous as the supplier of the first accurate times over several time zones delivered to the railroads. The first observatory on Perrysville Avenue was replaced by the current triple-domed, Classical Revival building in Riverview in the early 1900s. The Allegheny Observatory’s 30-inch Thaw telescope is America’s third largest.
Ryerson Station State Park
Phone - (724) 428-4254
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/yellowcreek.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Wind Ridge; three miles west of town on Bristoria Road, south of PA 21, 18 miles west of I-79, Exit 14.
The land for this park was purchased in 1958 from the Lazear family but the name “Ryerson Station” was adopted at the suggestion of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, honoring a blockhouse built at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Dunkard Branch of Wheeling Creek. On April 17, 1792, soldiers carrying supplies from the Thomas Ryerson mill had clashed with an Indian war party attacking the white settlements. Ryerson, at the very least, was a shrewd operator. He purchased several tracts of land and traveled to Philadelphia where, it was reported, he “palmed it off on an unsuspecting sea captain.” That sea captain, Joseph Richards Connell, came to Greene County to retire after a shipwreck. When he saw his new dream property he saw not a sylvan retirement community as described by Ryerson but “a few rude huts and an old blockhouse at the confluence of two wild streams, amid a dense tangle of thickets, and surrounded by rugged hills covered by unbroken forests.” Save for the streams that have been dammed to form Ronald J. Duke Lake, that would still be an apt description for isolated Ryerson Station State Park today.
Ryerson Station offers up some 11 miles of canine hiking trails, about equally proportioned among three main loops. Each requires about an hour to complete and make sure your dog brings his hillclimbing gear with him. Both the Lazear Trail and Three Mitten Trail are used for snowmobiles and feature wide, switchbacking farm roads to reach the high elevation of 1,389 feet so while panting may ensue there won’t be any knockout punches delivered on these trails. A lookout on the Lazear loop looks down 400 feet at the valley. These wide pathways are often paw-friendly grass with stony patches here and there. A more classic hiking path is the Pine Box Trail that scales a ravine to the Chess Cemetery and your dog will be thankful she’s not carting coffins up to this graveyard. Beginning canine hikers can stay off the ridgetops at the Maple Grove Day Use Area on the short Bluebird Loop and the interpretive Fox Feather Trail that traverses a hemlock forest and traces the stream with many lake views.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Leaf-strewn woodsy paths
Workout For Your Dog – More than an hour of trail time
Swimming - Ronald J. Duke Lake has been drawn down since 2005 due to concerns with the dam
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on the trails across the park. Note that the bridge over the North Fork on the Iron Bridge Trail is open grate that may inhibit some dogs.
A wolf tree is a tree, often very old, in a bush or a thicket which is different in shape from those around it; a tree whose broader trunk and spreading branches indicate that it once grew alone but is now surrounded. A 300-year old oak tree on a ridge of the Lazear Trail is the park’s historic wolf tree.
Phone - None
Website - None
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Murrysville; north of town. Take Vincent Hill Street that becomes Sardis Road from US 22 past the Meadowlink Golf Course. Make the next left onto Twin Oaks Drive and left again on Townsend Park Court.
Townsend Park is an assuming hillside community oasis tucked away among quiet neighborhoods. There are no signs leading anyone here. There are small gardens and a gazebo and a picnic pavilion and a little pond stocked with fish. So why should dog owners seek out Townsend Park? Easy. Dogs are allowed to go under voice control throughout the park, including its four miles of wooded trails. Not a dog park, a park for dogs.
Dogs running free? What’s the catch? Well, Townsend Park is not for those who like to stand around and watch their dogs play. The first trail you come to is named Heart Attack Hill. It’s not that bad, really, but it will likely set your dog’s tongue to panting. When you reach the top, stop and look around - a pipe line cut lets you survey what you and your dog have just accomplished. Since your dog has conquered Heart Attack Hill he won’t be in any hurry to race back down so probe the many available connecting trail options. The natural surface trails are often padded in paw-friendly needles from the many pines and hemlocks that have infiltrated the hardwood forest. When you finish exploring these beguiling trails there is an open grassy area for a game of fetch with your dog. And no one will stop and tell you to put that dog on a leash.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Generally light, bikes are allowed but it almost all foot traffic
Workout For Your Dog – If you hike up Heartbreak Hill
Swimming – The pond can host a doggie dip if no fishing lines are dipped in the water
Restrictions On Dogs – That is what Townsend Park is all about - just about everyone you meet on the trails will have a canine hiking companion
Pennsylvania’s state tree, the Eastern hemlock, is under attack. The hemlock woolly adelgid, a fluid-feeding insect, was introduced from Asia into the Pacific Northwest in 1924. It was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 1967 and has been damaging hemlock ever since, and it is spreading. Hemlock woolly adelgid sucks fluid from the base of hemlock needles, accelerating needle drop and branch dieback. Although some trees die within four years, many often persist in a weakened state for a decade or more. Hemlocks that have been affected often have a grayish-green appearance instead of their natural shiny, dark green color. Infestations can leave woodlands looking like a hemlock junkyard with trunks scattered across the forest floor like you see here.
Yellow Creek State Park
Phone - (724) 357-7913
Website - www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/yellowcreek.aspx
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Penn Run; on US 422, 12 miles east of Indiana
The Kittanning Path that begins southeast of Altoona on the Juniata River was the major east-west overland passage through the Allegheny Mountains in the 18th century. Delaware and Shawnee Indians and early European settlers were well familiar with this area as they made their way to the Allegheny River on the Kittanning Path. They knew the “yellow waters” where the creek bottoms were full of yellow clay. In 1963 Pennsylvania began acquiring land around Yellow and Little Yellow Creeks and started filling in an earth and rock dam. The 720-acre lake was created in 1969 and the popular day-use area formally opened in 1976.
The star hike for your dog in Yellow Creek State Park is the Ridge Top Trail but you will want to stop first at the park entrance and do the leg-stretcher, Laurel Run Trail. This half-mile loop spends half its time tripping along the attractive stream before touchng briefly on Yellow Creek Lake for easy access to a doggie dip. Wild daffodils abound on this easy, wooded route in early spring. The Ridge Top Trail begins with a steady uphill pull through piney woods with views of the lake to sustain you. After passing through hemlocks on the ridge your dog will bound back down and up as the rollercoaster trail swings around. The path turns to paw-friendly grass through openings in the pines when you have conquered the ridge once again. This two-miler finishes up with a country-lane stroll on old farm roads. For a remote, most likely solitary, canine hike, seek out the Damsite Trail Loop in the western part of the park. The destination is an overlook of the earthen dam before completing your 2.5-mile circuit.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: No bikes are allowed on the trails; not much traffic otherwise as most park users come for the activities on the lake
Workout For Your Dog – Plenty to tire out your trail dog
Swimming - No river views and no swimming, either
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on the trails and the picnic area but not in the cottage/yurt area or on the beach which is open from late May to mid-September
On the North Shore, near McFeater’s Cove, is the Stake Church, built in 1883 for $751.48. Here Father John Stake administered to a parish of 19 members. Nearby is an herb garden with plants used to sustain the culinary and medicinal needs of early settlers and a butterfly garden. Wait for the weather to warm to see butterflies - most will not take flight until the temperature gets above 60 degrees.