Best National Parks Near Pittsburgh

March 14, 2015 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: KDKA

When one imagines Pittsburgh, the first thing that comes to mind is a sweeping steel landscape of industry and innovation. But many visitors, and even residents, are not aware of the vast national forestry that surrounds this glittering urban landscape. Read on for five of the most breathtaking and historic national parks to visit for recreation and relaxation during this impending spring.

Friendship Hill National Historic Site
223 New Geneva Road
Point Marion, PA 15474
(724) 329-2501
www.nps.gov/frhi

Friendship Hill National Historic Site, a serene, secluded park, was the home of American politician Albert Gallatin. This beautifully peaceful spot is one of the few large expanses that showcases the entire range of the massive Monongahela River. Visit this large park, and be sure to stop at Gallatin’s home – the original structure still stands. If you head out when the leaves start to change, be sure to check out FestiFall, a celebration of the life and times of Albert Gallatin, that’s marked with historic food, activities and crafts.

National Road Heritage Park
65 W Main St, Suite 103
Uniontown, PA 15401
(724) 437-9877
www.nationalroadpa.org

Enjoy hundreds of acres on lush, green parkland while exploring the Historic National Road. For over 600 miles, it is a landscape of cultural, historic and archaeological significance, scenic beauty and bountiful recreation, and a journey through yesterday when the lives and fortunes of the people that forged America are remembered. There are few things in history that call to us across time from the beginnings of our nation, and this beautifully maintained piece of our forefathers is one of them. Many activities are planned throughout the year, and if you visit the park’s website, you can also become a ‘Friend of the Road’ and support this piece of America’s legacy.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial
733 Lake Road
South Fork, PA 15956
(814) 495-4643
www.nps.gov/jofl

The park Visitor Center and the grounds of the park are open year round at this markedly historic site. Plan your trip to the site of a torrential natural disaster that killed over 2,000 people in 1889, and ultimately destroyed the small town of Johnstown – which today is a thriving little community. Visit remains of the dam that are preserved within the park and are short walks from convenient parking spots. Guided tours, such as the Journey Around Lake Conemaugh Van Tours and Path of the Flood Van Tours, are available, plus an energizing Path of the Flood Hike.

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Fort Necessity National Battlefield
1 Washington Parkway
Farmington, PA 15437
(724) 329-5512
www.nps.gov/fone

Follow the short paved path from the visitor center to the Great Meadow and Fort Necessity, where the French & Indian War began, as you embark on your hike to the Mount Washington Tavern. While the expansive park is not well groomed, avid hikers can relish in the park’s five acres of forest and meadows. In addition, cross-country skiing is available in winter. Trails will wind visitors straight through a loop trail at Jumonville Glen, which paves a way to General Braddock’s Grave. A trace of the Braddock Road is clearly visible at this site, and makes for a memorable, picturesque stopping place.

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
110 Federal Park Road
Gallitzin, PA 16641
(814) 886-6150
www.nps.gov/alpo

The first railroad, built by engineer John Roebling (of Brooklyn Bridge fame), was the first to circumvent the Allegheny Mountains. The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the finishing piece of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, and now sits atop an expanse of dozens of acres of scenic park. “The Portage,” opened in 1834, marked the first time that there was one direct route between Pittsburgh and Philly – which was a wise choice, so ‘Burgh natives could get to all of those delicious cheesesteaks. Memorialize your trip by visiting the visitor’s center and witnessing pieces of engineering history from when this site was built.

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Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.