Mount Washington was originally known as Coal Hill and was settled by immigrant factory workers in the early 19th century. However, the steep hill was hard to climb, even with the assistance of switchbacks and stairs.
So, in the 1870s, several inclines were built to ascend the hill. These inclines allowed not only people but also horses and goods to be sent up the hill more easily than before, spurring development of the neighborhood.
As the neighborhood grew, the name was changed from Coal Hill to Mount Washington, to honor the nation’s first President. According to history, Washington stood on the hill while he was a young British officer in the French and Indian War and surveyed the land and water around Pittsburgh.
Today, roads take residents and visitors alike to the top of Mount Washington; however, for those looking for a unique experience, two of the inclines still run on a daily basis and whisk visitors to the top of Mount Washington for a stunning view of downtown Pittsburgh.
The oldest of these is the Monongahela Incline. The lower station of this incline is located close to Station Square, a popular shopping and dining destination, as well as Station Square Station, a stop on Pittsburgh’s Light Rail. Completed in 1870, it is the oldest operating incline in America.
The other incline that scales Mount Washington is the Duquesne Incline. This incline is a few years newer than the Monongahela Incline (built in 1877) and is slightly less steep as well. However, this incline is more well-known for two reasons. First, it was featured in the 1983 film “Flashdance.”
Secondly, since this incline is slightly further from downtown Pittsburgh, it offers a better view of the city. From here, you can more easily see The Point, the location where the Monongahela River meets the Allegheny River and form the Ohio River.
Because of this, I’d definitely recommend riding the Duquesne Incline to the top of Mount Washington. However, you’ll need a car to get there, as public transit doesn’t run near the base of the Duquesne Incline.
Ultimately though, either incline provides a great view and the ability to see downtown Pittsburgh from Mount Washington.
Once at the top of the hill, there are many observation points along Grandview Avenue to view the beauty of the city below.
In several places, circular overlooks have been built that extend over the edge of the hill to provide a more encompassing viewpoint. However, the best views are from the observation deck next to the Duquesne Incline or points further east.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to ride the Duquesne Incline to access their viewing platform. This is great news for those that ride the Monongahela Incline or choose to drive to the top of Mount Washington.
No matter which incline you take, the mile-long walk between the two inclines is simply breathtaking, providing a variety of viewpoints that will leave you reaching for your camera every few feet. For those who are hungry, there are also many restaurants at the top of Mount Washington, several with views of downtown Pittsburgh.
So, the next time you are in Pittsburgh, take the inclines to the top of Mount Washington. You won’t be disappointed with the views from one of the best urban vistas in the world.
(If you love great views, also give the nearby West End Overlook Park a visit the next time you are exploring Pittsburgh.)