Aptly named for its proximity to Pittsburgh’s rivers, the Three Rivers Heritage trail runs for 24 miles along the city’s scenic waterways. Frequented by bikers, runners, and walkers, this mult-iuse trail is mostly flat and paved, so you can enjoy it for leisurely pursuits, as well as strenuous athletic training.
Explore five different routes along the trail: each route caters to different interests, with the best paths for history buffs, foodies, city-lovers, sightseers, and athletes recommended below!
The Historic Route: The North Side to Washington’s Landing
Route: The Andy Warhol Museum to Washington’s Landing Overlook and back
Distance: 4.1 mile loop
If you’re a history buff in addition to a trail taker, then this might be the route for you. Start at The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side to learn all about the iconic pop artist, director, and producer who originally hailed from Pittsburgh. Stay on the trail along River Avenue and you’ll go by the Heinz Lofts apartments, which were once part of the H.J. Heinz Company; the buildings here are registered historic landmarks. Keep going up to Washington Landing’s, where you can make a loop around the island and take a break at the Overlook. The Overlook offers an unusual vantage point of the Allegheny River, plus historical signage that explains why the island was renamed from Herr’s Island to Washington’s Landing: in 1753, during the French and Indian War, George Washington’s raft capsized and stranded him temporarily on the island. Before you turn around, treat your scholarly self to a bite to eat at Redfin Blue’s waterfront restaurant (we hear they have a history of serving up good grub!). To add on bonus miles, keep going up to Millvale, or head across the river to tour the Heinz History Center and then take The Culinary Route from The Strip District to Downtown!
The Culinary Route: Downtown to The Strip District
Route: Point State Park to 25th Street and back
Distance: 4.3 mile loop
If the real reason that you’re hitting the trail is so that you can eat and drink along the way, have no fear, because we’ve carved out just the path for you! For a little pre-workout body fuel, head over to Market Square to treat yourself to a slice of pizza pie and a prosecco at Pizzaiolo Primo while you people watch. Then hop on the trail nearby at Point State Park and get moving. Maybe you’ll want to work up an appetite along the way by bypassing the excellent restaurants in the Cultural District—if you have that kind of willpower, then we commend you! If not, feel free to hit up Condado, Emporio, or Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room. Make sure you save room in your stomach for The Strip District, where you can ditch the trail once more and jump onto Penn Avenue to try cuisine from all over the world, including Andy’s Sushi Bar, Edgar’s Best Tacos, DiAnoia’s Eatery, and Pho Van. If you’re feeling more thirsty than hungry, visit local distilleries and breweries like Kingfly Spirits, Maggie’s Rum Farm, Wiggle Whiskey, and Cinderlands Warehouse. There is a trail access point at 25th Street in the Strip District, but it has been closed periodically for construction, so you may want to take the bike lane on Penn Avenue for part of your culinary adventure.
The Classic Route: South Side to Downtown
Route: Hot Metal Bridge to Point State Park and back
Distance: 6.1 mile loop
Bike, run, or walk from the trail access point at the Hot Metal Bridge in South Side to Downtown Pittsburgh to get a good feel for what classic Pittsburgh city living is all about! This is a tried and true route for the scenery and its access to so many city amenities. It’s also the Goldilocks of routes: at 6 miles, it’s neither too long nor too short for most bikers or runners. If you’re an early riser, grab a coffee and breakfast sandwich at Delanie’s to get you going, located near another trail access point on 18th street. There are also tons of other bars and restaurants in the South Side; OTB Bicycle Café caters to the cycling crowd with lots of bike racks outside. If you need to pump your tires or grab a spare part, hop off the trail to hit up Thick Bikes on 15th Street. Park your bike or walk into Station Square along the way and take the incline up to the top of Mount Washington for the quintessential view of the city, and once you reach Downtown, go into full tourist mode and get your photo taken in front of the Point State Park Fountain. To mix things up, you can also jump on the trail from the other side of the river along Second Avenue and then add on some extra miles (and hills) by continuing all the way up to Schenley Park when you’re done!
The Sightseeing Route: The North Shore to Brighton Heights
Route: PNC Park to the former State Correctional Facility and back
Distance: 6.3 mile loop
For a sightseeing tour just north of downtown, start your adventure at PNC Park in the North Shore. You’ll get the best views of the Pittsburgh skyline from across the river, plus you can get up close and personal with Heinz Field. You may also want to swing by The Science Center while you’re in this neck of the woods, or if you prefer the sight of slot machines, the Three Rivers Casino is in the vicinity too. Keep going on the trail and eventually you’ll see signs pointing you toward Bicycle Heaven in the North Side, a free museum just off the trail that has both historic and new bikes on display, including those from movie sets, like the bike from Pee Wee Herman’s Great Adventure. There’s also a small rock music museum and memorabilia collection next door called Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff and Music Museum. You’ll know it’s time to turn around when you pass by the former State Correctional Facility (this section of the trail ends near here), an unusual and somewhat spooky-looking set of buildings. End your journey back in the North Shore, where you can cool off with a beverage and a snack at a riverfront restaurant.
The Challenging Route: South Side to Homestead
Route: Hot Metal Bridge to Blue Dust Café and back
Distance: 10.3 mile loop
If you start at the Hot Metal Bridge in South Side and take the trail the opposite direction from downtown, toward Homestead, you’ll be able to make a 10-mile loop—perfect for your half-marathon training or a Saturday afternoon bike ride. This section of the trail offers leafy views of the rivers through the trees, with the occasional clearing that allows you to stop and take a closer look. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, which have nesting points along the river in this area. Hofbräuhaus near the Hot Metal Bridge has outdoor seating overlooking the water if you want to begin or end your journey with some sustenance, or you can take a slight detour from the trail to hit up Blue Dust Café at the halfway point in Homestead. Bikers and trail runners frequently stop at Blue Dust to make good use of the bike racks, hearty but healthy food options, and casual atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating. Voodoo Brewery is also a Homestead classic, or you can always peruse the shops at The Waterfront. You can also continue onto the GAP Trail at an access point near here.
Choose the route on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that best suits you, or you can connect most routes to each other if you’re looking for a longer journey!This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.