What do you call a cycling destination that’s just far enough from the city center to be out of the way and just rewarding enough to be worth the trip? Well, if you’re in Pittsburgh, you call it Highland Park.
Butted up against the Allegheny River, this 380-acre green-space technically falls within the borders of Steel City; but don’t expect to find any high rises here. It’s location roughly 6 miles northeast and 300 ft above downtown Pittsburgh virtually guarantees you a secluded bike ride. Once you make it up the hill, that is.
To give you some background, the park and its titular surrounding neighborhood hold a special place in city residents’ hearts. Both actor Gene Kelly and singer Billy Eckstine once called these streets home, and the entire district is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. The park isn’t without its fair share of cultural significance as well, thanks most notably to the two Giuseppe Moretti sculptures that adorn the pillars at its main gate.
But you didn’t come here for a history lesson, you came here to ride. And on that front, you most certainly won’t leave disappointed.
For starters, there’s the 1-mile bike lane along Reservoir Drive; aptly named for its course around the city’s Highland Park Reservoir No. 1. But for the occasional car or fellow cyclist, the ride is the very definition of short and sweet, with nary a soul to distract you from the experience. Its undulating loop lets you power through a series of gentle inclines and declines that will get your heart racing, and should you feel like taking a breather after the ride, well – let’s just say you could do significantly worse than the view overlooking 130-million gallons of clear city water.
To get to Highland’s “secret” cycling reprieve, however, you’ll have to descend to the park’s eastern border along Washington Blvd. Here you’ll find the Bud Harris Cycling Track: a former training grounds for drivers that has since been handed over to the city’s biking populous. The oval is only half a mile in length, but with banked turns and a flat, well-maintained surface it’s decidedly fun to ride. Come on the right day and you might even catch some time trials or criterium racing compliments of the Allegheny Cycling Association.
All in all, Highland Park offers that rare combination of scenery and seclusion that can be hard for cyclists to find in a major American city. There may not be much in the way of variation at either one of these loops, but hey, that’s what the 6-mile ride out is for.