Home » Pittsburgh and its Suburbs

The 10 Best Things to Do in McConnells Mill State Park

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. We will make a small commission from these links if you order something at no additional cost to you.

There are many beautiful state parks in PA, but without a doubt, McConnells Mill State Park is one of my favorites. From rushing waterfalls to historic structures, there are many great things to do in the park.

Whether you’ve never been to this state park near Pittsburgh or have been visiting for many years, there are more than enough things to do at McConnells Mill State Park to keep you busy. Here are a few of my favorites.

McConnell’s Mill Covered Bridge

Things to do in McConnells Mill State Park: See the covered bridge
McConnell’s Mill Covered Bridge is one of the most beautiful covered bridges in Pennsylvania.

Possibly my favorite spot in the park is McConnell’s Mill Covered Bridge. Having been to over 200 covered bridges in Pennsylvania, this remains, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful in the entire state.

McConnell’s Mill Covered Bridge spans Slippery Rock Creek and was built in 1874. The bridge utilizes a rare Howe truss system, making it an interesting bridge to see even if you’ve visited many other covered bridges around the state.

McConnell’s Mill

Seeing the old mill and dam are two of the best things to do in McConnells Mill State Park
The historic McConnell’s Mill is a highlight of any trip to the park.

McConnell’s Mill sits adjacent to the park’s covered bridge and a beautiful dam and dates to 1868 (replacing an older mill that was destroyed in a fire). The mill was used as a gristmill and originally had a working waterwheel that powered it at one point.

When Thomas McConnell purchased the mill in 1875, he updated the machinery, making the mill one of the first in the country to use rolling mills. It would cease operations in the late 1920s.

Today, McConnell’s Mill is not only a beautiful focal point in the park but also features several interesting displays. The interior of the mill is open Wednesday to Sunday from Memorial Day Weekend through late September.

Interestingly, the mill was featured prominently as one of the filming locations in Pennsylvania for “The Pale Blue Eye” starring Christian Bale, which was released in December 2022.

Hell’s Hollow Falls

Hell's Hollow Falls is a must do site in McConnells Mill State Park
Hell’s Hollow Falls is the most popular waterfall in the park.

Hell’s Hollow Falls is the most popular waterfall in McConnells Mill State Park. While it is not the tallest waterfall in the area, it’s one of only two on the park map and is quite easy to reach.

A half-mile hike along a relatively flat trail takes you to the top of the falls. Along the way, notice how the stream has carved a small gorge into the ground.

Adjacent to Hell’s Hollow Falls is the remnants of a historic limestone kiln and a set of steps that take you to the bottom of the falls. If the waterfall is flowing well, it may be hard to get a great view without getting your feet wet, but it’s worth checking out regardless.

Alpha Falls

Alpha Falls in McConnells Mill State Park in Pennsylvania
Alpha Falls is the park’s tallest waterfall, but only flows well during periods of higher water.

Alpha Falls is the second waterfall shown on the park map and is located in the northern reaches of McConnells Mill State Park. It is the tallest waterfall in the park.

Alpha Falls drops over a tall cliff face and is quite impressive when it is flowing well. Unfortunately, the stream that flows over the falls is quite small, so Alpha Falls only flows well during periods of high water. If water levels are lower, Alpha Falls probably won’t be flowing very well, but the high cliff walls here are still worth a look.

Cleland Rock

Cleland Rock vista in McConnells Mill State Park
The view from Cleland Rock is quite impressive.

McConnells Mill isn’t a park that is known for overlooks, but one impressive view can be found at Cleland Rock.

This sandstone outcropping sits at the deepest point of the Slippery Rock Gorge and offers an impressive view of the forested hillsides surrounding the stream far below.

There are no trails that run to the rock, but there is room to park your car just steps from the vista. It’s worth noting that the gravel road that leads to the vista isn’t very well maintained, and while I was able to visit in my car, make sure you are careful on the road.

Breakneck Falls

Breakneck Falls is a beautiful waterfall in McConnells Mill State Park
Breakneck Falls is a once-hidden gem of McConnells Mill State Park.

For many years, people sought out Breakneck Falls because of its great beauty. However, visiting it was difficult and somewhat dangerous. Fortunately, in recent years, the park has built an official trail to the waterfall that makes it much easier to see.

At Breakneck Falls, water cascades down a series of drops directly underneath an old bridge. All told, Breakneck Falls is probably about 25 feet in height with rock walls that tower even taller.

While it isn’t the best waterfall in the park, its impressive setting more than makes this a great spot to visit.

Slippery Rock Gorge Trail

Slippery Rock Gorge Trail in McConnells Mill State Park
The Slippery Rock Gorge Trail passes through some of the most beautiful and scenic areas of the park.

The Slippery Rock Gorge Trail is a six-mile trail (12.5 miles roundtrip) that runs primarily along Slippery Rock Creek. Starting from the same parking lot as the trail to Hell’s Hollow Falls, the trail passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in all of the park, including secluded portions of the gorge.

The trail ends at Eckert Bridge, where you can extend the hike even further by adding a hike on the equally beautiful Kildoo Trail.

The Slippery Rock Trail is also part of the 4,600-mile North Country Trail which passes through the park on its route from New York to North Dakota.

Grindstone Falls

Grindstone Falls is one of the least-known things to do in McConnells Mill State Park
Grindstone Falls is one of the park’s least-known waterfalls.

Grindstone Falls is possibly the least-known waterfall in the park. Located along Grindstone Run, there are no official trails that run to the waterfall. However, a surprisingly well-established path runs from a water tower on Mountville Road directly to the waterfall.

Grindstone Falls isn’t overly tall, probably 10 feet in height at the most, but is a scenic and peaceful spot for those looking to get away from the crowds that can be present at other areas of the park.

Kildoo Falls

Kildoo Falls in McConnells Mill State Park in PA
Kildoo Falls is another beautiful waterfall in McConnells Mill State Park.

Kildoo Falls is another hidden waterfall in McConnells Mill State Park. Located under Kildoo Bridge near the historic mill and covered bridge, Kildoo Falls reminded me of Adams Falls in Linn Run State Park. That’s because both waterfalls typically have a thin stream or two of water flowing off a cliff face with a small area behind the falls.

It should be noted that Kildoo Falls is another dangerous area and the rocks here can be quite slippery. If you visit the falls, use extreme caution and don’t attempt to climb the rocks around the falls themselves.

White Water Boating

White water boating in McConnells Mill State Park
If you love kayaking in white water, McConnells Mill is a great spot.

Slippery Rock Creek is a waterway known for its Class II and III rapids and is a popular spot for white water boating. While no operators currently offer public trips here (you’ll have to go to Ohiopyle State Park for that), those with experience and their own kayak can often be found tackling the creek.

The most popular white water run on Slippery Rock Creek starts at the Route 422 bridge north of the park and continues to Harris Bridge. Note that if you are boating the creek, a portage is required around the dam at McConnell’s Mill, and running it is illegal.

Do you have other favorite things to do at McConnells Mill State Park? Let us know in the comments section below.

Looking for other great things to do in the area? Check out the Harlansburg Station Museum, the Sunken Garden Trail, Jennings Environmental Education Center, or Big Run Falls.

Check out our map below for other nearby things to do.

Click the map to see more nearby things to do

Pittsburgh travel map"

More nearby places worth exploring

Find more things to do in the Pittsburgh region

18 thoughts on “The 10 Best Things to Do in McConnells Mill State Park”

  1. We used to go every summer. I remember meeting Old Mose, who was an interpreter and had been born a slave! I also remember a Miss Kildoo. Didn’t she have a camp or something?

  2. Thank you for featuring the park. It is located in eastern Lawrence County and, as you noted, is one of the most beautiful areas of Pennsylvania. The County of Lawrence owns and maintains the covered bridge and we take great pride in it. Dan Vogler, Chairman, Lawrence County Commissioners

  3. Close by is a natural spring I collected about a quart in a mayonnaise jar. The process is very delicate so that silt is not disturbed and the collection is milli inches from top flow, but taste is purely refreshing and refrigeration cold.

  4. If you are hiking and look under some of the outcroppings that are like mini caves, you can see some winter’s ice into the month of June!

    • Thanks for the great reporting on McConnells Mill. One of my favorite places. Hope to see you again this Fall if you’re doing workshops in the area.

  5. Don’t forget the rock climbing. I have been climbing there for 47 years and it is one of only 3 state parks that have it as an allowed activity.

  6. Check it out in the Fall! It will take your breath away! Thanks for sharing our beautiful county. Janet Falotico, Visit Lawrence County.

  7. My family has been going to McConnell’s Mill for over 50 years.And we love everything about this beautiful park.

    • Good morning Jim, all of you comments about this gorge are fantastic, but you never mention the ” Jurassic Park ” like rock formations that are millions of years old that are the lining of this beautiful gorge. The beautiful rare flowers that bloom along the gorge trails. The trees that somehow manage to grow within and on top of the rocks. For many, including myself, this place is a religious experience. I have been to many places in our great country and this is one of the most beautiful I have been to. Thank you for Sharing and bringing it to light.

    • I so remember the name of the park–but haven’t a clue why they took me there, They loved picnics and water to look at but not go in. They loved to picnic all over PA and it was like a weekend surprise!

  8. The explosion of wildflowers in the park in late April and early May is one of the highlights of the year for my wife and me. Visitors should visit both Slippery Rock Gorge and Hells Hollow to see oodles of white trillium, white trillium with pinkish petals, red trillium, red trillium with yellow petals, phlox, bluets, liverworts, etc!! McConnells Mill SP is rated as an outstanding wildflower hot spot in Pennsylvania!

  9. Every winter My Scout master would take us here to hike and it is simply breathtaking, Especially in a true winter when the waterfalls freeze! Climbing and Repelling is fun and you relly do not get up to high so people who do not like heighs can comfortably experence natural Rock Climbing here. Mostly anyone you run into here any time of the year are very friendly reminding you of the joys of mostly rural living.

  10. Does anyone know of the overlook in that area where the natives would scout/spy on the pioneers passing by below? Went there on a high school field trip many years ago, but cannot remember the exact location. There was a painting of it in the Scaife collection.

  11. Thank you for featuring McConnell’s mill. I was born in New Castle and have many memories about this park. When I was learning to drive my uncle would let me practice driving around the park. There is a very steep hill coming from the right of the mill that ends in the parking lot. The first time I went down that hill, I rode the brakes until I was able to turn into a parking space. Every year we would have at least 3 picnics there and just love every inch of that park.

  12. Thank you so much for this story and the beautiful pictures that I am going to share with my 94 year old Mom. She was born and raised up over the hillside from the Slippery Rock Creek out side of Ellwood City where me and my siblings we all born😊We have all lived in California since the 60’s now but all will enjoy revisiting our childhood thru your article and photos😊


Leave a Comment

Waterfalls of Pennsylvania Book by Jim Cheney

"Waterfalls of Pennsylvania" by Jim Cheney

If you love PA waterfalls, you won't want to miss this waterfall book from Jim Cheney, author of Uncovering PA, featuring more than 180 great waterfalls. Order it now on Bookshop.org or Amazon.

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!