Pittsburgh's Indian Trail Steps

Indian Trail Steps - 1910
The Indian Trail Steps in March 1910. Many hilltop commuters walked these city steps to and from work each day.

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The Indian Trail

Beginning in colonial times and continuing through the 1930s, one way to get from the flats along the Monongahela riverbank up the steep hillside to Duquesne Heights was a narrow pathway known as the Indian Trail.

Originally, this was an actual pathway that was used by local tribes. During the Indian Uprising of 1763, one can imagine Pontiac's warriors using this trail to arrive at their battle lines on the shores of the Monongahela River in order to stage their flaming arrow barrages upon the besieged soldiers and settlers sheltering in Fort Pitt.

The perilous route weaved it's way along the slope of Mount Washington. In 1909, the city built a wooden stairway, from Carson Street to Grandview Avenue, that became known as the Pittsburgh's Indian Trail Steps.

Indian Trail - 1900    Indian Trail - 1900
Two photos from 1900, one showing the top of the Indian Trail near High Street (Grandview Avenue), and the other
showing a view of Mount Washington. In the distance, the Indian Train is visible beyond the Duquesne Incline.

Indian Trail - 1908
This 1908 photo clearly shows the Indian Trail that begins in the upper right and begins it's descent along the hillside.
The trail weaved it's way along the switchback and ended in the lower left after passing under the Duquesne Incline.

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The City Steps

Indian Trail Steps - 1934
The Indian Train Steps, in 1934, looking down from near the top.

The wooden stairs, consisting of nearly 1000 steps and stretching for almost a mile, followed the existing native trail up the steep, sometimes cliff-like face of Mount Washington.

Believe it or not, this cumbersome, extended walkway was a well-trodden route for Pittsburgh workers commuting from the factories along the river to their homes in the hilltop neighborhoods above.

Some walked the trail every day to save the five cent fair for a ride on the incline. Prior to the installation of the steps, some adventurous travelers even managed to get their horse and wagon up and down the path, somehow navigating the steeper section, known as the switchback.

Indian Trail Steps - 1935
The bottom of the Indian Trail Steps as they pass under the Duquesne Incline.

Starting near the base of the Duquesne Incline, pedestrians on Carson Street began their ascent heading westward on a long walkway with a slight rise that passed under the incline rails. Eventually the trail began the major ascent up the hillside.

Continuing in a westerly direction, steps began to ascend towards the switchback. Here the route rose at a steep angle. After that, a series of short walkways stretched on with an intermittent series of steps, continuing to rise gradually until reaching a point near the intersection of Grandview Avenue and Shaler Street.

Indian Trail Steps - 1935    Indian Trail Steps - 1935
The steps in 1935, shortly before dismantling. They were the longest set of city steps in the history of Pittsburgh.

Indian Trail Steps - 1923
1923 map showing the path of the Indian Trail Steps along the face of Mount Washington.

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Follow the Indian Train Today

The Indian Trail Steps were dismantled in 1935, but to this day large portions of the centuries old pathway are still in existence, as well as some remnants of the original stairway. Adventurous travelers and GEOCache enthusiasts still navigate the old trail, which in some places has been wiped away by landslides.

Line indicates the path of
the Indian Trail Steps - 2012.
The line shows the path of the Indian Trail Steps along the current Mount Washington hillside.

The city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding neighborhoods, with a landscape dominated by hills and valleys, once had hundreds of pedestrian steps scaling the heights. Even today, there are still many sets of serviceable city steps scattered about the city. An interesting book for those looking to learn more about these once-vital pedestrian stairways is entitled "The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City."

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More Images Of Pittsburgh's Indian Trail Steps

Indian Trail Steps - March 1910    Indian Trail Steps - March 1910
Passing under the Duquesne Incline and the long view of the Indian Trail Steps in February 1910.

Indian Trail Steps - March 1910    Indian Trail Steps - March 1910
After passing under the Duquesne Incline, the steps began a steep ascent along the hillside.

Indian Trail Steps - March 1910    Indian Trail Steps - March 1910
The steep switchback and the long tiered rise towards that followed, shown in March 1910.

Indian Trail Steps - 1935    Indian Trail Steps - 1935
The steps on August 13, 1934. The photo on the right zooms in on the lower section, way below.

Indian Trail Steps - 1935    Indian Trail Steps - 1935
The steps rose gently from the ground level and underneath the Duquesne Incline in this 1935 photo.

Indian Trail Steps - 1935    Indian Trail Steps - 1935
The final long rise before the tiered final ascent to Grandview Avenue and Shaler Street, shown in 1935.

Indian Trail Steps - 1926
This image from 1926 shows the gently rising lower ramp and the steep ascent through the switchback.

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