Best Places to Run in Western PA: Highland Park

The History of Highland Park

Highland Park, situated in Pittsburgh’s neighborhood of Highland Park, is one of the most unique city parks. Spanning 377 acres, Highland Park has several standout features: a stunning stone statue entrance, the reservoir loop, a Victorian-style entry garden, and the world-famous Pittsburgh Zoo. Highland Park was originally developed in the late 1800s to provide drinking water for the city of Pittsburgh. Once completed, the reservoir and greenery surrounding it naturally attracted numerous visitors. Pittsburgh Director of Public Works at the time, Edward Bigelow, spent nearly $900,000 to acquire the land for the park from local farmers. That $900,000 equates to more than $23.6 million in 2020 dollars. Highland Park was founded in 1889 and officially opened as a city park in 1893. In the early days, its stunning Victorian entry garden was widely considered the finest public space in Pittsburgh. In 1898, the Highland Park Zoo, now called the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, opened adding yet another unique attraction to the area.  

In the early to mid-2000s, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy restored a number of prominent features in the park, including the entry garden. Currently, the reservoir loop is being restored today.  

Running Options at the Park

In terms of running options, Highland Park features a paved loop on Reservoir Dr., commonly referred to as the Highland Park Loop, that is just over 1 mile long. The upper paved loop around the reservoir is approximately 1200m. This loop is currently closed, however, as mentioned above for renovations. Highland Park also has some trail running options including the Bigelow Trail, which is a 0.3-mile easy trail. The biggest positive of Highland Park from a running perspective is both the reservoir drive loop and the upper reservoir loop which can be good options for a tempo or even a repetition workout. The biggest downside to Highland Park is the limited running real estate – this would not be an ideal location for a long run. With that said, Highland Park could certainly be incorporated into a long run around the city of Pittsburgh.  

Early in the pandemic, Highland Park attracted so many visitors that the reservoir drive loop was closed to all motor vehicles to allow for ample social distancing. The loop has since reopened to vehicles.  

With its variety of unique features, Highland Park is definitely worth a visit next time you are in the city of Pittsburgh.