Pittsburgh is a city for runners.

On any given day, local runners can see it all: Sweeping vistas from atop a bridge; tight-knit neighborhoods; impossibly hilly sides streets; and trails with river views.

Groups supporting runners also abound — Steel City Road Runners and People Who Run Downtown, for example, offer routes and group activities for all levels.

The best part is that running is a (free!) way to see the city that’s garnering national attention for its dining scene, moderately-priced homes, neighborhoods with character galore and new developments.

There are 90 neighborhoods in the City of Pittsburgh. Here, we map routes through just a handful of them, as a way to see more of the city. If you’re looking to start, or just mix up your running routine, here are some suggestions (with links to maps included!):

Downtown view from Herr’s Island Railroad Bridge. Photo by TH Carlisle.

1. River views: North Shore, Fox Chapel, Downtown

Distance: Three miles, though you could extend it by running farther along the trail.

Go: Park along River Avenue past the Heinz plant for free parking along the North Shore portion of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail,  a 24-mile stretch with segments on the North Shore and Downtown. Riff off the route created by Steel City Road Runners. Take the trail northeast, past the 31st Street Bridge, then turn around near Waterfront Drive and go back toward the North Side.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Highlights: Practice elevation runs by sprinting up the Herr’s Island Railroad Bridge switchback walkway near the 31st Street Bridge, where you’ll be rewarded with a scenic view of the Allegheny River framed by Downtown and the North Shore. For a snack, consider the café in the Andy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky St.), which offers street-view seating, a hip lobby and a fantastic gift shop.

2. Run & shop: Strip District, Downtown

Distance: Three miles and up

Go: Park along Smallman Street, then head to the Strip District portion of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, running toward Downtown straight into Point State Park. At this point, you can turn around, or go under the bridge at the park and dash to the water fountain at the park’s edge, then head straight back to the Strip. Once there, you’ve earned a stop at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., Mon Aimee Chocolat or one of the produce stands along Penn Avenue for in-season fruit. Or buy a pound of cheese and a loaf of fresh bread — you deserve it. Use this map of the trail from Friends of the Riverfront as a guide.

Level of difficulty: Easy — the asphalt is smooth and there’s plenty of elbow room to accommodate everyone.

Highlights: You’ll run along the shores of the scenic Allegheny, where commuters and students wander mid-day. This mostly flat run leads to a classic view of Point State Park framed by Mt. Washington.

3. Mural run: Lawrenceville, Strip District, East Liberty, Bloomfield, Garfield

Distance: Options for three, five, seven and 10 miles

Go: Park on Butler Street in Lawrenceville near Espresso a Mano (3623 Butler St.). You’ll weave through sides streets and along Penn Avenue. The route from Steel City Road Runners is neatly divided into detailed three-, five-, seven- and 10-mile runs.

Level of difficulty: Newbies should consider the three-mile option. The 10-mile option is challenging, but mind-clearing run for those accustomed to distance.

Highlights: This is a public art and running mashup that offers views through multiple neighborhoods: You’ll see murals by the Art Institute, the Sargent Electric mosaic tile mural on Liberty Avenue, the “Freewheel” sculpture on 43rd Street, American flag murals on Butler Street, and the “Angel of Garfield” on Penn Avenue.

The observatory at Riverview Park. Photo by Bill Horvath via Flickr Creative Commons.

4. Riverview loop: Observatory Hill

Distance: About 2.1 miles. You can add distance by going through trails in the woods and by running up the hill to the Observatory. You can’t miss it.

Go: Park for free inside Riverview Park, off of Perrysville Avenue. The loop around Riverview follows a well-defined, asphalt path with hills and dips. Get the route here.

Level of difficulty: Moderate. Feel like a champ running downhill for much of the loop — then get a reality check as you go up the hill at the end.

Highlights: A blacktop loop takes you through woods and up hills. If it’s early you’ll probably see deer. Take a look at the Allegheny Observatory, built in 1859 and now on the National Register of Historic Places. There are no snack spots inside the park, but about a half-mile north on Perrysville Avenue, you’ll find Schorr Family Bakery (3912 Perrysville Ave.), which turns out danishes, doughnuts and fresh bread daily.

View from Mt. Washington. Photo by Tracy Certo.

5. Mt. Washington views 

Distance: Four- and six-mile options

Go: Start on Shiloh Street, make a left on Virginia Avenue and then a left on Wyoming Street. Wind around to Grandview, Republic and back to Shiloh. For the street-by-street map, and a six-mile option, see People Who Run Downtown’s Redbeard’s Mt. Washington route.

Level of difficulty: Moderate — be prepared for hills.

Highlights: Enjoy the view at the Mt. Washington Overlook. You’ll trek along P.J. McArdle Roadway above the Mon River and run along Grandview Park, with postcard-like views of the city below. Fun fact: George Washington once stood along what is now Grandview Avenue and mapped the area below for the British. Hungry? Redbeard’s Bar & Grill (201 Shiloh St.) serves hot plates and salads starting at 11 a.m.

6. City Center tour: Downtown, Mt. Washington, North Side

Distance: Six miles

Go: Park in the North Shore garage on East General Robinson on the North Side, or grab on-street parking. This route takes you from Madison Avenue to Lacock to the David McCullough Bridge, where you’ll cross, then hit Liberty Avenue, Grant Street, Crosstown Boulevard and more. This route is one of many mapped by Steel City Road Runners.

Level of difficulty: Moderate. You’ll be running on sidewalk and near busy roadways, as well as up steps.

Highlights: Enjoy views crossing the David McCullough and Liberty Bridges, and the daily bustle on Grant and Market streets. The route ends near Saw Mill Way by the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side. For a post-run pick-me-up, check out La Prima Espresso (100 South Commons) in Nova Place just a couple blocks away.




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About The Author

Editor and writer

Kimberly Palmiero is an independent journalist and business owner. She spent 25 years working for media companies in Pennsylvania and Illinois, most of that time as an editor on news desks. She left Trib Total Media in 2016 as a managing editor. A passionate journalist, she also is board president of the nonprofit Press Club of Western Pennsylvania (westernpapresclub.org). In 2009, she founded a small business which acquires, refurbishes and rents residential property. She enjoys running through city neighborhoods just after dawn. She may or may not cap off runs by drinking several espressos She lives on the North Side.

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