Participant Information - Full Challenge

Rachel Carson Trail Challenge - Saturday June 24, 2023


The Challenge will take place rain or shine. Upon arrival at the trailhead in Harrison Hills Park, all participants must first check in at the Bobwhite Shelter to pick up your ID tag and map. You may optionally pick them up Friday evening in North Park, in which case you don't need to check in at the shelter. When you have your tag, you'll need to have it scanned before starting. Please pin the tag on your right side at waist level so it can be readily located. Memorize the number on the tag as it will be called out when it is scanned. You are responsible for ensuring your tag is properly scanned! Registration opens at 5:00 AM.


To reduce trail congestion, the Challenge has no group start time. You may start when ready, as early as 5:25 AM if there is sufficient light, and as late as 6:30 AM. Make sure you stop at the trailhead and let the volunteers scan your tag so we know you've left and have an accurate start time. Registration closes at 6:30 AM.


There are four checkpoints on the Challenge, each with water, Gatorade, snacks, first aid, portable toilets, and radio communications. You must pass each checkpoint by the indicated cutoff time or you may be required to drop out.

Harrison Hills Park0.0 5:00 AM6:30 AMtoilet-portable40.65259-79.6998
Bull Creek Road7.47.46:30 AM9:45 AMtoilet-portable40.61539-79.75875
Agan Park14.67.37:45 AM12:45 PMtoilet-portable40.56008-79.78183
Log Cabin Road21.97.28:45 AM3:30 PMtoilet-portable40.57438-79.81999
Shaffer Run Road29.27.39:15 AM6:00 PMtoilet-portable40.58631-79.89541
North Park36.37.110:30 AM8:54 PMtoilet-portable40.58866-79.99091

There is an additional cutoff at the mile 34.6 railroad tracks just outside of North Park. If you reach this point after 8 PM, you will not be able to continue. Transportation from there to the finish will be available.

Elevation Profile


Total Ascending 8023 ft. Total Descending 7878 ft.

Course Map


There is no shuttle service to the Checkpoints! If you drop out at a Checkpoint and cannot arrange your own ride, volunteers 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 Checkpoints, 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-shirt. 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. And while you're there, enjoy the cookout!


The Challenge is a point-to-point course, not a loop. When you finish you will be 36 miles away from where you started. You have two parking options:

  1. Park at North Park (the finish) and ride the predawn trailhead shuttle to Harrison Hills Park. The benefit of this option is you will be at your car when you finish the Challenge. The drawback is you will need to get up earlier to board the bus. The parking area is at the swimming pool (map).
  2. Park at Harrison Hills Park (the start), do the Challenge, then wait for the shuttle to take you back to Harrison Hills Park from North Park. The benefit of this option is you don't need to get up quite as early. The drawback is you will need to wait for the shuttle (perhaps 60 minutes or more) after you finish the Challenge (also note that the shuttle starts running at 1 PM). However, there will be a cookout at the Harmar Shelter for you to partake while waiting.

You cannot park overnight on Friday at either the start or finish. Both locations are in county parks which close at midnight. No vehicles are permitted to remain in the park overnight, with or without occupants.

Trailhead Shuttle Itinerary

The trailhead shuttle buses will depart the swimming pool lot in North Park at 4:20 AM. The shuttles will arrive in Harrison Hills Park at the Bobwhite Shelter in time for you to be on the trail at sunrise, 5:54 AM. You must be on time for the shuttle, it will not wait for you!

Afternoon Shuttle Itinerary

The afternoon shuttle bus will start running from North Park at 1 PM. The bus will make these stops, depending on passenger needs. When you board, please let the driver know where you need to go.

  • Hartwood Acres Park mansion parking lot
  • Springdale High School parking lot
  • Harrison Hills Park Bobwhite shelter parking lot


  • 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 the next left onto Hemlock Drive, then left again into the swimming pool parking lot. Map
  • To Shaffer Run Road Checkpoint: Follow Route 910 along the Yellow Belt to 1/2 mile west of the Saxonburg Blvd. intersection and turn onto Cedar Run Rd. Travel about 1 mile (stay left onto Shaffer Road at fork) to a wide area in the road where you may park on the left. Map
  • To Log Cabin Road Checkpoint: Take Route 28 to Exit #12. Turn right at the end of the ramp, then right at the stop sign onto Little Deer Creek Road (aka Russellton Road). Travel about 1.5 miles and turn right on Log Cabin Road. Park about 100 yards ahead on the right. Map
  • To Agan Park Checkpoint: Take Route 28 to Exit #12A (Pittsburgh Mills). At the end of the ramp, turn away from the mall on the main entrance road, then turn left onto Tawney Run Road. After about 1/2 mile turn right on Riddle Run Road. Travel another mile and turn left into the entrance to Agan Park. Map
  • To Bull Creek Road Checkpoint: Take Route 28 to Exit #14 (Tarentum). Turn north (left if exiting northbound) on Bull Creek Road for a very short distance, turn right on Ridge Road, then immediately turn into the parking area on the right. Map
  • To Harrison Hills Park Bobwhite Shelter: Take Route 28 to exit 16, turn east (right if exiting northbound) at the end of the ramp, then right again at the T-intersection with Freeport Road. The park is about one mile down on the left. Take the left fork of the Park entrance road and follow it 1/2 mile to the shelter parking lot on the right at the Bluejay sign. 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 each checkpoint, every 7-8 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.
  • Check in at each checkpoint. This is how we keep track of you! You must have a time recorded at every checkpoint or your finish time will be disqualified.


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.