Hays Woods: Pittsburgh’s Newest Park

Looking for more information about Hays Woods? Check out my tips for visiting Pittsburgh’s newest park!

Views from the park in the winter months

Looking to explore Pittsburgh’s parks? Look no further than Hays Woods, a hidden gem tucked away in the Steel City’s southeastern corner. This park is a wonderful place to get away from the city, soak in some views, and see amazing wildlife (including bald eagles!) Read on for more information on exploring Pittsburgh’s newest park!

As always, follow the principles of leave no trace when you're out exploring! Pack out all trash, leave wildlife alone, and generally leave it better than you found it - for more information visit the Leave No Trace Center.

History of Hays Woods

This sprawling 660-acre forested area was once a bustling hub of industrial activity. Over the years, nature has reclaimed this land, transforming it into a haven for wildlife and a peaceful retreat for humans.

One of the earliest recorded uses of Hays Woods was a farm established on the site by Samuel Hays. In the 1930’s, Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation (J&L) purchased the woods. A research lab was established on a portion of the site and was closed in 1974. The grounds where the lab was is now a private academy.

A development group looking to create a casino, racetrack, and residential homes purchased Hays Woods in 2003. This development would have required significant excavation and received pushback from multiple environment groups. Ultimately, the city denied the permits and the project did not move forward.

In June 2016, Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) purchased the land and mineral rights with the intention to create the city’s largest park. URA originally had set aside part of the land for residential units, but removed that carve-out in 2019. In 2021, URA sold the land to the City of Pittsburgh (for $1 – seems like a great deal!) and funding from the Western PA Conservancy, the DCNR, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation helped secure a future for the park. Finally in 2023, the City officially made Hays Woods a Pittsburgh Park!

The park has a very urban setting as it overlooks the banks of the Mon River
Looking for other hikes near Pittsburgh with great views? Check out my post on Best Hikes With Views Near Pittsburgh!

Exploring Hays Woods

Read on for tips for exploring Pittsburgh’s newest park!

Hiking in Hays Woods

Since this park is newer, the city continues to establish and work on trails. Currently on AllTrails, there is only one trail – the 3.7 mile West Agnew loop. This trail starts out as a pretty established gravel road but quickly narrows into single track with a lot of brush on either side. I’d recommend pants and a thorough tick check for yourself and any pets after a hike. At this time, a lot of the trail is overgrown after a little over a mile in. There are also signs protecting the bald eagle habitat stating “authorized personnel only”, so I turned around early.

However, if you look at the map, there are offshoots of other trails besides this one loop. I still think the park is absolutely worth visiting!As the park becomes more established, expect to see more trails and trail maintenance here!

The trail starts on this gravel former road but quickly narrows to a single track trail

Wildlife of Hays Woods

The woods are home to a diverse range of wildlife, making it an excellent spot for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, foxes, and a variety of bird species. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the majestic bald eagle, a symbol of America’s resilience and natural beauty.

Signage protecting the bald eagles that call the park their home

Community Engagement

Hays Woods isn’t just a beautiful natural space; it’s also a testament to community engagement and revitalization efforts. Local organizations such as Friends of Hays Woods, along with dedicated volunteers, have been working tirelessly to preserve and enhance the park’s natural beauty. Their commitment to conservation and restoration has been instrumental in transforming this area into a thriving green space.

Need to figure out what to bring on your hike to the park? Check out my list of Ten Essentials for Day Hiking!

Frequently Asked Questions

 Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Hays Woods in Pittsburgh, PA.

What is Hays Woods?

Hays Woods is an over 600-acre forested park in Pittsburgh, PA. The area became a Pittsburgh park officially in July 2023 and is comparable in size to Frick Park.

Where is Hays Woods located?

The park is located in the southeastern corner of Pittsburgh across the Monongahela River from Hazelwood. I recommend using the address from AllTrails to access the park.

Is there an entrance fee to visit?

Like all Pittsburgh Parks, there is no entrance fee to access the park. It’s open to the public free of charge.

Are dogs allowed in Hays Woods?

Yes! Dogs are allowed in the park, but they must be kept on a leash, and owners must clean up after them.

What amenities are available in the park?

Amenities include hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. However, there are no restrooms on-site.

Can I go camping in Hays Woods?

Camping is not permitted in the park at this time (though a Next Pittsburgh article referenced that the city is considering allowing urban camping here). For places to go backpacking near Pittsburgh, check out my post about Best Backpacking in Western PA here!

What wildlife can I expect to see during my visit?

The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, foxes, and bald eagles.

How can I get involved in volunteering or supporting conservation efforts in Hays Woods?

You can get involved by participating in volunteer programs dedicated to the park’s preservation through the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy or joining Friends of Hays Woods, a group dedicated to the preservation of Hays Woods.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Hays Woods is a Pittsburgh treasure waiting to be explored. It’s a testament to the city’s resilience and the power of community-driven conservation efforts. Plan your visit today and experience the magic of this park for yourself!

Updated November 13, 2023

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