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blueBlack Rachel Carson Trail

  4.7 ( 7 )

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39.1 mile 62.9 kilometer point to point
91% Runnable


Ascent: 5,612' 1,710 m
Descent: -5,427' -1,654 m
High: 1,267' 386 m
Low: 762' 232 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 57% (30°)


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Trail shared by Kevin Ketchman

An exploration of what it is to be a trail, RCT travels through parks, farmland, and housing plans.

Kevin Ketchman

Features River/Creek · Wildlife


This is a tough trail passing over rooted, rugged terrain. Once on the trail, keep your head up to follow the trail's blazing. Additionally, the trail passes through several private properties and "secret' parks (nature reserves), which gives runners perspective on urban trails, meaning you'll run through dense forest, over open expanses, down utility corridors, and between housing developments on route from North Park to Freeport. The terrain ranges from paved roads to severely sloped singletrack.

You'll have opportunities to jump on side trails that lead to Hartwood Acres Park, Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale, and a number of eateries for a quick bite before, after, or during the run (e.g. Tuscan Inn near North Park).

Need to Know

Check the Rachel Carson Trails conservancy website ( for updates about the trail, as it is often rerouted due to construction along certain stretches.

Runner Notes

Roots and rough terrain throughout.


Starting in North Park, the trailhead can be found at the spillway, towards the rear of the parking lot. A large sign signifies the start of the trail, blazed in yellow swatches. The very first thing you'll do is cross over a stream before looping back around to the front of the parking lot. It's odd, but it certainly lets you know you have officially started (wet feet).

You'll head up the hill to the Pie Traynor field and the southern section of North Park on your way out of the park. You'll then start down a long steady doubletrack section of trail before jumping into a ravine along a section of singletrack that is tough to traverse, and has another 4 stream crossings, which you'll not be able to avoid getting your feet wet (hooray).

From this point forward, you'll need to pay close attention for the yellow blazes. The RCT conservancy has done a great job of blazing the trail, and placing them in a manner that you'll see the next blaze before passing the current one you are approaching.

One of the many nature reserves (i.e. 'secret' parks) you'll pass is at mile 3.5. It's called the Crouse Run Nature Reserve, and it is a wonderful place to slow down and take in some solitude and wildflowers in the spring. You can also grab a bite to eat at the restaurant attached to nature reserve.

History & Background

Between 1972 and 1975 (completed in February 1975), this section of the old Baker Trail was rebuilt. Passing through the birthplace of Rachel Carson (noted ecologist) the trail was dedicated in her name.


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Jan 30, 2016
Kevin Ketchman
Trail conditions are less than ideal, very sloppy as ice thaws leaving a 2" layer of mud. 18mi — 4h 20m

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 7 votes


in North Park


  4.7 from 7 votes
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Where along the way would you stop for water refills etc? Sorry to ask. Aug 7, 2018
Kevin Ketchman
Kevin Ketchman   Pittsburgh
No need to apologize for asking. I'm happy thinking that someone may take advantage of this trail, outside of the race event. Unfortunately, once on the trail there isn't much in the way of rest stops. Your best bet would be to stop in Springdale, which is about half way. On Pittsburgh Street there is a convenience store, Glassmere Food Mart. You may have to deviate from the route, but it is easy to get back on trail. Hope you enjoy. Aug 8, 2018
Thanks for the help. Hope to hit this in the next month or so. New to Pittsburgh and so much to explore! Aug 28, 2018

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