When you think of a city, what comes to mind are usually the imposing steel skyscrapers, concrete canyons, and the hustle and bustle of an urban setting. However, when it comes to Pittsburgh, you may want to think twice. While Pittsburgh may have its share of impressive edifices and busy city streets, it also has an abundance of parks and recreation facilities where residents can refresh themselves amid the beauty of nature.
Allegheny County Parks
Nine county parks ring the City of Pittsburgh. Comprised of 12,000 acres, the Allegheny County Park system welcomes 11 million visitors annually. No county resident is more than a 20 or 30 minute drive from a park. The county parks offer every sort of recreation imaginable from animal farms at Round Hill Park to off-leash dog areas in White Oak Park.
Deer Lakes Park
It is the home of the Wagman Observatory, where stargazers gather for Star Parties and take in the beauty of the night sky. It also boasts an 18-hole ‘disc golf’ course.
The largest park in Pittsburgh is Frick Park, sprawling across 600 acres. In addition to biking and walking trails, the park is home to Pennsylvania’s only public lawn bowling course. Frick Park was established after the death of industrialist Henry Clay Frick.
At 629 acres, Hartwood is located in Hampton and Indiana Townships. It is home to the Hartwood Mansion, which offers guided tours. Horse, cross-country skiing, walking and hiking trails abound. Hartwood Acres is also the site of the Family House Polo Match. Hartwood Acres and South Park host the county’s Summer Concert Series.
Not far from Oakland is Highland Park. This city park features a Victorian Entry Garden, also known as a formal garden leading the way to the Highland Park reservoir, and a popular walking trail. Nearby is the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
One of the largest county parks is North Park. Situated in the heart of the North Hills of Allegheny County, North Park has a 72-acre lake and is the largest man-made body of water in the county. The park also has a golf course, ice skating rink, swimming pool, nature center, and wildlife reserve.
Point State Park
At the heart of Pittsburgh is this beautiful and iconic park. Point State Park is located at the tip of the Golden Triangle, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio. Although it is called the Golden Triangle, it could easily be called the ‘Green Triangle,’ since it features a 36-acre grass area and tree-lined space. The only state park in Allegheny County, Point State is where everyone meets to have fun, to celebrate, as well as to admire the city’s beautiful vista. The Pittsburgh Marathon, Great Race, and Three Rivers Arts Festival are held near the park, and each Fourth of July thousands flock to the point to enjoy one of the country’s most spectacular fireworks displays.
Rails to Trails
The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have cooperated with the Rails to Trails program, converting former rail lines into bike trails. Trails course through downtown Pittsburgh, as well as its suburban and rural areas. When the Great Allegheny Passage is completed, cyclists will be able to pedal 318 miles from Pittsburgh to the nation’s capital. Hikers are also welcomed on the trail.
With three rivers and many lakes nearby it is no wonder water recreation is so popular. Boats, jet skis and kayakers enjoy an abundance of opportunities for spending a day on the water. The Dragon Boat Festival and Head of the Ohio Regatta celebrate the beauty and magnificence of the region’s rivers. Pittsburgh is an angler’s paradise too. In 2005, The Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament was held in Pittsburgh. Fisherman from 22 states traveled to the area to try their luck at landing the biggest bass. Whether it’s fishing in a stream, lake or on the river, you’re guaranteed to catch your fill of fun, if not of fish.
Positioned on the city’s North Side, is this 287 acre park. Interestingly enough, Riverview actually predates the City of Pittsburgh. Originally a part of Allegheny City, the city and its park were annexed to the City of Pittsburgh in 1907. The park is noted for its steep terrain and wooded trails that entice hikers, joggers, and the occasional horseback rider. It is also home to the Allegheny Observatory. Prominent businessmen and astronomy enthusiasts built the observatory in the 1850s. At one time it housed the third largest telescope in the world. Today, the University of Pittsburgh runs the observatory and periodically offers tours.
Schenley Park & Schenley Plaza
Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood has a rich variety of recreational spaces.
Schenley Park offers numerous sports facilities and is home to Phipps Conservancy and Botanical Gardens, one of the largest botanical gardens in the country. Flagstaff Hill is another popular park venue. On warm summer nights crowds gather there for movies under the stars.
Also in Oakland is Schenley Plaza: a green sward nestled between the Carnegie and Hillman Libraries and across from the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. Schenley Plaza is a respite from the hustle and bustle of this cultural and educational center. The PNC Carousel in the park is a delight for children.
Settlers Cabin Park
Located in the western part of the county has the most-used of the county’s three wave pools. It also features the county’s only diving pool, complete with underwater windows.
Pittsburgh embodies the best of both worlds; it is a vibrant metropolis while at the same time its parks and recreation facilities offer serenity and the opportunity to dwell in the beauty of Mother Nature.
South Park in the South Hills has a BMX Track, golf course, ice skating rink and wave pool. Boyce Park in the eastern portion of Allegheny County has snowboarding, snow tubing, and downhill skiing, and in the summer the wave pool and 3 B’s Action Park for boarders, bikers and bladers are the places to be.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is improving quality of life for the people of Pittsburgh by improving the park system to excellence in partnership with the City.