There are many beautiful state parks in Pennsylvania, 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
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 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 update 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.
Hell’s Hollow Falls
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 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.
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.
Of all the waterfalls in McConnells Mill State Park, Breakneck Falls is the hardest to see. If you chose to attempt to visit it, be aware that the descent to the bottom is quite tricky, and people have died trying to get a look at the falls from the top (It got its name for a reason).
That being said, Breakneck Falls is a beautiful waterfall and a great reward for those fit and brave enough to visit it.
The water cascades down a series of drops directly underneath an old bridge. All told, Breakneck Falls is probably about 25 feet in height.
Slippery Rock Gorge Trail
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 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 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
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.
Check out our map below for other nearby things to do.