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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

60-Minute Fixes: Pittsburgh

Hike, paddle, or ride in America's favorite steel town.

by: Lesley Suppes

Photo by Miachel D. Gianechini/G&G Studio Creations
Photo by Miachel D. Gianechini/G&G Studio Creations

America's favorite steel town is a city of surprising superlatives. This metropolis is home to over 2,600 acres of open space, and ranks number one, not in I-beams, but trees per capita among U.S. cities.

Six-hundred-acre Frick Park, the Burgh's largest, has more than 10 miles of trails in dense forest. For a stiff 3.5-mile quad-burner, start at the Environmental Center and drop 400 vertical feet into a hollow along the Lower Riverview Extension Trail to Fire Lane Extension. You'll connect with Nine Mile Run, rife with white-eyed vireos, pileated woodpeckers, and great horned owls. Regain elevation on the Braddock and Tranquil Trails, and close the loop by cranking south to the Open Air Shelter and Falls Ravine Trail.

Pop quiz: Which city has more bridges, Venice or Pittsburgh? The one with four rivers—the Ohio, Monongahela, Allegheny, and Youghiogheny—takes the prize 446 to 443, and makes Pittsburgh a great place to paddle. Rent a boat from Kayak Pittsburgh ($14/hour) and head 6 miles up the barge-free Allegheny to 42-acre Herr's Island, home to the Three Rivers Rowing Association. Circumnavigate the island and paddle back toward the skyline.

With plans for the world's longest urban linear park (it'll cover 128 miles along the city's rivers) in the works, Pittsburgh is quickly becoming a serious bike town. Get a preview on a 25-mile circuit starting at the Smithfield Street Bridge. Pedal the Eliza Furnace Trail upriver to the Panther Hollow Trail. Follow this rolling macadam to the 300-acre Schenley Park for a lung-burning one-mile loop. Then lollipop back onto Panther and head toward the city again on Eliza Furnace.

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