Why you should go out to the Pittsburgh South Side Slopes Step Trek

Thanks to my blog coverage two years ago of the annual Pittsburgh Step Trek, I was invited, as I was last year also, by the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association to a special preview small group tour of the “church route”, which includes 820 stairs (379 stairs up, 441 stairs down), led by Brian Oswald.

I decided to attend for a couple of reasons:

Here’s my report on the evening preview tour.

Meeting up

John and I left straight from work to meet up with Brian at the entrance to South Side Park.

A number of other people were supposed to attend, but it turned out only one of them made it, representing Pop City. After waiting around for a while, we had to get going because of the danger of it getting dark before we would finish about an hour hike.


A last view back north toward the South Side Flats:

Looking north to South Side Flats

We started immediately with a staircase underneath the Mission Street Bridge:

Sample street on the route:

Guided tour

Along the way, Brian served as a tour guide, telling us all about renovations and repairs of various staircases, as well as particular ones that still needed work (such as a handrail that was broken). Two years ago, when Abby and I did the Step Trek event, we followed the nice booklet and route map that had a lot of historical information, but I wasn’t aware of all the details of what people like Brian of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association do to find funding for neighborhood improvements and keep the staircases functional. It’s a challenge getting all the repairs done that are needed. That’s why the Step Trek is so important as a fundraiser.

Throughout the tour, we encountered quite a few people who were using the staircases, including runners as well as walking residents who used them simply as the most practical or only way to get from one place to another.


One improvement that Brian was particularly proud of showing us was an entire staircase with LED lighting installed, in order to make it particularly usable at night. It also helps against freezing in the winter. (Unfortunately, as we walked down, I forgot to take photos of the LED lights visible from going up.)


Some alleys are actually public parts of the route!


Lots of churches on this route, hence “church route”. These are historical reminders of the early days of Pittsburgh with its ethnic churches all over.


Walking on a bridge over railroad tracks:

More steps


St. Paul of the Cross Monastery

Here’s a nice view from the parking lot of the St. Paul of the Cross Monastery along the route (on Step Trek day you can enter). (Unfortunately, it was getting dark, so the photo is dark.)

Billy Buck Hill

A lot of rather hilly roads in this neighborhood. A good workout!


South Side Park

Brian pointed out the successful planting of new trees as part of the improvement of South Side Park:

We did not take the steps leading back through South Side Park, which are part of the official Step Trek route:

Instead, we ventured into the woods. This way can be tricky because of the footing and possible mud, etc.

The advantage is we could get to a field with a nice view:

Community garden

Brian showed us another great improvement to the neighborhood, a rather large community garden.

It was rapidly getting dark:

We hurried to get back to where we had started, under the Mission Street Bridge.

Many thanks to Brian for leading this preview tour and answering our questions as we enjoyed a little hike with him through his neighborhood!

Other improvements

Brian told us about improvements to the Step Trek event itself. For one thing, they have an improved map booklet out, and also improved support for smartphones. These improvements are not just for the Step Trek event but will be usable for any visitors to the South Side Slopes neighborhood anytime, as well as a valuable reference for residents.

For example, check out this great interactive map site!

For more information

Check out the main Web site of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association.

Also, they have an active Twitter account @sssna and Facebook page.

Step Trek information

You can register early for the Step Trek here.

Remember, the Step Trek also includes open houses, refreshment stops, and of course you can just hang out in the South Side Slopes checking out food and shopping too. The annual event is a great way to help the neighborhood and experience unique geography and get some exercise in also!

And at the entrance, there will be food trucks and entertainment, so that when you are done with however much hiking you want to do, you can hang out and relax.

For more on the Step Trek as experienced in daylight, review my blog coverage two years ago.


The Pittsburgh South Side Slopes is a unique historical neighborhood that you should check out, and what better way is there than to explore it on foot on Step Trek day?

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