McConnell's Mill State Park
Located about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, McConnell's Mill is one of the most popular state parks within Pennsylvania. The park borders both sides of Slippery Rock Creek Gorge which was formed as a result of retreating glaciers during the Ice Age.
McConnell's Mill State Park is home to numerous outdoor activities. Hiking, fishing, rock climbing, canoeing and whitewater rafting are very popular year round activities at the park. Depending on the depth of the water, Slippery Rock Creek can be classified as a Class II or III rapid. Most whitewater enthusiasts utilize an approximately six mile route from Rose Point to the Eckert Bridge. Spring and fall are the most popular times for whitewater at the park.
The centerpiece of the park is the former McConnell's Mill and dam. The first mill at this site was a grist mill built by Daniel Kennedy in 1852. This mill burned down in 1868 but was quickly rebuilt. In 1875, Thomas McConnell took over ownership of the mill and would convert the mill to a rolling mill where it would remain in operation until 1928. Today, the former mill is open for touring.
Immediately downstream from the mill and dam is the McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge. The 101' Howe Truss bridge over Slippery Rock Creek is one of only four remaining Howe Truss Bridges within the state. Built in 1874, the bridge has been rehabilitated three times - 1957, 1998, and 2016. The bridge is only one of two covered bridges still standing in Lawrence County.
Since becoming a state park in 1957, McConnell's Mill is extremely popular for day hikers. The park has a total of 11.2 miles of hiking trails, many of those miles are also share blazes with the North Country National Scenic Trail. Two trails, Alpha Pass and Kildoo can be accessed from the old mill. The Alpha Pass Trail runs north of the mill along the east bank of Slippery Rock Creek. The trail runs 1.5 miles north to the Alpha Pass Scenic Vista. Many hikers will access the trail at Alpha Pass to hike to the old mill, covered bridge, and dam.
The Kildoo Trail is a three mile loop trail that runs south of the mill. Starting at the covered bridge the trail heads south along the east bank to the Eckert Bridge. This segment of the trail passes Kildoo Falls, which is one of four waterfalls within the park. The trail crosses over the Eckert Bridge and then heads back towards the covered bridge along the west bank of the creek. Both the Alpha Pass and Kildoo Trails have numerous large boulders that you an scale to enjoy a closer look at Slipper Rock Creek, drop a fishing line, or get your feet wet.
The 6.2 mile Slippery Rock Gorge Trail is the most strenuous of the four trails within the park. The entirety of the trail is part of the North Country Trail.
The final trail within the park is Hells Hollow Trail which is an easy half mile hike to Hells Hollows Falls. This cascading waterfall is only 30 feet in height but is still spectacular. Though the trail is best accessible via car, the waterfall is one of the most accessible in the area.
The park's proximity to Pittsburgh, Erie, Youngstown, and Cleveland, Ohio makes McConnell's Mill State Park a great day trip destination. Be sure to pack a lunch and take your camera!
All photos taken by Author - August 2007 & July 2010