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Hike through Pittsburgh's urban wilderness with the WALKATOP event

The vista from Emerald View Park

In the sparkling crown of Pittsburgh that is Mt. Washington, one little-known gem twinkles quietly amid the inclines, the upscale eateries, the breathtaking views. At just 10 years old, Emerald View Park is a relatively new and as-yet unheralded addition to Pittsburgh's collection of green spaces. But in some ways, the 257 untamed acres of vistas and wildlife has been there all along.

Now, one extended clan that has lived in and around Mt. Washington for generations has set out to share the Emerald View Park experience with all of Pittsburgh through a new event, WALKATOP.

Billed as an urban hiking adventure, the first WALKATOP event on Sept. 20 will offer curious Pittsburghers the choice of five routes to explore, from a child-friendly ramble to a leisurely 2.3-mile hike to a heart-pumping nine-mile challenge. Hikers check in at the parking lot on Grandview Avenue across from the Duquesne Incline, where they will receive maps for the routes, said Betty Kripp, one of WALKATOP's organizers. One immersed in the thicket of Emerald View Park, participants can get guidance from volunteers stationed along the routes.

"It always feels like home," says Kripp, who grew up in Mt. Washington and now lives in the South Side with her husband. "The park incorporated trails from many years ago. We were never allowed to go over the hill, but of course we did because it was part of our back yard."

The newest park in Pittsburgh, the scenic Emerald View Park wraps around Mt. Washington from Grandview Park near Arlington to Skookum Field in Duquesne Heights and back around to Mt. Washington Park near Grace Street.

Kripp has also helped to organize similar fundraising events such as StepTrek in the South Side Slopes and the Historic South Side Home Tour, which support neighborhood organizations. But she says she and her family members created WALKATOP to benefit The Thomas Brown Alton Foundation, which is dedicated to suicide prevention by helping those in need toward improved mental health.

"The foundation has been fortunate to find a partnership at UPMC Mercy in the psychiatry department to help with funding," Kripp says. "We want to make sure they have the resources to help with the areas of suicide prevention and improved mental health. That’s the goal for the work we’re doing."

Early bird registration is $15 and ends Sept. 1; advance registration is $20 from Sept. 2 through Sept. 19; and admission on Sept. 20 is $25 at check-in. Children age 10 and under are free. Advance tickets are available online.
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