When you think about things to do in Pittsburgh, you probably think about the city’s great museums, fantastic cultural opportunities, and the amazing views of the skyline from throughout the city. However, for nature lovers, there are also some fun spots to go hiking.
Frick Park is the largest park within the city limits, and there are a lot of great outdoor options within its nearly 650 acres of space. One of the best hikes here is the Nine Mile Run Trail.
This trail, not surprisingly, follows Nine Mile Run, a tributary of the Monongahela River. The entirety of this trail is about 2.8 miles in length. However, for this article, we’ll be talking about the half of the trail south of I-376. This trail is about 2.25 miles in length for a roundtrip out and back hike.
Until recent years, the area around Nine Mile Run was a slag pile for the nearby mills. It is estimated that 200 million tons of slag were dumped here, piling as high as ten stories in some places.
In 2006, a major cleanup project was completed along the waterway, and the transformation is nothing short of remarkable.
Today, the stream is a beautiful urban waterway that features relatively clean water and even some fish species. The woodland is also coming back, and, for most of the trail, you could easily forget that you are in the middle of Pennsylvania’s second-largest city.
That being said, there is a noticeable din of city noise throughout most of the trail, so you can’t entirely forget you are within the city.
While this isn’t the type of trail that you’d want to travel a far distance to hike (unless you are interested in urban renewal), this is a great spot for those looking for a beautiful slice of nature in the city.
Parking for the Nine Mile Run Trail
There are several options for those looking for parking for the Nine Mile Run Trail.
When I completed the hike, I parked along Commercial Street near the I-376 overpass. There are actually two parking areas here for those wanting to access the trail.
I opted to park at the smaller lot, which can be found at the following coordinates: 40.426274, -79.906042.
While parking here does require you to cross the road, it gives you easy access to check out the beautiful boardwalk on the northern part of the trail and also lets you walk under the huge interstate bridge, which is neat.
If this lot is full, you want to shave a tenth of a mile off of your hike, or you don’t want to cross the road, you can also park at the slightly large lot a short distance away along Commercial Street. That lot can be found here: 40.424322, -79.904909.
There are also parking areas further north in the main part of Frick Park, but this article is only covering the portion of the trail south of I–376.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]
Hiking the Nine Mile Run Trail
From the parking area along Commercial Street, it’s 1.1 miles one way to the Monongahela River. Unfortunately, there are no loop options here, so you’ll have to simply retrace your steps to get back to your car.
If you park in the parking area we listed first, you’ll start your hike by crossing Commercial Street and picking up the wide trail on the other side of the road.
It soon crosses below the I-376 overpass. After the bridge, it follows Commercial Street for a short distance before turning to the right and starts to run along Nine Mile Run.
One thing I liked about the first portion of this trail are the cliffs located on the left side of the trail. These are quite interesting to look at and offer some uniqueness to this portion of the trail.
Once past this area, the trail continues to meander its way along Nine Mile Creek. There are nice views of the creek below you but no easy ways to access its banks.
The Nine Mile Run Trail is quite flat and is covered with crushed gravel. This makes it an easy walk for just about anyone and makes it a popular choice for bike riders as well (so make sure to keep an eye out for them).
The one small hill is located where the trail crosses Nine Mile Run about halfway from the parking areas to the Monogahela River.
At this spot, there is a small but steep hill on either side of the bridge. While it shouldn’t be challenging for most, it may offer a bit of a deterrent for those that have trouble with slopes. Also, be extra careful here for bicycles as they can pick up some speed going towards the bridge, and it can be hard to see them coming.
When you get to the bridge, take a minute to enjoy the beauty of this spot. This is one of the most beautiful spots along this portion of the trail and provides great views of the stream below.
After climbing the short hill on the opposite side of the bridge, the trail begins to open up a bit more. On your left, a fence keeps you safely on the trail and away from vegetation. On the right, the hillside is covered with beautiful plants and steeply climbs to a neighborhood above the park.
The trail continues to follow above Nine Mile Run and is a flat and easy walk.
About a mile from the parking area, the trail officially ends at Old Browns Hill Road. Here, there are nice views of Nine Mile Run yet again.
While you could turn around at this point, I recommend carefully crossing the road and walking straight to cross under the railroad bridge. On the far side, you’ll find a parking area and great views of the Monogahela River, the Homestead Grays Bridge, and, on the far side, Homestead.
This area is known as Duck Hollow, and the Duck Hollow Trail heads off along the river for a short distance in both directions if you are looking to extend your walk.
Once you’ve finished enjoying this nice view at the confluence of Nine Mile Run and the Monongahela River, simply retrace your steps for the mile hike back to your car.
Once back at your car, I definitely recommend taking a minute to check out the wooded boardwalk along the Nine Mile Creek Trail on the far side of Commercial Street. This is a beautiful area, and I can’t wait to return to hike this upper portion of the trail.
Overall, the Nine Mile Run Trail is a great spot for outdoor lovers to check out in Pittsburgh. While the trail isn’t overly difficult, it’s a nice walk in the city that provides that chance to not only check out a beautiful area but also to see the amazing abilities that we have to rehabilitate nature from past industrial damage.