By Emily Struhala
The Pittsburgh Hiking Meetup Group began around 20 years ago for the simple enjoyment of getting some exercise outside. Now it is the largest hiking group in Pittsburgh with various outings around the city multiple times a week.
On a Friday in June, the group met for a hike around Frick Park led by Harvey Schoenman. Beginning at the Frick Park Clay Courts, hikers ventured to parts of the Braddock Trail, Nine Mile Run Trail, Parkview Boulevard, Summerset at Frick Park and even some unnamed trails, traversing a total of six and a half miles. They took in views of Kennywood Park and U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works plant.
“I now belong to and regularly hike with five groups and am a hike leader in two of them,” says Schoenman.
Hiking and camaraderie are an attraction for other members as well.
“I love being outdoors and hiking with other people. The conversations make it so enjoyable. Having these connections with like-minded people is invaluable,” says Diane Tromans-Berg.
She has several favorite hiking spots including Mt. Washington, Schenley Park, Riverview Park and Frick Park.
Chris Wadsworth joined the group for exercise about three years ago. He attends three hikes a week.
“I often repeat the same trails because we go to a lot of the same parks because they are convenient. However, we also make road trips to places like McConnells Mill State Park, Ohiopyle, Coopers Rock and sometimes to a park or forest even further away than that,” says Wadsworth.
For those who would like to join, Wadsworth has some advice.
“My advice to a beginner would be to start out small, doing just a couple miles on the easier trails, and then work your way up from that into the 5- to 10-mile very hilly hikes,” he says.
Kimberly Manns is another frequent hiker who joined the group in November 2020 during the pandemic.
“I was looking for a way to do something safe outdoors and still have the possibility of socializing with people,” says Manns, who has been on more than 400 hikes. “I found out I really like hiking the most in the winter.”
Manns participates in two hikes per week and sometimes more when her schedule allows. Her favorite hiking spot is Hartwood Acres.
“There’s just a nice variety of hills, trails, and folks that go out,” she says.
Jeannine Melanson is one of the hiking group’s newest members and is already getting out frequently. She heard about the group through a neighbor who joined last year and raved about how wonderful it is to hike as a group.
“I just joined [June 17] and I’ve already enjoyed going on three hikes … I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I complete the hike as well as the health benefit. This group is a gem,” says Melanson.
The Pittsburgh Hiking Meetup Group’s treks are planned throughout the week for all skill levels. The group is entirely run by volunteers who love the outdoors and are passionate about getting others outside as well.
Each hike leader will post weekly on Meetup what trail they will be venturing to next. The group as a whole shares the mission of wanting to get outside, however, each individual hike leader may have specific goals for a hike. Members are not required to attend and joining is free. All ages and furry friends are welcome. Animals must be leashed at all times during the hike.
Hike suggestions can be posted on the group message board. To join, simply get on the Meetup app, answer a few questions, and begin trekking.
Emily Struhala is a Greensburg-based writer. She has contributed to Ocean City Magazine in New Jersey and the Latrobe Bulletin. When not writing, she enjoys exploring new events in the area and attending her local Zumba class.
The Outdoor Guide Series is underwritten by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council as part of its effort to promote the outdoor recreation economy in Pennsylvania and neighboring areas.