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Monday, November 2, 2009

Hartwood Acres Trail Guide

Photo J. Matta
Hartwood Acres is a fantastic mountain bike destination with miles of fun and challenging mountain bike trails making it a favorite among many western Pennsylvania mountain bikers . It certainly deserves to be ranked among some of the best mountain bike trail systems in the Pittsburgh area. One of the reasons for it's popularity is the mountain biking trails at Hartwood Acres hold a ton of technical features including: rock gardens, log crossings, switchbacks, skinnies, drops and steep plunges. The trails also  make particularly good use of the elevation and if ridden properly climbs are rewarded with fast continuous flowing downhills. This gives Hartwood Acres some of the most popular single track in the Pittsburgh region.

Hartwood holds a dizzying array of intersection trails so if you are not familiar with them it would be worth bringing a map and doing a little planning beforehand. The blazed routes don't stick to one trail and require quite a few turns as you merge from one trail to another but do resist the urge to wonder. The blazed route is well marked and is well thought out. You'll have a much better ride if you follow them.  Even though the trails are blazed generously and marked frequently, if you are not paying attention you can easily loose the route. Keep in mind that a double blaze indicates a turn and sometimes it's just best to stop to find the next blaze at these intersects. Like most any riding area learning a trail system takes a little patience and learning the trail system at Hartwood will be very rewarding.

Most of these trails have a preferred direction. In general most trails work better if ridden clockwise but an exception to this would be the red and white loop especially the section of this loop that includes the red and black spur. It rides much better clockwise. The part of the red and white loop that includes this spur holds some of the best technical features in the park and is one of the more popular trails. The purple loop is also a fantastic trail. If you ride the park make sure you don't miss either of these.

Photo J. Matta

Notes about the white loop: The white loop includes a lot of steep terrain and hence it's not ridden well as a loop but works better as a connector. Counter clockwise is a particularly bad direction requiring one or more hike-a-bikes.

WARNING: The park closes at sunset and local police are serious about enforcing the park closing time. Expect to be locked behind a gate if you don't make it out of the park in time.

Trail Maps

County GIS Map of blazed trails at Hartwood
One Page Blazed Named and Numbered
County GIS Two Page Named and Numbered
Contoured Map

Suggested Routes

Outer Loop
This encompasses a majority of the trails at Hartwood and makes for several miles of continuous trail. This loop leaves out Sam Adams and Heebie Jeebie, make sure you get a chance to check these two trails since they include some of the parks best features. For a challenging technical uphill route make a right on the blue loop (counter clockwise) on your way to the white trail, riding Sam Adams the hard way.

Mansion Downhill
Start on the red blazed 'Oak Trail' and make a hard left where the red trail meets the blue loop onto the leg of trail known as Sam Adams. If you can keep momentum through the technical sections this trails offers a fast and windy decent.

Red and White Loop
Start from the paved road and ride the red and white loop counter clockwise. This leg of the trail is known as 'Hidden Field'. After leaving the woods and entering the field the trail can get tricky where it meets the stable area and seems to disappear. At the brown barn turn left 90 degrees and head strait up the hill through the lawn. After crossing the road the trail continues up a steep climb. At the top of the climb the red and white route takes you left onto the section of the trail is known as Heebie Jeebie one of the best trails in the park. Take the red and black spur for more challenging and technical features.


  1. AWESOME - Thanks for this post Shred. Looks like Hartwood is going to be back in my near future.
    Simon T

  2. Post is a couple years old, is this still one of better rides in PGH area? We get back to burgh every now and then and looking for a place to ride.

  3. Hartwood doesn't drain well so this time of year your ride can get pretty messy. Is it still the best? With the new trails and the blazing project North Park gives Hartwood a run for it. It's hard to compare, North Park there's a lot more miles you can put together an epic loop out there. Hartwood is still more interesting. Apollo, Moraine, Bavington these are all quality, it's hard to choose just one.

  4. Just picked up a Gary Fisher Cobia 29er yesterday and have never rode a single track in my life (I'm 40). Two friends and I rode this trail system while it was super muddy and cold - it was amazing. What an induction to MTB! After 5 miles+ I did not want to stop. I can see this being my sport of choice. I live only 10min away and have found my spring summer activity. Can't wait to explore more and interested in seeing how the trail reacts when it is dry.

  5. Hartwood is great for locals to get a nice 10 mile after work ride or to just poke around. Def my fav spot, but I only live 2.5 miles away...

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