If you’re looking for a challenging day hike that can be tackled in sections, the Rachel Carson Trail is for you!
Table of Contents - About the Rachel Carson Trail - Planning a Hike on the Rachel Carson Trail - Prepping for a Rachel Carson Trail Hike - FAQs
About the Rachel Carson Trail
The Rachel Carson Trail (RCT) is a hiking trail north and east of Pittsburgh that covers over 45 miles between Harrison Hills Park and North Park. Because the trail passes close by the birthplace of ecologist Rachel Carson, the trail was dedicated in her name. The RCT was completed in February 1975.
The trail is intended for day hiking as there are no camps or shelters along the route. The trail is relatively primitive with few bridges, so be prepared for wet feet! Because the trail traverses some private land, the terrain can be extremely steep at times. The trail also follows the road in sections, so be sure to do your research before heading out for a hike on this trail!
Keep reading for tips about planning a hike on the Carson!
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.
Planning a Hike on the RCT
Navigating the Rachel Carson Trail
The trail is marked by two inch by four inch yellow blazes. A single blaze means continue straight, a double blaze denotes a turn and a triple blaze means the end of the trail.
If you have not seen a blaze in two hundred meters, you are not on the trail. I have learned this the hard way! Keep your eyes peeled for blazes and if you haven’t seen one recently, you probably need to backtrack.
Rachel Carson Trail Map
I cannot recommend purchasing the Rachel Carson Trail Conservancy Guide enough. You may think that AllTrails is enough for this hike, but the route changes enough that the latest version of the book is truly the only way to have up to date information. This guide contains 22 full color maps, a full elevation profile, and markings for all of the parking areas. I can tell you from experience that this booklet has saved me a lot of navigational hassle and is a great tool for planning your hikes.
Prepping for a Rachel Carson Section Hike
In addition to the RCT Guide, a great tool for planning your hike is the Rachel Carson Conservancy Website. This page has an interactive tool with all of the trailheads (with parking lots) and a tool to determine distance between them. Remember, if you’re doing an out and back – double the mileage listed in the tool!
The map is super easy to use! Clicking on any of the map pins will provide the coordinates for the trail head for use in Google Maps. I’ve also listed them all out below in the FAQs for your convenience.
For most up to date information on trailheads, trail conditions, and parking, visit the Rachel Carson Conservancy Website.
Rachel Carson Trail Challenge and Preparation
If you’re looking for more in depth information about the RCTC, check out my post on advice for completing the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge! I completed the Homestead Challenge or the “half challenge” and tackled the full 37+ miles in 2023.
Looking for tips on what gear to use for your day hikes on the RCTC? Check out this list of Ten Essentials for Day Hiking!
How long is the Rachel Carson Trail?
The trail is 45.7 miles long.
Where is the Rachel Carson Homestead?
The Rachel Carson Homestead is located in Springdale right along the trail. The address is 613 Marion Ave, Springdale, PA 15144. For more information, visit the homestead website.
What parks does the Rachel Carson Trail go through?
The trail goes through North Park, Agan Park, Emmerling Park, and Harrison Hills (all of which are worth exploring on their own!)
Can I camp along the Rachel Carson Trail?
No. The trail is intended for day hiking as there are no camps or shelters along the route.
How long did it take you to hike the entire RCT?
I split the trail up into small sections had to do many as out and back hikes. That meant that I covered many miles but not new trail miles. I completed the entire trail from eastern to western terminus over a series of 11 hikes between the end of March and mid-June.
List of Rachel Carson Trailheads with Coordinates (From West to East)
- Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber (Western Terminus) – 40.61557,-80.06056
- Brooker Drive – 40.61593,-80.05197
- McKinney Soccer Complex – 40.61763,-80.04752
- Ice Rink – 40.61666,-80.02441
- Beaver Shelter – 40.59937,-79.99641
- Harmar Shelter – 40.58752,-79.99033
- Sample Road – 40.57805,-79.96941
- Topnick Road – 40.58716,-79.94147
- Emmerling Park – 40.58218,-79.86166
- Log Cabin Road – 40.57445,-79.81985
- Agan Park – 40.55999,-79.78181
- Tawney Run Road – 40.55770,-79.80343
- Springdale High School – 40.54670,-79.78013
- Crawford Run Road – 40.58217,-79.77914
- Bull Creek – 40.61542,-79.75863
- Saxonburg Road – 40.65498,-79.72692
- Ox Roast Shelter – 40.65066,-79.69476
- Buckeye Shelter – 40.65214,-79.70272
- Eastern Terminus – 40.66532,-79.70382
Have you hiked the RCT? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
Updated February 4, 2024