Panther Hollow – Urban Hike

Under Panther Hollow bridge

It’s summer and I’m enjoying a few weekends without a lot of writing. This week, I’m going to take advantage of photos and stories collected during Faith’s and my visit to Pittsburgh last weekend.

Last Sunday, Faith and I spent about an hour and a half hiking through Panther Hollow in Oakland, Pennsylvania. Oakland is home to The University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museums and Schendley Park. Although we were less than a mile from an Interstate highway, the hike had a strong wilderness feel. The trail winds alongside Panther Hollow Run (a small stream) which feeds the man-made Panther Hollow Lake.

Our hike started behind the Schendley Park welcome center, and took us 120′ (36.5m) below the Panther Hollow Bridge. The trail ranged from a wide footpath to a narrow muddy ledge. We crossed the run numerous times, on stone bridges built as a project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in 1938 and 1939. We also hiked through several underpasses running under those same bridges.

At the end of the hike, we climbed back up to the welcome center via a series of stairs and walked back to our car which was parked near a monument to George Westinghouse.

Yes, I’ve dropped more than a few clues to the many photos in today’s gallery (you can click on any photo to start a slideshow). For the sports fans in the audience, The University of Pittsburgh chose the Panther as a mascot due to the proximity to Panther Hollow. Panther Hollow was named for the Panther, because it was the most formidable creature indigenous to the Pittsburgh region. Also, an ironic and not entirely relevant fact: while there is a neighborhood named Panther Hollow, it isn’t located in Panther Hollow, it’s in Junction Hollow just to the east.


    1. Thanks Judy. We both enjoy walking. I think we would have enjoyed another hour of sleep, but this was worth it. It was so strange, because every now and then you could hear the traffic, but otherwise, we were deep in the woods.

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  1. I love those little round bridge underpasses – they look like the kind that we have in rural parts of the UK that go over streams and narrow rivers. Oh and I had a look for the pink-flowered plant and it looks like it may be ‘Joe Pye Weed’ (Eupatorium maculatum).

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    1. Thanks Val. I love stone bridges, so this little hike was quite the treat. I have a photo of a sign that identifies the plants, but it’s too blurry to read. I’ll look at it to see if I see “Joe Pye Weed” on it. I checked an image of that and I think you’re right. Thanks again.

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  2. What a great trail. I can only imagine the butterflies and crawly things that were there too! I’ll bet Chippy sent a message that friends were coming. I gues it was all wilderness before humans planted a city in the middle of it. 😊

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    1. You’re right Cheryl. It’s not like they built the wilderness, they just didn’t bother developing it. 1938-39 was toward the end of the WPA. We were trying to figure out if they would have ever built the many bridges if it hadn’t been for that program. But, here were are, almost 80 years later and we’re still enjoying their handiwork.

      I do think Chippy sent word that we were coming. I’ve never seen a chipmunk come out for a photo. I have several shots of him hiding in the weeds, but I was happy to see him step out.

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  3. Oh, I love places like this…in the woods with so many interesting things to look at and photograph. It’s a lovely place! I’m not sure how the WPA workers managed to build all of those structures by hand, but it’s amazing what two hands and hard work can do.

    Thanks for sharing your hike, Dan. It was time well-spent with Faith and a camera.

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    1. Thanks Mary. It was a short hike, but it was such a nice thing to add to our weekend. The funny thing is that I lived in the area for over 20 years and I was in graduate school less than 1/2 mile away for 12 months, and I never knew this place was there.

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  4. Hi Dan – looks to be an amazing place … what a great find – a wander and stroll along a twisty greened up area is a treat – particularly in a city such as Pittsburgh … I love the underside of the bridge – evocative. So glad you got up early and let us see these pics …cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks Hilary. Seeing a bridge from underneath is always a thrill for me, especially when that’s where the structure is. I love seeing how the bridge stays up. The hike was fun, fairly easy to get to and I loved seeing all the stone bridges.

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  5. This is beautiful, Dan. My kind of place to walk in the summertime. That stone work is hand, no less. So glad you got to meet Chippy’s little hermit cousin! What a cutie.

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    1. Thanks Lois. I think back and wish I had known about this when I was in school at Pitt. Of course, that would have probably ruined any chance I had of studying. Chippy’s cousin was cute. I’m glad he decided to poke his self out for us.

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  6. Ooh, I like the look of this place. It looks shady :) I love the tunnel. I love the stream photos, especially the ones where it looks like stepping stones. Good vivid color on chipmunk!
    The plant is called Joe Pye Weed and pollinators love them.

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    1. Thanks! I’m glad you liked this, and you’ve confirmed earlier suspicions on Joe Pye Weed. I never heard of that, but this was a beautiful bunch of it growing by the trail. It was early, but the shade definitely helped keep our hike on the cool side.

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    1. Thanks Deborah (and thanks for the tweet). The plans are for a full restoration of the lake, which they say is less than 4′ deep today, in most places. I would think paddle boats would work well there. The park is very popular, so I think having the lake back in use as a recreation are would be a great addition. They say they used it for ice skating in the winter as well. Stone bridges are my favorites.

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  7. Wow… what a wonderful hike, Dan. I’ve got to love a place named “Panther Hollow.” All the shots of the bridges/underpasses were gorgeous. You did a great job of re-creating the atmosphere. It looks like such a magical place. It puts the imagination in flight. Hugs.

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  8. This is my kind of trail! – a hint of wilderness, wildlife (hello, Chippy!), and stone bridges! LOVE stone bridges! It looks like a gorgeous place for a quiet stroll.
    Great pictures, Dan. The first time I looked at them, they were all blurry. Then I decided to scroll through them again and this time they were all crisp and clear. They looked SO much better the 2nd time. Did I mention I really hate my computer? :/

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  9. I loved the wilderness feel of the Panther Hollow. It doesn’t seem like it would be next to and over a man-made lake. I’m glad you mentioned the mascot aspect.
    The WPA created great structures and wonderful accesses. I climbed hundreds of steps in Kentucky in their national parks system. The Natural Bridge had probably 300 steps, or seemed so! I like the stone benches and walls created which have withstood years of wear. Lovely way to hire unemployed people and wish we could have the Big Wall money (Mexican blockade) to hire people to build bridges. Just sounds so much more special. “Bridges, Not Walls.” 🌈

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    1. There’s a great slogan for a better approach, Robin. It would be good if we could put people to work and fix-up our parks. This hike is a nice little get-away. If you stay on one side, you wouldn’t even need hiking shoes. It was fun.


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