Friday, September 25, 2009

McConnell's Mill: Slippery Rock Gorge Trail

This blog has fallen by the wayside as I've been doing a bit of traveling. Along the way I've had some nice runs on the coast of Maine and in the mountains of Maryland, and when I've been home I've stuck mostly to Schenley and Frick, and so haven't had much to report. But enough excuses.

McConnell's Mill State Park is about 40 minutes north of town and it's a pretty sweet place. Here's your map.

I ran the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail this afternoon, connecting to the main parking lot via the Kildoo and Alpha Pass Trails. That gives you about 1.5 miles before you get to the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail, and that then goes on for a little over 6 miles. It is not a loop.

The terrain is rugged for sure. Though not terribly steep at any point, the trail is often narrow and very uneven thanks to many rocks and exposed roots. The trail follows Slippery Rock Creek pretty closely, except for one section where (although not apparent on the map) a couple of switchbacks take you to higher ground, offering an occasional view through the trees of the glacial valley below. The trail then finds its way back to the creek and stays there. Which is nice, because I was really heating up, and a quick head-dunk in a small rapid was just what I needed to keep going.

If you take it all the way, you'll find yourself at another parking area and able to access the Hell's Hollow Trail, which leads to a nice little waterfall.

Bottom line, this is my favorite run yet in the Pittsburgh area. You might avoid it if the weather's wet, as the rocks can indeed be quite slippery, but the colors are just starting to change, and I can't imagine a better time of year to look down on the gorge.

One note: If you begin at the main lot, expect to dodge hikers--a lot of them--along the Kildoo and Alpha Pass trails. (But once you cross the Eckert Bridge, you won't see a soul.) In retrospect, the Hell's Run lot would probably make for a nicer starting point, but I saw a sign on the way in warning of recent vehicle break-ins, and I wasn't taking any chances with those miserable thieves after my experience at Frick.

Another note: I wore a pair of these weird Injinji socks for the first time today, and they are totally awesome, even if they're a bit of a pain to pull on.

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