Scouting out new places is one of my favorite things to do, and Harrison Hills Park did not disappoint! Although the recent weather made it a little challenging to find a day to visit, we made the best of a rainy, “Pittsburgh gray” day playing with friends and exploring part of this gem bordering the Allegheny River.
Harrison Hills Park is the fourth of nine Allegheny County parks to be highlighted in our ongoing park series. Harrison Hills Park includes 500-acres, located 24 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Harrison Township. The park features an overlook of the Allegheny River, an environmental learning center, and offers picnic shelters, waterfalls, streams, walking, hiking, and bridle trails.
We only had time to see a small part of the over 500 acre wooded land, but we’ll definitely be back to find the streams, waterfalls and ponds that the park boasts.
Home to multiple blazed trails, picnic groves, playgrounds, soccer fields, the Watts Memorial overlook and the Environmental Learning Center, there are opportunities for both structured and unstructured fun.
The Environmental Learning Center is open and free to visitors during normal hours of operation (8AM to 6PM) and can also be made available by appointment. There are indoor and outdoor classrooms with exhibits to explore: the “Touch and Feel” table, live insect exhibits, a butterfly garden, nature mural, and the Scouts Exercise Challenge to engage the mind and the body. Plan to spend time here in the next few months. I am personally a little embarrassed that my kids recognize many more brand names than they do plant names…but we have resources and will be back again.
You can see the handicapped accessible ramp that was added to the building, making for easy access by the Friends of Harrison Hills Park. The Friends is a group of volunteers that exists to enhance the Park’s usability and promote educational and recreational activities. They have helped develop miles of blazed trails with trail heads and maps that visitors use for hiking, biking, birding and horseback riding. In the winter months, cross country skiing and snow shoeing are popular sports in the park.
From 400 feet above the Allegheny River, you have a panoramic view of Butler, Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties, and a view of the “choo-choo” that my almost two year old is obsessed with as you venture out to the overlook from the playground (North attractions). We really loved this spot and spent a lot of time here. The overlook is very accessible yet still wooded and “private.” It would be a great spot for some outdoor wedding pictures, and I imagine that it’s beautiful in the fall with all of the colors of the leaves.
Shelters can be rented for your special event. A princess birthday party event was being set up while we played, and it was tempting for all five of the princesses we brought to play not to check it out more closely. My five year old reminded me that “We came on an adventure to ‘explore’ a new park.” Princess parties seemed like fair game! Silly girls aside, the shelters are in excellent condition and it’s convenient to use the online reservation system to set up your event.
We especially enjoyed the playground. This one (North) looks very new and includes an area with exercise equipment for older kids and parents that want to get their sweat on while the kids play. Win-win!
This one (South) is a little smaller and more secluded. Still fun!
For our next visit, we plan to make use of the hiking trails and walk along the streams.
What are you waiting for? Pack a picnic and head over to Harrison Hills Park. http://www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/contact/index.aspx
Hope to see you there!
See Pittsburgh Moms Blog’s other article in the Allegheny County parks series here to plan your next summer adventure: