The City of Stairs

By: Grace Cooper

I never enjoyed hiking much as a child—it always involved bugs and sweating. Other than the ugly shoes and the wild animals it sort of reminded me of walking through a museum. There were a lot of similarities: it was uninteresting, my feet hurt, and my parents forced me to do it. But, as I grew older and more interested in finding a way to escape the stress of school, I began to appreciate hiking as the true sport it is. In high school I hiked a fair amount in the Shenandoah Valley and Washington National Forrest; in fact, for our senior trip my friend and I actually went backpacking instead of going to the beach. So, I guess you could say I learned to love hiking. Incidentally, I like museums now too.

Unfortunately, my love of hiking came just a little too late. Although Pennsylvania is full of wonderful parks and trails, these opportunities aren’t really available to a poor and carless college student. Or so I thought, until I discovered something called urban hiking.

The term urban hiking is pretty self-explanatory—it’s just hiking in an urban environment. This doesn’t necessarily just mean plowing down the sidewalk on Forbes Avenue or speed walking up and down Cardiac Hill; urban hikers often make their own trails using whatever the landscapes provides: local parks, quiet neighborhoods, stairs, etc. Luckily for me Pittsburgh is the city of stairs. With over 700 sets of stairs—the most steps of any one city in the country—the urban hiking opportunities are endless.

To start, I chose to do one of the one of the most commonly hiked stair trails, the South Side Slopes, which claims 68 sets or about 10% of Pittsburgh’s stairs (that’s 1,457 vertical feet or roughly the height of the Empire State Building). The portion of the stairs that I went on take you up the side of Mt. Washington through neighborhoods of houses leaning into the side of the mountain. The narrow stairways and lack of upkeep may be frightening to those lacking balance (we did have a run-in with a faulty railing), but the view from the top is definitely worth it. From the highest point you can experience a breathtaking view of downtown, South Side, and even Oakland.

If you’re looking to do the South Side Steps but can’t find yourself a hiking buddy, the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association also holds an annual StepTrek event. It’s usually held on an autumn Saturday and participants have the opportunity to register and hike the stairs with other people who are interested in learning some Pittsburgh history as well.

If you don’t want to wait until next fall to enjoy the slopes you can go out by yourself (there are some trail signs on the stairs) or follow the Church Route courtesy of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association. The map and info sheet take you for a ride past a few of the slopes’ churches and even a monastery. With this handy guide hiking becomes a tour of the city and a history lesson all in one!

The nice thing about the South Side Slopes, and urban hiking in general, is you’re never very far away from anything you might need: food, water, bathrooms. There’s no heavy gear needed because the hike should only take you a couple hours at most and if you get lost all you have to do is walk up or down the stairs until you hit the road. Even if you get tired or have a craving to shop SouthSide Works is only a few staircases away (I may or may not have made an emergency trip to H&M after my hike).

So, the next time you’re looking to get some exercise and explore the city, consider hiking the South Side Slopes!

Yes, nature is beautiful, but nothing can beat a hidden hilltop view of Cathedral of Learning.

Posted in Uncategorized

OUTDOOR News

  • A Trip to Iceland

    June 20, 2017

    By Alex Downing, Communications Intern

     

    One of the most mesmerizing things about nature is that no matter where you come from or where you have been, there is always somewhere more exotic, somewhere wilder for you to explore. You hiked the Amazon and summitted Everest? Congrats, but what about the Outback or Kilimanjaro? There is so much natural beauty in so many forms that even the most well-traveled of us can always find some location more amazing than the last.

    Growing up in the comforts of suburban Pittsburgh with a few acres of woods surrounding my house,

     » Read more about: A Trip to Iceland  »

  • Karen Gainey’s Fishing Tips

    June 13, 2017

    By Jacob Tumminello, Communications Intern

    Karen Gainey might as well have been born with a rod and reel in her hands. Since she was four years old Gainey has loved fishing and challenges herself to accumulate and share as much knowledge as possible. She is a certified instructor for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, has hosted her own fishing television show, and has fished in professional tournaments.

    “Someone once asked me how passionate about fishing I really am, and I told them I’d be catching fish in my bathtub if I thought there was a way” said Karen.

     » Read more about: Karen Gainey’s Fishing Tips  »

  • The Steel City Oasis

    June 6, 2017

    By: Jacob Tumminello, Communications Intern 

    Although Pittsburgh created its legacy primarily in the steel industry, those familiar with the drastic improvement in the quality of its waters will tell you that the rivers are home to a wide variety of large and small fish. Pittsburghers are often unaware of the quality fishing available in the area. Throughout the years anglers have taken advantage of the many popular fishing spots, allowing for enjoyable recreational outings and a great fishing experience.

    The rivers of Pittsburgh experienced a dramatic decrease in pollution following cleanup efforts after the steel mills closed and now provide a stable ecosystem for freshwater life.

     » Read more about: The Steel City Oasis  »

  • Getting to Know our Staff… 13 Questions with Jayme Penner

    May 30, 2017

    We are continuing our staff spotlight series. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes brain power that goes into planning your favorite programs, be it public, family-friendly, or custom outings. Learn about those who work inside so you can get outside.

    This week we’ll be interviewing Jayme Penner, our Membership and Special Projects Coordinator.

    1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors?
    I grew up in Pittsburgh. I went to Chatham University and majored in Business. For a short time period,

     » Read more about: Getting to Know our Staff… 13 Questions with Jayme Penner  »

  • Rediscovering Nature beneath the Soles of My Sneakers

    May 16, 2017

    By: Cheyenne Knight

    When I signed up for my first half marathon, I vowed to train entirely outdoors. I knew that climbing on a treadmill day after day to stare at the same patch of grass, the same residence hall, and the same students walking to class for four months of training would take all the fun out of it.

    So I vowed to train outdoors, even if that meant enduring weather that I never ran in and exploring parts of Pittsburgh that I never saw before. I took it as an opportunity to challenge myself mentally, physically,

     » Read more about: Rediscovering Nature beneath the Soles of My Sneakers  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Kayak Pittsburgh North Shore is today (6/26) due to high water flow.
#KeepPittsburghPaddling

 

 

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Featured Outing

Summer Solstice Hike
Wednesday, June 21
7 – 9:30 PM

Join us for an evening of exploration on an easy 3-4 mile hike around Hartwood Acres. On the longest day of the year, we will enjoy the tranquility of the woods, while listening for the critters that become active at dusk.


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