Troy Hill Four Stair Loop: A T&M Pittsburgh Steps & Dine Hike

By Charleen - March 31, 2024

Get your Pittsburgh city steps workout on this 2.8 mile urban hike up and down Troy Hill! You'll hit four of the ~800 public steps in the region, and walk past four delicious opportunities for food and beverage refreshment. Scratch & Co with its seasonal take on comfort foods appears early in the hike. You will arrive at Threadbare Cider House near the half-way point, and then traverse Penn Brewery for the final descent. When the weather warms up, take an optional 1/2 mile detour onto Herr's Island for waterfront dining at Red Fin Blues, and bring the dog! Read on to learn more about this dog-friendly loop hike with plenty of outdoor dining options. 

Viewpoint in the middle of the Basin St steps going down from Goettmann St to Province St
Welcome to Troy Hill sign by James Simon, on Troy Hill Rd at Vinial St.
Pickle Platter at Threadbare Cider House
Smokey pineapple and bbq braised pork pizza at Threadbare Cider House

In a quest to hike all of the public Pittsburgh staircases, recognized by their painted metal railings, my husband and dog (T&M) have explored many staircases in Troy Hill and neighboring Spring Hill. See my Southside Steps blog post for more background on the Pittsburgh City Steps.

Focusing solely on steps that go up and down Troy Hill, T&M have mapped out options for traversing 1, 2, 4, 6 or 7 sets of stairs for a loop hike finishing along the River Ave segment of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. This allows us to adjust the intensity of our steps hike workout, and provides convenient bailing out points for Pittsburgh steps newbies.

Our favorite loop involves 4 sets of city steps, two up and two down, as this can be completed in a bit over an hour, proceeding at a comfortable rate for a middle-aged woman of moderate fitness. I have always been a slow hiker when it comes to hills.
Looking down Basin St steps from Goettmann St
The pleasures of walking Pittsburgh come from discovering little pockets of art: the creative ways that people decorate their homes and yards, churches and cathedrals of all sizes, unexpected new vistas of Pittsburgh skyline, hills and river... And of course, strolling past interesting small, local businesses. 

Walking up and down hills also builds up thirst and appetite. Fortunately, our routes frequently pass restaurants, diners and pubs. The first time we introduced friends to this T&M Troy Hill 4 Steps hike, we included a stop at Threadbare Cider House for brunch!

Click here to read about our Southside Pittsburgh Steps & Dine Hike complete with a restaurant review of Dish Osteria. Stay tuned for a future post on the Troy Hill Art Houses with two nearby lunch spots.

Steps & Sights

From the gravel Riverfront Trail parking lot (see below for logistics), walk across River Ave and head left along the Three Rivers Heritage hiking and biking trail. 

Keep an eye out for the painted crosswalk that will take you across the street to the start of a sidewalk that heads uphill. Follow this up to the level of the 31st St. bridge. 
Cross River Ave onto the sidewalk on the other side before it goes uphill to the 31st St bridge 
Or, from the alternative parking area on Herr's island (See logistics, below), head right to cross the 30th St. bridge, continue right as the walkway curves onto River Ave, and cross at the light to reach the median.

Crossing two more nearby stop lights will take you across the exit and entrance ramps for PA Route 28 to the base of the Rialto St. hill.

Hiking up and over Troy Hill to Spring Garden Ave

Rialto St. is a steep, narrow 2-way road that makes you wonder how cars can get past each other. A few years ago, they widened the steps and put up new green metal railings. 
Looking up Rialto St from Route 28
Climb 180 steps and note the Troy Hill incline mural. After passing underneath Lowrie St and past the steps to the left that lead up to Lowrie St., you will reach the corner of Rialto and Ley St. 

Murals and Scratch & Co.

Turn left on Ley St., and notice the interesting mural by Brian Gonnella on the side of a building at the intersection of Froman & Ley/Lowrie streets. The mural welcomes everyone to Troy Hill and shows its colorful row houses, relationship to the Allegheny River and proximity to Washington's Landing. 
This building houses a restaurant called Scratch & Co. Known for their short ribs, housemade pickles and paté, Scratch is a fun gathering spot complete with an erstwhile magician. Given that you have only walked about 0.9 miles to this point, it may be a bit early for a food break, but they serve a fantastic brunch on weekends.

Keep an eye out for a future post on exploring the secret Troy Hill Art Houses, which will include a restaurant review of Scratch & Co. 

Down Harpster St into Spring Garden

Continue down the street, until you see a teal mural on the side of another building. There are a set of doves perched on a tree in the center, with vignettes  of nearby sites radiating out as leaves. Note the pigs running up Rialto St. to the lower right. 
Mural showing incline, St. Anthony Chapel, Heinz, Pennsylvania Deutsch style friends, pigs on Rialto, and mugs for Penn Brewery.
I liked my sister's interpretation, when she observed, "look, they painted pigs escaping from the island." We had mentioned Herr Island's smelly, meatpacking history to her. 

Sadly, I later learned from a long term Pittsburgh resident, when we introduced her to our Troy hill steps hike, the grim fact that the pigs were actually driven up Rialto on their way to the slaughterhouse in Spring Garden valley. Rialto St., which used to be called Ravine St., was nicknamed Pig Hill for this reason. 
Rialto St in 1914. From
When researching the murals, however, I read that the artist Carolyn Kelly was actually trying to show the pigs escaping, perhaps because she thought they were slaughtered on Herr Island.

After passing the bank and Hilltoppers Pub, turn right onto Tinsbury St. As you walk past the Most Holy Name complex on the left, you can see twin grey spires rising from the tan stones of St. Anthony Chapel. This is one of the Shrines of Pittsburgh, a collection of churches, each with something special. In the case of St. Anthony's, it is a collection of 5,000 relics, second in size only to that of the Vatican.
View of Most Holy Name of Jesus Rectory and St. Anthony Chapel from the WesBanco parking lot
At the T-intersection, turn left onto Harpster St. and head towards the garage door painted with two of the Troy Hill church façades. Take the staircase to its right down to Lager St.
Garage door of house on Claim St with the Harpster St steps to the right. 
Note that the staircases in this area are named as streets, complete with city street signs. 
There is at least one mailbox in the middle of the stairs. What might it be like to live in one of the houses whose only access is via this staircase?
House on the staircase part of Harpster St.
The steps will curve a bit to the right to end on Lager St.  Continue straight and then turn left onto Spring Garden Ave.

Hold the dog's leash a bit closer as cars and trucks often zip up and down this street. Along the hillside to the left, there are crumbling remnants of stairs that might have once led up to the foundations of a house, and a Welcome to Spring Garden sign.

Pizza and drinks at Threadbare Cider House

After about 45 minutes of walking, you will arrive at the parking lot for Threadbare Cider House. This is a nice place to stop for a bite to eat, as it is close to the midpoint of the loop. 
Parking area of Threadbare Cider House
Upstairs view of the fermentation vats
You can either walk upstairs to dine indoors, or grab one of the tables in the outdoor sitting area, which is open in the summer. 

We greatly enjoyed the pickle platter, which has been a little bit different each time. 
Threadbare Pickle Platter
The pizzas are also quite good, enough for two to share. 
Threadbare Hash Breakfast Pizza
The brunch options are a bit different from the lunch/dinner options, and we quite enjoyed the Threadbare Hash Pizza and the Brunch Apple Breakfast Pizza. 
Threadbare Brunch Apple Breakfast Pizza
And of course, a flight of hard cider allows you to taste several options. 
Custom Cider Flight with Farmhouse, Hey Sweetie, Pineapple, and Rose
And goes beautifully with the Smokey Pineapple Pizza, which features smoked pineapple, cider braised pork shoulder, bbq sauce and green peppers. 
Threadbare Smokey Pineapple Pizza

Heading back over Troy Hill to Three Rivers Heritage Trail 

From the Threadbare Cider area, there are two options for ascending Troy Hill on the return trip. Both take you past the Troy Hill Spray Park, where kids can play ball (and there is a nice public trash can).

The first option is to continue west down Spring Hill Ave in the direction you were going before stopping to eat. Look for Basin St, and turn left. 

Where the drivable part of Basin St T-intersects with Voscamp St, you will see 199 steps leading up to Brabec St at the corner of the partially fenced Troy Hill Spray Park. 
Looking up the Basin St steps from Voskamp St.
A short segment of drivable Basin St traverses the edge of the park, and leads to a set of descending steps.

Alternate Steps to Troy Hill Spray Park

You can also ascend Troy Hill via a set of steps on the eastern side of the Threadbare parking lot. We often select this route when we are not planning to stop and eat. 

Turn left from Spring Hill Ave onto Tell St, which is separated from the Threadbare lot by a fence. Head up a shorter segment of sometimes overgrown steps to Voscamp St.

Jog right and then continue up the steps until you reach Lowrie St.
Looking up Tell St steps towards Lowrie St.
Take the short flight of steps on the right up to the Troy Hill Spray Park, and continue west along the fence. This will take you to the northwest corner of the park. 
The northwest corner of Troy Hill Park from the top of the Basin St steps. Head straight along Basin St to the right of the park to descend towards the river. The walkway to the left connects to the top of the Tell St steps. 

Descending Past Penn Brewery

From the northwest, Brabec-Basin corner of Troy Hill Spray Park, walk a short block south to Goettmann St. You will see another set of stairs, in line with the Basin St. steps that you came up, which heads back down the hill towards the river.

The steps descend past a flowered garden, in the right season, before turning right.

A great view of the city and a nice bench partway down the steps invites a break to enjoy (first photo, above).

Again, there are homes here that are entirely steps-bound, with no obvious place to park or drive up close.
Several houses along these steps have great views, but no street access.
As you descend farther, you can see that the owners of the houses way up the hill to the right have expended a good deal of energy to shore up the hillside with gardened terraces.

When you reach the bottom of the steps, note the paintings on the homes that stretch ahead. Then, cross Province St. to enter the upper parking area for Penn Brewery.
As you do so, take a look up the street over your left shoulder at the dandelion mural. This is one of my favorite hidden art treasures. You have to look behind to see it, but it can also be seen from the footbridge across PA 28.
Dandelion Mural for Freedom, by Ashley Hodder 
Continue to wind down the Penn Brewery steps. While these steps could be considered a fifth staircase, they are not part of the public Pittsburgh staircases and so we have not counted them.
Steps coming down from the upper Penn Brewery lot.
You will pass an outdoor seating area. Then continue down more steps to the lower level of the parking structure. Or stop at Penn Brewery for pierogies, kielbasa and other Pittsburgh favorites. 

Cut through the parking structure to the car exit to Troy Hill Rd., as the gate at the bottom of the pedestrian steps close to the building is almost always locked. 

Then cross the street carefully, and head to the right, past the Welcome to Troy Hill stained glass sign with its birds and flowers.
Welcome to Troy Hill sign.
Look to the left for the footbridge to cross over the PA 28 highway. The Charles J. Lieberth pedestrian walkway offers nice views of the old Heinz factory, the traffic flowing beneath, and the murals of the Sarah Heinz House. 
Charles J. Lieberth footbridge over PA 28.
After crossing the highway, continue along the walkway sidewalk and turn left onto Heinz St.

Follow Heinz St to where it T-intersects with River Ave, cross the street and head north back to the Riverfront Trail parking area. 

Take time to read some of the information signs along the trail.

When you see a low-walled area on the trail, you will be getting close to your starting point. Reading the sign reveals that the stones that appears to form a wall with no real purpose were once part of a lock on the Allegheny River. 
Looking back at what is left of a lock on the Allegheny River

Optional Loop onto Washington's Landing for Red Fin Blues

As you get close to the gravel parking lot, you will see a ramp switchbacking up to cross onto Herr Island. During the warmer months (April through September), Red Fin Blues is open, offering waterfront dining as well as trailside tables that are dog friendly.
Red Fin Blues kitchen in the blue roofed building and its riverfront deck, closed for the winter. 
We have many fond memories of parking under the bridge and biking downtown, then availing ourselves of the bike racks nearby for a fun dinner with the kids. 

The Red Fin buffalo wings are amazing, perfectly cooked using wings that are just the right size. You can also get them with General Tso or Thai chili sauces.

The salad with blackened salmon helped me get through the pandemic (it was available as take out), and I have heard that the all you can eat snow crab legs are amazing. 

We also enjoy several of their signature drinks and mules.

The parking area under the 31st St bridge is for the Marina and Red Fin Blues, so if you are interested in dining here, you can start the hike at that lot (See Logistics, below).

Route Map & Logistics


Park at any of the parking areas for the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along River Ave. Distances described above were measured from the gravel Trail parking lot indicated by the blue circle P in the map below. 
The Riverfront Trail parking lot
There are also back-in spots at the side of the road 1/4 mile south of this lot.
And additional head-in parking where Heinz St t-intersects River Ave, 0.4 miles south of that. 
From any of these lots, head left (north) once you get onto the paved walking and biking trail.

In addition, you may also park in the large lot on Herrs Island. After crossing the 30th St. Bridge, turn left, and look for the entrance to the parking lot underneath the blue 31st St. Bridge, at the purple circle P on the map. 
The parking lot on Herr Island for the Washington's Landing Marina
Upon leaving this lot, walk right, back over the 30th St. Bridge.

Map 🐾  

The blue circle P marks the main parking area, with other optional parking areas along River Ave. shown in black circles. 

In the summer time, when Red Fin Blues is open, you can park on the island below the 31st St Bridge in the lot marked with the purple circle P.  

Ascending stairs are shown in purple and descending stairs are shown in green. Potential stops for eating/drinking are indicated with yellow hearts. 
The red line follows the main 2.8 mile loop hike described above. The dotted line depicts an alternative route up Tell St to Troy Hill Spray Park. The purple line depicts an optional detour onto Herrs Island. 
Staircases: (A) Rialto St, (B) Harpster St, (C) Basin St from Voskamp to Brabec (dotted line, alternative route via Tell St. steps), (D) Basin St from Goettmann St to cross Province St, continuing down the Penn Brewery steps to Troy Hill Rd.
Restaurants: (1) Scratch & Co, (2) Threadbare Cider House, (3) Penn Brewery, (4) Red Fin Blues (summer only). 

The main loop hike is 2.8 miles. If you choose to park on Washington's Landing and/or eat at Red Fin Blues, it is about a 3.3 mile loop. 

Click here to read about our Southside Pittsburgh Steps & Dine Hike complete with a restaurant review of Dish Osteria. 

🐾  Love2Chow Tips: In recent years, it has become harder to get a table at Red Fin Blues on Friday or Saturday evenings. They do not take reservations, but you can join the waitlist online for parties of 1-7, indicating if you need to be seated in the "Dog Section." 

🍃 Green Tips: Bring an insulated, reusable stainless steel water bottle for rehydration breaks.


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