Pittsburgh skyline
Photo by Jason Phox.

Pittsburgh is celebrated for its bridges, its predominant role in U.S. industrial history and for being home to one of the world’s biggest conventions for anthropomorphism. Now, people finally are noticing Pittsburgh is a destination for outdoor activities.

A study by the real estate listing company CommercialSearch ranks Pittsburgh as the 8th best place for outdoor enthusiasts among cities with fewer than 500,000 residents. 

The study examines several factors such as parks, outdoor amenities, outdoor trails per resident, air quality, number of clear days per year, walkability and recreation places. 

“In our bustling daily lives, it may be increasingly difficult to connect with nature and spend time outside,” writes Lucian Alixandrescu for CommercialSearch. “As such, living in a city where such opportunities are easier to find can contribute to physical and mental well-being. Our aim was to identify which cities are the best in this regard.”

Pittsburgh has more than 165 parks with amenities for everyone such as biking, walking, swimming, hiking and disc golf. Pittsburgh earned a park score of 21.5 out of 30 with 67.3% of residents living within a 10-minute walk to a park. The city received the best score out of all small cities for its outdoor fitness zones per capita, with almost one fitness zone for every 10,000 residents. 

“From urban havens to the Great Allegheny Passage, Pittsburgh is a paradise for outdoor lovers ready to take in the sights and sounds of nature within the city as well as outside its limits,” says Alixandrescu. “Beyond hiking and biking, the city also offers kayaking, with eight rivers being within an hour’s drive, as well as camping and many other opportunities for recreation.” 

Image courtesy of CommercialSearch.

Valerie Beichner, president & CEO of Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh-based organization working to highlight the benefits of getting outdoors, agrees.

“Access to outdoor spaces is vital to everyone’s mental and physical health and wellness. Parks provide opportunities to be physically active and connect with nature. They also provide space for communities to gather and engage,” she says.

Beichner says Pittsburgh residents tend to engage in cycling and walking the most because of how easily accessible they are. She adds that kayaking is becoming more popular in the city. 

“Pittsburgh has it all,” says Beichner. “We have what feels like endless miles of trails on the riverfront and throughout our wooded hills; several waterways like rivers, streams and lakes to choose from; and countless clubs, nonprofits and for-profits with a mission to get you enjoying the natural environment.”

This story is part of the new Outdoor Guide series for NEXTpittsburgh focusing on outdoor recreation within a roughly three-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

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.

Jason Phox is a journalist in the Pittsburgh area sharing important information with the people of the Steel City. He enjoys writing, photography, and mostly comic books.