Some people say, “Sometimes the best things are right in front of you, it just takes some time to see them”. We are living extremely close to one of the most beautiful natural waterfalls and we didn’t even know it. This blog is about McConnells Mill State Park, which is in Portersville, Pennsylvania. This was a great day trip due to the location only being about 50 minutes away from Pittsburgh. We are used to driving several hours and it was refreshing to only drive to feel like it was “down the street”. We also read that there were some toll roads but we did not run into any or have a further distance by not taking toll roads from Pittsburgh.
Before actually going to McConnell’s Mills, we stopped at a fall called “Hell’s Hollow Falls”. We are unsure of why this is named that but our guess is because the falls disappear under the ground or maybe because it is the most isolated on-trail waterfall the McConnell’s State Park offers. Hell’s Hollow Falls is definitely one of our favorite places we have seen in Pennsylvania due to the distance, beautiful water patterns, and hardly any traffic. Getting down to the falls was quite simple and only about a half a mile. The only difficult area was the steps due to the mud and water left from the previous day’s rain. The walk to the falls is almost just as beautiful as the falls itself. There is an old kiln right before getting to the falls which is quite amazing.
The falls itself is quite amazing. You could tell that the water of the falls was lower than it normal due to no rain in the area. The rocks had this really cool inditation in its stream, which made it appear smooth or almost metallic. The area of the falls is almost a 10 degree difference as well in temperature due to the sun not being in site and the water flowing rapidly. The green around the falls is breathtaking and magical almost. The falls itself is not the biggest we have seen in Pennsylvania, but the green around the falls, the natural indentations from the waterflow, easy access to the falls and the rays of sun hitting the water, make up for the height difference.
We got to these falls probably around 12:30 pm, which is quite later on than what we wanted and it was a little busy, which we expected due to the late arrival. Although it was busy, it wasn’t as busy as most of the falls we have gone to, especially since this is the “biggest and best” falls to see at McConnells Mills State Park. Even with several people around, we got a chance to take images from every angle of the falls, which was the best part. No matter where you shot these falls, they were fascinating. Some of our best shots were actually above the falls, which you can get to if you walk off the trail a little ways (shhhh).
After getting to explore Hell’s Hollow Road we went to the main trail in McConnells Mill State Park. We parked at a lot at the top of the Kildoo Trail. We did learn later on that almost every destination is an easy drive and you do not have to take the trails to get to the covered bridges, dams, and events. This trail was exceptionally easy as well but does last about 3.3 miles to the covered bridge and is a loop trail. In this trail we saw huge rocks that look to have fallen many years ago and the uplifted roots were almost out of a fairytale. Again, the green moss and ferns in this area were gorgeous and one of the brightest greens we have seen in a wet area. It was very “jungle-like”, as Bob kept saying on the hike. We got some great shots and filmed most of our video in this area due to the beauty of the space and the calm water shots.
The coolest part about the water in this area is it actually has sand in it with shells and many fish. When going off the trail to the waterbeds, it was very simple and refreshing. The water was surprisingly calm for the dam being ahead and utterly clear. The trail closest to the dam was a little more difficult due to the uplifted roots and rocks that had fallen off the ledges of the huge boulders. There was plenty of wildlife in these areas as well; centipedes, caterpillars spiders, fish, birds, etc; which is great for nature photography.
When you reach the halfway point, there is the dam. The dam is named McConnells Mill. The mill is still open to this day as a historic monument and is open to the public some days for educational purposes. The view from the top of the mill is amazing with the overlook of the water rushing over the dam. You do have an option to view the mill and the dam from a lower level trail, which we explored all the way to the other end. We did film some footage to show you the height and mass of these enormous rocks with us walking over them and sitting on them to enjoy the views.
Above us was actually an old covered bridge that you can still drive through. The McConnell’s Mill Covered Bridge is actually made of wood and looked newish when walking through it. When reading some more on the bridge and its history, we found out the reason why it looked so new and not built many years ago, is because of a brutal storm which caused a lot of damage to the bridge. While walking inside the bridge, it still smells like new wood and the finger painted initials in the dust of friends, family, and lovers cover the walls.
After seeing the mill, dam, and bridge, we decided to go a bit further on our adventure to a trail called Geology Trails. We only walked on the trail for about a mile to where we saw a waterfall and a little bridge. When you get to the bridge then you made it to the falls. We did decide to climb these falls all the way to the top, which there was not any sign indicating you could not. When getting to the top there are two little falls and a little cave. We got some really awesome shots under these falls. We do advise taking caution when climbing to this fall due to it being extremely slippery and there is no trail. We did later find out that you can access this waterfall from the top of a bridge.
Overall the trip was amazing and only an hour away from our home here in Pittsburgh. The green in these hills, the beautiful secluded waterfalls, the nature that we saw, and the experience as a couple will definitely bring us back to Mcconnell’s Mill. As a couple it was amazing to just be alone, hold hands, and be in a quiet place away from the city. We also didn’t cell phone service almost the entire time which was nice to be away from everything. There were plenty of families there as well which was great to see all the kids running around. We would recommend this to all couples, as well as families. We can’t wait to go back in the winter!