Best Nature Photography Locations In Pittsburgh

A Squirrel photographed in Frick Park - one of Pittsburgh's best nature photography locations

The best nature photography locations in Pittsburgh is your guide to all the places to find wonderful nature photo opportunities in the greater Pittsburgh region. If you're new to Pittsburgh or to nature photography this article is a great place to jump start you Pittsburgh area nature photography.

One of the most wonderful things about the Pittsburgh region is that we really have a ton of great places to see and photograph nature up close. From city and county parks to natural areas where wildlife is just more accessible, Western PA is full of great nature photography locations.

The following is a list of my favorite nature photography locations near Pittsburgh. I have grouped them according to proximity to the city so if you're traveling to Pittsburgh or using public transit you can still take advantage of all of these wonderful place to take nature photos.

If you have other locations that you love which are not listed then please contact me and I'll add your info to the post.

 City Parks

Pittsburgh is blessed with several large city parks that feature a lot of trails and natural areas where you're sure to find ample opportunity to photograph nature. My favorite is Frick followed by Riverview. I've bumped Riverview to the last of the list only because it's farther away from areas where people usually stay when visiting the city.

  1. Frick Park
  2. Schenley Park
  3. Highland Park
  4. Riverview Park
  5. Point State Park*

All of these parks are located within the city. The first three are in the east-end of Pittsburgh. Point State Park, as the name implies is a State Park but is located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Along with the urban parks on either side of both rivers and continuing down the Ohio River you'll find a lot of opportunities to photograph water fowl and other birds such as gulls. There are even some cormorants that visit frequently and the occasional Osprey but those are a bit more rare.

If you're looking for more wooded areas where you can find song birds, small mammals, and more natural scenery then Schenley is the next closest to downtown being located in Oakland but Frick is the best if you're looking for birds and other wildlife. One thing that Schenley has which Frick doesn't is that it's home to Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens. If you love flowers and other plants don't skip out of Phipps!

Frick Park is my top pick which is why it's the location where I lead monthly nature photography walks. Frick is home to a large herd of white tale deer, foxes, several species of owls, and a whole lot more. The trails and waterways through Frick are always full of opportunities to photograph some of the most beautiful birds that call Pittsburgh home. It's also a very large park with many crisscrossing narrow trails often used by off-road cyclists. You can take to these trails to find wildlife you'll not normally see on the more heavily trafficked trails just be sure to set up off the trail to take photos or else you might find a really irate cyclist running into you.

Highland Park features several manicured flower beds which make it a great spot for flower photographers and for insect macro photography. There is also a large reservoir there so a lot of water-loving birds visit the park though the backgrounds are often less than ideal.

County Parks

Not too far from Pittsburgh there are a number of great county parks full of wildlife and nature photography opportunities. Here are my top picks.

  1. North Park
  2. Settlers Cabin
  3. Heartwood Acres
  4. Boyce Park
  5. South Park

North Park is a wildlife photographer's dream. It's located only a few miles north of the city and features a large lake and a big network of trails. Many of the trails are not that popular and you may find black bears, foxes, and other mammals as well as bats and lots of birds. North Park and Marshall Lakes are great places to see blue and green heron, osprey, bald eagles, and a lot of insects including a wide variety of dragon and damselflies.

Settlers Cabin is a favorite of mine too. It's home to the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden - a beautiful setting with a variety of gardens including a Japanese inspired Pond and a large meadow that are always great places to find insects and birds. The Park is also full of deer and other larger wildlife. Outside of the Botanic Garden in Settlers Cabin you'll find even more wildlife, streams and waterfalls, and lots of wildflowers.

Heartwood Acres, Boyce and South Parks are also full of trails but I've only visited each for nature photography a handful of times. They do have some great opportunities to see birds and insects. Heartwood Acres has a small flower garden which is always full of insects, but also often full of people. South Park is home to several peafowl though they're caged so the backgrounds are not pretty. If peafowl are your thing consider a day trip to the Hare Krishna Temple in nearby West Virginia where they have free roaming peafowl.

Beyond Pittsburgh

Just beyond Pittsburgh there are a lot of other locations full of nature photography opportunities. Several large state parks and day-trip drives are well worth the time. This is not an exhausting list because there are so many of them but here are my favorites.

  1. The Laurel Highlands (specifically Ohiopyle)
  2. Raccoon Creek State Park
  3. Moraine State Park
  4. Coopers Rock

The Laurel Highlands are the closest the Appalachian Mountains come to Pittsburgh. The area is full of nature photography opportunities but some of the best is to be found in Ohiopyle. The town of Ohiopyle sits in a valley carved by the Youghiogheny River. There are several incredible waterfalls very near the center of town including Ohiopyle and Cucumber Falls. Trails abound and the chances of seeing some large mammals is far higher here than in the city.

Raccoon Creek State Park is west of the city and features a large wildflower meadow that sits along and above the creek. There are a lot of trails through the park where you'll spot a wide variety of wildlife but the wild flower trails are my favorite. You'll likely see beaver and a lot of frogs near the creek as well as lots of insects and of course great wildflowers in Spring.

Moraine State Park is around an hour north of the city but it's worth the visit if you want incredible backdrops for photo of water loving birds and other wildlife. Eagles, hawks, osprey, and a lot of cranes and other large birds abound here.

Coopers Rock is located near Morgantown WV. It's close to two hours drive but the vistas are incredible. If landscape photography is your thing then don't skip out on a trip to Cooper's Rock. In addition to the landscape the park has a lot of trails and tons of wildlife. I wish I had more opportunities to visit as it's one of my favorite spots but it's just a touch too far from the city for me to make it there very often.

Your Favorite

Tell me about your favorite places around Pittsburgh to photograph nature and wildlife. I'm curious to know if I've missed any obvious spots. If you send me some info I'll amend the post and credit you along with sharing a link to your website.  Visit the contact page to let me know what I've missed or to ask any questions.

Improve Your Photography Skills

Improve your photography skills and take better nature photos join one of my Pittsburgh photography classes. If you're outside of Pittsburgh or prefer I also offer virtual photography classes. I teach at a variety of places in the Pittsburgh area and online. I also offer personalized private photography classes. My private classes have helped a lot of folks who are planning big trips where they want to take incredible photos. Contact me today and let's talk about what you want to learn.

April 16, 2022 | Don Orkoskey
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