We’re dreaming of the beautiful outdoors! An approaching spring and summer means that soon, we’ll be lacing up our hiking boots for scenic hiking and exploration. Western Pennsylvania’s woodlands and hills provide the best backdrop we could ask for. Still, hiking shouldn’t be considered a walk in the park. A misstep here or a mistake there can lead to injury, and poor preparation can contribute to an emergency situation.
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to make your next day of hiking as safe as possible. So before you Google for “nice places to hike near me”, take the time to make sure you adhere to all of these guidelines:
- Plan for your trip. Even if you only plan on hiking for an hour, it’s worth preparing for it. Make a gear list in advance and check it off to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind. Gear includes layers, water, snacks, a compass, and so forth. A map should also be packed, as digital batteries and GPS signals can both fail!
- Research the area. In the age of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to get familiar with new hiking territory. A little online research can help you learn more about the wildlife you may come across, as well as the types of poisonous plants you need to watch out for. The more you know about the trail and region it’s based in, the more prepared you can be for it.
- Travel by daylight. Never hike at night. Hiking in the dark increases your chances of getting lost, of tripping on uneven trail ground, and of running into an unfriendly nocturnal animal. If you’ll be hiking late in the day, always turn around and return to the starting point of your trip with plenty of time to beat the sunset.
- Monitor the weather. Always keep an eye on the forecast before hitting a trail. Weather patterns will at a minimum determine the clothes you need, and could be worth rescheduling your hike if it’s looking particularly dark and stormy.
- Respect your limits. Hiking in nature is not the gym – and is not the place to test your skills. Stick to terrain you can handle and hike at a pace that won’t tire you out before your trailblazing is over. Otherwise, you increase your risk of injury.
- Don’t go alone. Ideally, you’ll go hiking with friends or with a group of fellow hikers. Traveling with people is best as you can work together to navigate the trail, and take care of each other should something go wrong. At the very least, you should tell a friend or family member where you will be, and when they can expect you to finish your hike. If they don’t hear from you by a predetermined time, they can contact the appropriate parties and initiate action to make sure you are OK.
By following these safety tips, you will make your next day on the trails that much more safe and enjoyable. The next step is deciding where to hike! But before you begin sorting through those search results for “nice places to hike near me”, why not explore hiking options in our Mon Valley River towns? Many are a short drive away from the Pittsburgh area, and all will provide a beautiful day in nature during the spring and summer! All that we ask is that you remember to take any trash of yours home with you at the end of the day. Grab your gear, head on out, and have fun!
The days of summer may be winding down, but there’s still plenty of beauty to enjoy in western Pennsylvania and its communities! The cooling weather means that now is the perfect time to get outdoors – and the changing leaves will soon provide a glorious backdrop for hikers. No need to google for scenic hikes near you – we have a few ideas already!
The following are a sampling of local Pennsylvania towns with accessible trails and a welcoming spirit. There’s no need to travel far for your fall foliage tours this year; these river towns definitely have you covered:
- Elizabeth, PA. Located right in Allegheny County, the borough of Elizabeth sits 15 miles south of Pittsburgh. Elizabeth’s downtown area features great shopping and dining options – making it a great, affordable day trip destination! This fall, consider walking through this quiet town – you can enjoy the changing leaves and autumn weather as you stroll along the Monongahela River, which the town sits by. Elizabeth is also home to Round Hill Park – a 1,100-acre park with walking trails, picnic areas, and a working exhibit farm. Elizabeth’s quiet river walkways combined with these walking trails mean that you’ll get to enjoy some beautiful sights during a quieter day out and about. It all makes for the perfect day trip!
- Fredericktown, PA. In the summer this Washington County town is a great spot for paddling along scenic Ten Mile Creek. As the seasons change, however, hikers and cyclists will be able to enjoy the foliage along Greene River Trail! This beautiful 5.2 mile walking and bike trail runs alongside the Monongahela River, giving visitors a chance to explore what was once coal mining country. Today you’d never know about this industrious past, as the area is lush and green – although soon the trail will be lit with vibrant autumn colors instead! Like Elizabeth, very little travel is required if you visit this trail, making Fredericktown a fantastic day trip location for those on a tight budget.
- Rices Landing, PA. In addition to being rich in local history – including the travels of George Washington and coal barges – Rices Landing is a beautiful spot to watch the autumn settle in. The Greene River Trail that passes through Fredericktown also passes through Rices Landing. So depending on your interests, perhaps you’ll want to venture to Rices Landing to combine a little history with your day of hiking!
- Greensboro, PA. Called “Delight” by the Mingo Indians who originally inhabited the area, Greensboro continues to live up to its name as it develops beautiful riverside trails and more for nature lovers to take advantage of. Drive to the area and you can explore the Greensboro Walking & Biking Trail – it stretches 1.25 miles along the Monongahela River, starting at Mon View Park. You can also step onto The Warrior Trail, which runs for 67 miles and follows ridge tops for most of its length. Despite its name, Warrior Trail offers one of the easiest hiking paths across Greene County, as well as some of the county’s most spectacular views! Not bad for a location that’s a mere hour and a half away from Pittsburgh!
- Fairmont, WV. Interested in trekking out of Pennsylvania for your fall foliage tour? With a population of just over 18,000, the quiet and small West Virginia town of Fairmont is a fantastic seasonal getaway location. Fairmont is actually the home of the first Pepperoni Roll, and you can even visit the Country Club Bakery – the home of the first roll – before heading out on a hike! Fairmont is home to two rail trails, or railway tracks converted to paths and walkways. One trail, the West Fork River Trail, runs for 14.5 miles, providing beautiful scenic views of the river and surrounding foliage to bikers, hikers, and more (as the trail is wheelchair accessible). And if you’re looking for a shorter trek, the three mile long Marion County Trail (MCTrail) runs from the Mon River Trail South marker to Prickett’s Fort State Park and Morgantown Ave. This destination may be out-of-state, but it’s well worth the trip!
- Morgantown, WV. While better known for West Virginia University and “The Mountaineers,” Morgantown’s beautiful setting makes it a fantastic destination spot for fall foliage seekers. The town includes numerous options for hikers, including the trails of Coopers Rock State Forest. Visitors may also consider traveling the 6-mile paved Caperton Trail, which follows the Monongahela River and passes through several local parks. And if that’s not enough, the western endpoint of the Deckers Creek Trail is located in Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park, which Caperton Trail passes through. Start booking those hotels now, guys – you’ll thank yourself when you’re out on the trail of your choice!
As you can see, western Pennsylvania and even neighboring West Virginia has a number of cool and scenic hikes to help you get out and about this season. You’ll absolutely want to travel to at least one of these towns. Don’t forget to take a moment to find out exactly what’s happening in these towns this fall, too! You can visit our website calendar anytime as you plan your great fall adventure.