Wednesday, August 9, 2017

McConnells Mill State Park : Slippery Rock Gorge Trail

Hey friends, I'm back with another hike post, so those of you in Western PA area are in luck. This past Sunday I was all set to go for an early morning trail run, but my buddy (I'll leave out names to protect the guilty...) had a little too much fun Saturday night and couldn't meet me. I was left bumming around the house, slowly enjoying my coffee, when our friends Ryan & Rachael called to see if we wanted to join them for a hike. Mr.Sass was stuck putting in a new front door that took longer than expected, but I happily downed my coffee, changed my clothes & headed for a hike.


Getting There : McConnells Mill State Park is about 40 minutes to 1 hour from the city of Pittsburgh depending on what part of the city you're in, and is easily accessible from I-79N.

{Tip} - Aim to end your hike hungry & head the extra 15 - 20 minutes north to North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock. It has quickly become my favorite restaurant. They brew their own beer, have tons of local wines available, and even make some of their own soft drinks. Their food is excellent also, especially their deep fried pretzels with cheese and homemade spicy mustard (splurge the $.75 for both dips!) And their interior, booths, bar, tables, etc are all hand carved from wood. Double bonus, they have an outdoor seating area!

Hike : Slippery Rock Gorge Trail (DCNR website here)
This is where things get interesting - the Gorge trail is a one-way trail, which means, if you hike it all the way through, you will end up nowhere near where you started. So, what are the options?

1. Hike out as far as you please, turn around, come back (Lots of distance options)
2. Hike all the way to the end, and then come back (12.4 miles total)
3. Set up a "shuttle" - this requires 2 cars, which I'll talk about below (6.2 miles)


Parking : We parked here (we'll call this Parking A), in this gravel lot - while there is  parking further down this road, it fills up quickly on the weekends and it is difficult to turn around if you get down there & find no parking. Take your chances.

If you'd like to start the trail from the other end, or if you're setting up a shuttle, you'll want to park here - at Hell's Hollow - we'll call this Parking B.


Above I mentioned that if you're interested in hiking the trail all the way through (6.2 miles) you'll need to set up a shuttle, this involves 2 cars, one parked at each end point, which is how we completed the trail on Sunday. I parked at the gravel lot, the first lot mentioned, hopped in with Ryan & Rachael & we drove to the Hell's Hollow parking lot, which is where we started our hike. Post hike, I drove them back to their car. While this option takes a little more planning it's a nice way to see the whole trail without walking 12.4 miles.

Trailhead : If you're starting the trail at Parking A, take a right out of the gravel lot, walk down the "road" and stay right until you cross a bridge, with Slippery Rock Creek underneath, once you cross the bridge, the trail head will be immediately on your left. There will be a sign, with a blue blaze.


If you're starting at Parking B, head away from the road, along the tree line, towards the middle of the gravel lot there is an opening to the trail. Very wide and well marked. It includes a picnic bench as well as a map. If you miss it, this hike is too difficult for you. ;)

Round Trip : The trail from end to end is 6.2 miles, if you set up a shuttle. If you hike the full trail, out & back to return to your start point, you'll hike 12.4 miles. If that's not your jam, hike out a few miles, then turn around, this is an easy way to make a hike any distance you please.

Difficulty : Intermediate.
This trail is not suitable for young children (in my opinion, maybe yours are rockstars) I would recommend a hiking shoe or boot. There is no water along the trail, nor at the trailheads, so you'll definitely need to bring your own. The trail is not difficult to follow, it is very well blazed, and has signage throughout. The difficulty comes from the elevation changes, and uneven footing.



Hike Time : For the 6.2 mile end to end version I would say it took us about 3 hours.
Elevation Gain : There's lots of elevation changes on this hike, both up and down. Believe me, you'll get your heart pumping on this hike.
Restrooms : None at Parking A, one port-o-potty of questionable cleanliness is available at Parking B.

This is definitely a park worth visiting. There are several other shorter loop type trails within the park that start from the Old Mill if 6.2 miles isn't your style. The Kildoo Parking lot has a nice picnic area and makes it easy to reach the Mill.

Ever been to McConnells Mill?
Let me know if you head up & try out the trail! :)
What is a comfortable hiking distance for you?
Is 6 miles too long of a hike?

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Linking up with Amanda.

4 comments:

  1. It looks like a beautiful hike! But the deep fried pretzels are what really caught my eye :) That sounds delicious.

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  2. wow, that friend sounds like a real jerk. At least you got to go on an awesome hike! thanks for sharing :)

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  3. I would like to think 6 miles wouldnt feel long, but add in hills & terrain & I'm sure I'd be exhausted for days afterwards.

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  4. What a fun hike! I should definitely explore more hikes in my area (when I get my husband to go with me LOL).

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