It’s been a chilly winter in Pennsylvania, but wonderful spring weather will be here soon! We’re already itching for the perfect warm day to take advantage of the very thing we were named for – our river towns’ rivers. Western Pennsylvania is full of some of the most beautiful places to kayak.
New and experienced paddlers alike, however, would do well to prepare for the season by brushing up on kayaking safety tips. Emergencies and accidents can happen to anyone, so knowing how to prevent them is key to keeping your paddling adventures safe, warm and minimally dripping wet!
- Always wear a PFD. A PFD, or Personal Flotation Device, is your first line of defense should you fall out of your kayak somehow. Don’t try to argue your way out of wearing one because you’re a good swimmer, either! A bad spill could make it hard for you to swim. Both regular life jackets and kayak-specific life jackets will get the job done, so take the time to decide which one will be more comfortable (and fits better) during your paddle.
- Respect your limits. While kayaking is a great way to get moving, you should never push yourself on the water the way you might in a gym. Respect your limits and make sure that you plan on ending your paddle before you’re too tired to continue. Also, never venture into a body of water that you cannot comfortably navigate. (NOTE: The ideal kayaking environment has protection from wind and waves, a good access point for launching and landing, lots of places to go ashore, and minimal motorized boat traffic.)
- Wait for some sun. Spring and summer days in western Pennsylvania can be beautiful! They can also be dark, stormy, and dangerous. Always check the forecast leading up to your paddle – and reschedule as needed. Your safety comes first!
- Dress appropriately. The key to a great day on the water is what you wear. Rule 1: never wear cotton while paddling – it dries very slowly and won’t be comfortable if you hit a splash zone. Bring layers as well based on the day’s forecast and your own temperature preferences. And pack up a spare outfit for the journey home, just in case.
- Respect the water – and its traffic. Always consider the conditions of the water you want to paddle on before you hop in. If the river you want to paddle on is running particularly swiftly or is full of rough waves, spurred on by gusts of wind, it’s time to reschedule your paddle! In addition to respecting water conditions, you need to respect its traffic. A number of Pennsylvania rivers are used by boats carrying people and cargo. Large boats always have the right-of-way on the water, so it’s impossible for kayakers to avoid them for everyone’s safety. The best way to do this is to just paddle along the shoreline, no matter how tempting the middle of the river may be.
- Drink up! Kayaking, like any exercise, can lead to dehydration – especially as temperatures begin to rise. Bring a couple of water bottles on any river trip, and take breaks every 15 – 20 minutes to stay hydrated.
- Bring a buddy. We recommend kayaking with at least one other person, if not with an entire group. Kayaking is a very safe activity, but sometimes emergencies happen. Having a buddy with you will ensure that, should an accident occur, help is ready to pull you from the water.
Sticking to these tips will make your paddling adventures safer and more enjoyable. And if you’re looking for beautiful places to kayak this year, there’s no need to google “kayaking areas near me!” Our website includes an entire section dedicated to local river recreational options – just what you need to plan your next day on the water! We just ask that you leave no trash behind in our gorgeous rivers. Happy paddling!
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.