Situated on a bluff 400 feet above the Allegheny River, Harrison Hills Park offers 500 acres, over 180 species of birds and 60 species of trees. Areas of this unique park meander from one extreme to another. At times you are in remote wilderness until you hover on the cusp of civilization.
The terrain of Harrison Hills ranges from moderate to difficult and is probably not suitable for young children. There have been at least two falls within the past three years, resulting in warning signs throughout the park.
Harrison Hills offers 14 miles of trails. Our route sampled the Wetlands, Scouts, Carson-Scouts Overlap and Rachel Carson trails.
The Wetlands Trail lived up to its name! Bring your hiking boots!
Of all the parks in Allegheny County, Harrison Hills is the least developed. It escapes the prestige of the bigger parks and is unlikely to attract a crowd.
Some areas of the park are bizarre.
Upon reaching the edge of the bluff, the trails drop dramatically. The return back is a steep uphill climb. Both directions have fallen trees to add a degree of difficulty.
Harrison Hills has two ponds. These photos are of the pond on Scouts Trail.
Minnows were visible beneath the pond’s surface.
The Carson-Scouts Overlap is a little peculiar.
The Rachel Carson Trail is a 35.7 mile long trail that extends from Harrison Hills to North Park. It is extremely difficult to follow. The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy sponsors an annual endurance hiking challenge to see who can complete the entire trail within one day. Below is an example of how the trail narrows.
This strenuous hike is well worth the effort for the breathtaking views of the river valley below, which span three counties!
Bridge on Route 356
River Forest Golf Course
Additional sights along the Rachel Carson Trail:
Visitors are lured to this park by the promise of waterfalls that disappear over the edge of the bluff. I was disappointed to find that they are almost impossible to photograph. As the sign above states, it is hazardous!
Watts Memorial Overlook offers a scenic view of Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler counties.
Harrison Hills is notorious for poison ivy, one of the costs of such a robust bird population.
Daddy longlegs, spiders and millipedes were in abundance.
Flora along the trails included buttercup, honeysuckle, firepink, mayapple, geranium, blackberry, phlox and more.
After three and half hours exploring this park, we became pressed for time and had to leave. We missed the second pond, Rainbow Bridge and Rachel Carson Falls.
Harrison Hills Park will soon expand by 28 acres, with the long-term goal of connecting the Rachel Carson Trail to both the Baker and Butler-Freeport Trails.