Photographer Matt Dayak found it a challenge to narrow his favorite hikes down to a list of six. After reminding us that Frick and Schenley Parks are great options right in our backyards, he chose some destinations to consider next time you are looking to get outside.
WV, 80 minutes
Coopers Rock in West Virginia is more than just a spectacular scenic overlook with views of the Cheat River and Appalachian Mountains in every direction. With around 50 miles of trails there is plenty to explore. A good trail to start with would be Raven Rock trail. If you are into history, check out the Clay Furnace Trail to visit the Henry Clay Furnace built in 1834.
McConnells Mill State Park
Portersville, 40 minutes
Flowing water always makes for better hiking in my opinion and McConnells Mill has a great deal of it. Probably my favorite route here, hiking along the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, created by the draining of glacial lakes thousands of years ago, is absolutely enchanting on a beautiful day. It gets busy on the weekend here so go early.
Forbes State Forest
Laurel Highlands, 75 minutes
There are so many options for hiking and things to see in Forbes State Forest. One of the coolest things there is Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania at 3,213 feet. Be sure to climb the observation tower for the best views. The Laurel Highlands Trail runs right through Forbes, too, and with over 70 miles total you can make your own out and back with as much distance as you like.
Monongahela National Forest
Huttonsville, WV, 2 hours
This one takes a little bit of road trip but it is totally worth it because this forest makes up one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the United States. One hike can feel like three different areas of the country. If you like hiking with some elevation gain you will find it here, ranging from around 1,000 feet to almost 5,000 feet. With nearly one million acres of breathtaking scenery, you will not run out of new adventures in this vast forest.
Wingfield Pines Conservation and Nature Preserve
Upper St. Clair, 25 minutes
This is a small 87-acre conservation area in the Pittsburgh suburbs. The best thing about Winfield Pines is the environmental work Allegheny Land Trust is doing to mitigate the damage done from mining the area. It has a cool wetland boardwalk that is great for bird watching and you might even spot a beaver or two.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Ohio, 1 hour, 45 minutes
A lot of people don’t realize there is a national park less than two hours from Pittsburgh, and with nearly 100 waterfalls, it is a great spot for hiking. There are easy hikes that are very accessible for anyone not looking for anything too serious. A great place to start there would be The Ledges Trail as it weaves through massive moss-covered rock walls formed over 300 million years ago.
Story and Photography by Matt Dayak
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