mcconnells mill state park mill and falls
Pennsylvania State Parks

Trip Report: McConnells Mill State Park in Pennsylvania

September 9, 2019
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McConnells Mill State Park in Pennsylvania may be only 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, but you will feel like you are in a completely different world on its boulder-filled hikes along a rushing, whitewater stream!


History & Location

McConnells Mill State Park is located in Portersville, Lawrence County, only about a half hour drive from Pittsburgh.

It includes the National Natural Landmark Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, a historic gristmill, covered bridge, and a little over 11 miles of hiking trails.

The park is named for Thomas McConnell, who purchased the mill that’s in the park way back in 1875. The mill was one of the first in the US to process grain, but sadly closed in 1928. The mill & property were given to a land conservancy, which then passed it on to the state, and it became an official state park in 1957. 

The covered bridge is a National Historic Landmark, and you can even take a tour of the grist mill (start times are posted inside the mill). 


There isn’t one! 

We did this park as a day trip since it is only about an hour from our house, but if you’d like to overnight near by, you can try one of the modern cabins at Moraine State Park. 

Trails & Wildlife

McConnells Mill State Park has just over 11 miles of hiking, most of which have some serious boulder scrambling! 

You can see a park map here with all of the trails.

Since we were only day-tripping, we started from the Point Parking area and took Alpha Pass to Kildoo Trail.

From our car and back again, this loop was a total of around 3 1/2 to 4 miles – perfect for dogs (and day-tripping people with other things to tackle in a day). 

If you take this route, at the end of Alpha Pass you’ll find the grist mill and the covered bridge. 

grist mill at mcconnells mill state park
covered bridge at mcconnells mill state park

You can either take Kildoo Trail right before the covered bridge or venture through the covered bridge and start the loop on the other side. 

We walked through the bridge and started across the creek. 

Right away, we saw a Northern water snake with a giant salamander in his mouth. 

northern water snake 2

The gorge is…well, gorge!

slippery rock creek gorge
covered bridge in slippery rock creek gorge

Make sure your dogs (and you and whoever else is hiking with you) is in good shape, because this trail has a lot of boulder scrambling, root navigating and slip sliding. 

mcconnells mill state park kildoo trail 1
mcconnells mill state park kildoo trail 2

It is also has a bunch of interesting rock outcroppings & small waterfalls along the way. 

rock outcropping on kildoo trail
killdoo trail waterfall
kildoo trail waterfall with franklin

The trail even snuck in a few mushrooms!

When you finish the loop, you can stop for a last look at the grist mill dam.

mcconnells mill grist mill dam

Although no swimming is allowed at the park because of the dangerous currents & rocks, there are a few calm side pools & small creeks where the dogs were able to cool off. 

mcconnells mill state park side creek

If you do take dogs (or kids!), make sure to bring a few extra towels – ours got extra wet & muddy on this hike…although you can barely tell on Hazel, check out Franklin’s wet mug: 

mcconnells mill near the falls

3 Best Things About McConnells Mill State Park

kildoo trail tree in mcconnells mill state park

1. Close to the city

If you are visiting Pittsburgh and need a nature recharge, McConnells Mill State Park is only about a half hour drive.

mcconnells mill state park waterfall sideview

2. Boulder-filled hike with water features along the way

Boulder scrambling was fun for the dogs and great exercise for us. The scenery along the way made it worth the workout.

covered bridge at mcconnells mill state park

3. Local History

Grist mill tours + covered bridges + a geology self-guided tour = a lot of history packed into one small park.



the snowman in portersville

Because you will have worked up an appetite from that hike that can only be satisfied by ice cream (duh!), make sure to stop at The Snowman – a short 3 1/2 mile away in Portersville.

The dogs enjoyed the Doggy Cup while Russ tore up the Yeti Milkshake. 


The Last Word

McConnells Mill State Park is a great day trip from the Pittsburgh area that will have you climbing around boulders, admiring the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, and stopping for ice cream afterwards. 

How have our state park visits fared so far? See the roundup here.
Sometimes we’re hiking close to home, and sometimes we aren’t. Here’s a hike you may want to see if you visit Italy.
  1. Reply

    David A Kovacs

    August 18, 2020

    Very accurate report on McConnell’s Mill wife and I were there last week had a great hike from the covered bridge down the left side of the creek to Eckert bridge back on the right side of the creek back to the point parking area. No dogs for us but we met many on the trail all well behaved. By the way we were the old folks that day mid sixties.

    • Reply

      Jill & Russ

      August 19, 2020

      It’s such a beautiful area – and so close to the city! We plan to visit again this fall. Maybe we’ll try the trail in reverse?

  2. Reply


    December 22, 2020

    There is absolutely a wonderful campground here. Its just not near the main park entrance. Turn down Cheeseman Rd off of US19 like you are going to Breakneck falls. On the way to the park you will encounter a HUGE fatmhouse and a lovely campground. McConnells Mill is a beautiful place. I live locally and hike here often. Enjoy!

    • Reply

      Jill & Russ

      December 22, 2020

      Great info! Thanks for sharing – sounds like a good option for a quick weekend trip next season 😉