A Natural Escape Minutes from Downtown
Some of the deep ravines in the regional landscape provide secluded getaways for hiking and exploring, while not far from the urban center. One such special place is the 370-acre Toms Run Nature Reserve, eight miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh, off Route 65 just before the I-79 interchange. The stream that intersects the reserve, Toms Run, is a direct tributary to the Ohio River.
This nature reserve is one of many natural areas protected, owned and managed by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and open to the public for recreational opportunities. For hikers and nature explorers, a newly constructed 3-mile loop trail provides a moderately strenuous hike through the steep and wooded landscape. There is also a less arduous 400-foot universal access trail, suitable for use by wheelchairs and electric-powered mobility devices. A parking lot is located at the trailhead along Toms Run Road. The surrounding uplands host suburban development, but the valley containing the trail loop is remote and largely undisturbed.
In some sections the rather rugged terrain has stands of large impressive trees, including old sugar maple, northern red oak, American beech and tulip. Wildflowers bloom in the rich soil at Toms Run in the spring, while the diversity of tree species creates a pallet of colors in autumn. The habitat also supports a variety of forest birds, including pileated woodpeckers.
For more information about Toms Run Nature Reserve or other Conservancy-owned public lands, visit WaterLandLife.org or call 412-288-2777.