This route takes you along a constant barrage of ups and downs, requiring a good deal of mental fortitude. With multiple road crossings, it is easy to will yourself off the trail heading directly for the car.
However, this loop offers a lot for the Pittsburgh hiker as there are not a ton of options within 15 miles for lengthy singletrack, technical terrain, and a feeling of being removed from the city. Other trails require multiple laps to reach longer mileage, but this loop is a lengthy hike on a single loop, no doubling back, no overlap.
Share the trail. Be aware of mountain bikers
If you think North Park Multi-Trail Circuit (Orange - Green - Red Blazes) trail could use a bit more umpff, then try this edition by replacing the red blaze with the slightly longer red/blue blaze trail. This will add 3 miles and more vertical gain/loss.
This trail takes advantage of several different trails: Orange, Green, and Red/Blue Blaze
, but also the lesser identified mountain bike trails. So be aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye out for trail blazing. It's best to brush up at the North Park map website before hitting the trail, or use the Hiking Project mobile app
. I'd also recommend bringing a map in case you decide to jump off trail.
Starting from the parking lot next to the ball field, enter the trail at the Rachel Carson Trailhead heading towards the lake. Looking for a spur on the left that jumps off the trail only 100 feet from the parking lot, you'll take that spur and begin the Kotobuki Trail Connector which crosses Babcock Blvd leading you onto the Kotobuki Trail (Purple/Black Dot Blaze). This first section has a large downhill and, like all trails in North Park, is between rough and smooth, with sections of rock, roots, and mud.
Following the Kotobuki sections, you'll enter the Orange/Green blaze trail connecting to the larger Golf Course Trail (Orange Blaze)
. Near the chapel you can either continue on or jump onto the Parish Hill Loop (Green Blaze)
, as is depicted in this trail guide, before looping back to the chapel and finishing the orange blaze trail. Lastly, before entering the Red/Blue Blaze
, you'll pass through the northern section of North Park which features many unblazed trails. These range from hilly to flat, muddy to dry, and woods to open fields. It's a fun area back in there, but I recommend keeping your orientation to the lake.
The second to last section along the Red/Blue Blaze
is rough mentally. You'll weave in and out doubling back on yourself, and what is normally a 2 mile distance from one end of the lake to the other becomes a 6 mile distance. This area runs along steep hillsides, so traction is important.
Lastly, cross over Babcock Blvd once again and up Rachel Carson Trail
back to the parking lot.