I’ve walked across many swinging bridges in Pennsylvania, but none have been as long or as high as the Hyde Park Walking Bridge, which spans the Kiskiminetas River between the communities of Leechburg and Hyde Park. In fact, as I was walking across the bridge, I thought to myself that this bridge was “like the final boss of swinging bridges”.
That’s because this bridge is 600 feet long and sits about 20 feet above the river, making it a very impressive bridge and almost certainly the longest swinging bridge in PA. And when you combine the length and the height with the metal grates on the walkway that let you see down to the water below, it makes the swaying (which is quite strong near the ends) that much more intimidating. In fact, even as someone who isn’t normally bothered by walking across swinging bridges, this one gave me a bit of a pause.
If you want to check out this impressive bridge, here’s everything you need to know.
History of the Hyde Park Walking Bridge
The Hyde Park Walking Bridge spans the Kiski River from Hyde Park in Westmoreland County to Leechburg in Armstrong County. It is officially known as Armstrong County Bridge No. 13, though both counties maintain it. It is also sometimes called the Hyde Park Swinging Bridge or the Hyde Park Foot Bridge.
The Hyde Park Walking Bridge is built in three spans that utilize two stone piers in the middle of the Kiski River (what is what locals call the Kiskiminetas River).
The bridge was originally constructed in 1886 for the local railroad but was destroyed in May 1889 during the same flooding that caused the Johnstown Flood. The bridge was rebuilt but was eventually abandoned in 1904.
Near the bridge, there was a ferry boat crossing to help locals get between the communities since this was a time before many had cars and the nearest bridge was two miles away. However, after a ferry accident in 1913, it was decided that a bridge was needed in this spot.
The first Hyde Park Walking Bridge was constructed of wood in 1920. At some point, likely due to wood’s deterioration, a metal suspension bridge was constructed in the same spot in 1955. That bridge, which uses a significant amount of steel from the Hyde Park Foundry, is the one that is still standing today.
Visiting the Hyde Park Walking Bridge
Given that this is a pedestrian bridge, you can visit it from either end. However, while this is technically true, the only close parking for the bridge is on the eastern banks of the Kiski River in Hyde Park (Westmoreland County).
If you’d rather park in Leechburg, you’ll have to find legal parking along Market Street in the downtown area about a third of a mile away, and walk over to the bridge.
On the Hyde Park side of the bridge, you’ll want to park along Railroad Street. At approximately the following address, there is a large pull-off on the road that is big enough for several cars: 221 Railroad Street, Hyde Park, PA 15641 (Coordinates: 40.627978, -79.594683).
From this parking area, if you look to your left, you’ll see a railroad track and the bridge in the distance.
A short distance further up Railroad Street from the parking pull-off, you’ll see a path heading down to the tracks and an official crossing point for the tracks. Note that this spot, while official, has you walking directly over the active railroad tracks. Use EXTREME caution when doing so and make sure to look both ways as this is an active train route.
It should be noted that if you park on the Leechburg side, you won’t have to cross the railroad track.
Once across the tracks, follow the path 100 yards or so to the start of the Hyde Park Walking Bridge.
This bridge is painted with now-faded yellow paint and is very impressive to look at. As you look down the structure, you’ll probably be able to see the undulations in the bridge and some swaying even before you step foot onto it. As I said, it’s a bit intimidating even if you’ve visited other swinging bridges in the state.
As you walk across the bridge, you can sway the bridge as much as you’d like, but even carefully walking across it will cause the bridge to sway a good amount, especially the closer to shore you are. Interestingly, the middle span is by far the most stable of the three spans on this bridge.
Even if you are clinging on for dear life, make sure to take some time to really appreciate the beauty here. This bridge is located in quite a beautiful spot, and I spent several minutes just enjoying the area.
Whichever end you enter on, make sure to take a minute to enjoy the small park on the Leechburg side of the river before you leave the area.
This park is dedicated to the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Canal, which once ran along the western banks of the Kiski River. There is a bit of signage here that offers some information on the history of the area, and I found it quite interesting to read during my visit.
The views of the Hyde Park Walking Bridge are also better on the Leechburg side because there’s less blocking the view of the river. Make sure to take a minute and enjoy the impressiveness of this bridge from the park.
Overall, I found the Hyde Park Walking Bridge to be fascinating, beautiful, and a ton of fun to visit. Once I got over my trepidation about crossing the bridge, I really had a fun time walking on it as it swayed, and the history and beauty of this spot were really a great bonus.
Whether you are looking for a bit of fun or just like to check out interesting historical spots in western PA, definitely add the Hyde Park Walking Bridge to your list of spots to visit.