As the last of the year’s warm weather fades, resist the urge to move your bikes to safer territory: to retire them to the dry garage until conditions favor our spokes and brake pads. Sometimes (if not all the time) the city is better seen on two wheels, working hard for your miles and feeling the trail beneath your tires.

Pittsburgh is a lucky place for bikers– we not only have a slew of bike trails from which to choose, but the majority of them are very well-maintained. Yes, we’re sad to see the good weather go, but that won’t stop us from hitting the trails. Bonus: fewer people are out there. Dress accordingly and enjoy.

Here are five great trail rides to hit before the snow does.

Photos by Rebekah Zook


Great Allegheny Passage — Combination

The Great Allegheny Passage, or GAP, is a wonderful taste of bike touring right in Pittsburgh’s backyard. End to end, the trail takes you a full 355 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. Technically, the western terminus of the trail is located at Point State Park but to get a good dose of fall I’d recommend starting farther from its urban trailhead. After winding through downtown, the trail crosses the Hot Metal Bridge and continues on the South shore, where the sidewalks turn to trail. Follow the riverfront down a beautiful tree-lined rail bed. The entire GAP follows an old rail bed, which means the steepness of your ride will never go above a 2% grade. A quick pass by Sandcastle will place you in the Waterfront, where the trail takes a turn for the rural. The Pump House in Homestead, immediately after the Waterfront, is a great place to stop for a restroom and to replenish (and observe a good bit of Homestead’s history with steel). From there, the trail only gets more beautiful. You’ve already made it 20 miles by this point; why not coast all the way to DC?

Montour Trail — Rural

The Montour Trail is more secluded and further from the city but worth the extra mileage. Like the GAP, the Montour is a rail-trail. Unlike the GAP, the Montour is more rural, allowing for some intensely cool tunnel and wood bridge riding that you can’t find within city limits. Trailheads are located in Clairton and Coraopolis, which will eventually be connected by a full 47-mile trail. New sections (which means new rides!) are being added every year. The Montour also connects to the Great Allegheny Passage via the Clairton Connector in McKeesport.

Millvale Three Rivers Heritage Trail — Combination

If traveling outside of the city is less of an option, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that runs along the city’s North Shore is a perfect afternoon ride. Start at the Carnegie Science Center and follow the Allegheny River past PNC Park, beneath the Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol bridges, and continue toward Millvale. Several outlooks dot the right-hand side of the trail, available for breaks as well as gorgeous views of downtown and the Strip District. This is also an incredible trail for observing Pittsburgh’s bridges from a new angle. The Rachel Carson gives way to the 16th Street Bridge, followed by the Fort Wayne and Veterans Bridges. To get to Washington’s Landing, you’ll switchback up a bridge to find an outstanding view of the city on one side and the canal on the other. Keep an eye out for the Three Rivers Rowing Boathouse on your left, a hub for rowers of all kinds.

Eliza Furnace Trail — Urban

While the industrial aesthetic of the Eliza Furnace Trail might not seem appealing in theory, it offers a tour of the city that just isn’t visible by car. The trail begins beyond the Hot Metal Bridge, one of our favorite spots in the city, on the northern shore of the Monongahela and is a straight shot to Point State Park. If you don’t mind the sounds of traffic (personally, it can add a good vibe to a day ride) this trail will take you as close to the natural rock of Pittsburgh’s bluff as you can get outside of an enclosed vehicle. Experiencing the city’s natural infrastructure close up and sans windshield, is a privilege on this ride.

Riverview Park Bike Loop — Rural

Riverview Park is full of trails for hikers and bikers alike, but the paved bike trail that loops through the center of the park is the most accessible for all types of bikes and skill levels. The trail winds down into the valley, then steadily brings you back to your starting point at the park’s main entrance. Along the way, you’ll pass many hiker/biker trailheads as well as structures that have helped shape Riverview’s colorful past (the park used to be a zoo for Pennsylvania-specific wildlife). The trail is attached to a road, but traffic is minimal and the bike lane is heavily demarcated.

Got a favorite trail we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments below.

Rebekah Zook is a Duquesne grad and all-around story-telling enthusiast. A former fellow at WESA, she worked as a production assistant for their daily talk show. Most recently, she taught in the Propel Charter School system as a visiting artist. When she isn’t writing, Rebekah is a trip leader for the local non-profit organization Venture Outdoors. You can usually find her in a bright yellow kayak.