Participant Information - Friends & Family Challenge

Rachel Carson Trail Friends & Family Challenge 2016 - Saturday, June 18

This document is for the 7-Mile Friends & Family Challenge.
For the 34-Mile Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, click here
For the 18-Mile Homestead Challenge, click here


The Friends & Family Challenge will take place rain or shine. Upon arrival at Hartwood Acres, all participants must first check in at the table near the parking lot. This is so we can record your participation and you can pick up your group ID tag and maps. You may optionally pick up your tag and map Friday evening, in which case you don't need to check in at the start. Please have the group leader pin the tag on his or her right side at waist level so it can be scanned at the start and finish. Memorize the number on the tag as it will be called out at each checkpoint when it is scanned. The group leader is responsible for ensuring all members of the family stay together and the tag is properly scanned! Registration opens at 11:30 AM.


You may start when all group members are present and ready, as early as 12:00 PM and as late as 12:30 PM. Make sure you stop at the table and let the Trail Marshal there scan your tag so we know you've left and have an accurate start time. Registration closes at 12:30 PM.


There is one aid station on the Friends & Family Challenge, with water, snacks, and basic first aid.

Aid StationCume
Start Hartwood Acres Park (map)0.0 11:30 AM12:30 PM40.56870-79.90912
Sample Road aid station (map)5.45.41:00 PM40.57745-79.97000
Finish North Park (map)7.11.711:00 AM9:00 PM40.58828-79.99076


There is no shuttle service to the aid station! If you drop out at the aid station and cannot arrange your own ride, the Trail Marshals will do their best to assist you in securing transportation. However, this is not guaranteed and you will almost certainly be required to wait, perhaps for several hours, for someone to take you. If you drop out between elsewhere, you will need to find transportation yourself or wait by the trail for the Trail Sweeps to come through and they will assist you as best they can.

ID Tags

You must turn in your ID tag in order to receive your t-shirts. If you drop out and don't make it to the finish, please give the tag to the supervisor of the closest Checkpoint. If you do not return your tag you will be charged a $5 replacement fee.


The t-shirts are distributed at the finish in North Park. You will be required to turn in your ID tag in order to receive your shirt. If you drop out, be sure to stop by the finish and collect yours.


The Friends & Family Challenge is a point-to-point course, not a loop. When you finish you will be nearly 8 miles away from where you started. You have two parking options:

  1. Park at North Park (the finish) and carpool to Hartwood Acres on your own. There is no pre-event shuttle service. The benefit of this option is you will be at your car when you finish the Family Challenge. The parking area is at the swimming pool (map).
  2. Park at Hartwood Acres Park (the start), do the Challenge, then wait for the shuttle to take you back from North Park. The drawback is you will need to wait for the shuttle (which generally run hourly) after you finish the Challenge (also note that the shuttle starts running at 1 PM). However, there will be food and drink at the finish for you to partake while waiting.


  • To Hartwood Acres Park: Take Route 28 to Exit #5B and follow Route 8 north about two miles to the third traffic light and turn right on Saxonburg Boulevard. Travel about four miles and the park will be on your left. Follow the park road up to the parking lot beyond the mansion. Pass the mansion lot, pass through a gate, then take the second right up to the lot. MapThere is no access to this lot from the Middle Road park entrance. Some GPS devices improperly route vehicles this way; please check the route your GPS is proposing before you begin.
  • To North Park Harmar Shelter: From Pittsburgh, take I279 North to the McKnight Road exit and travel 6.4 miles north. Take the North Park/Ingomar Rd. exit east and turn right at the third traffic light onto Babcock Blvd., then take the next left onto Hemlock Drive, then left again into the swimming pool lot. Follow the perimeter drive back and bear right. The Harmar Shelter is ahead on the left, behind the guardrail. Map
  • To the Sample Road Aid Station: From Pittsburgh, take I279 North to the McKnight Road exit and travel 6.4 miles north. Take the North Park/Ingomar Rd. exit east and turn right at the fourth traffic light onto Wildwood-Sample Road. This road will end at a T-intersection with Sample Road. Turn right, then right again immediately before the railroad tracks. Map


  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink lots of liquid in small amounts at a steady, frequent rate. You should be carrying at least two quarts.
  • Water and snacks will be available at the aid station in 5-6 miles.
  • Wear a hat and use a high-SPF sunblock. You'll be outside all day.
  • Watch the weather forecast closely to know what gear to bring; the Challenge will happen rain or shine.
  • Stay on the trail. Shortcuts may not be fair to other participants and can upset landowners.
  • Backtrack to find the last trail blaze and reassess your direction if you haven't seen a blaze in a hundred yards or so, as you may have missed a turn.
  • Resist forging ahead or spending time trying to "hook up" with the trail if you lose it; this rarely works to your benefit.
  • Respect private property! Much of the Rachel Carson Trail crosses privately owned land and the owners graciously allow us there; do not impose upon any landowner you may encounter.
  • Clean up any trash you bring and any you encounter along the way. There are trash receptacles at each checkpoint.
  • Stop if you feel sick! You won't be alone, plenty of participants don't finish.


We need quite a few volunteers to help us stage the Challenge. Please cajole and/or coerce your friends, relatives and co-workers into helping! Check out the Volunteers page for details.