If you are from or are visiting the Pittsburgh area you’ll likely come across information on the McConnells Mill State Park in random travel literature (usually under “things to do”). There is hiking, white-water kayaking, rock climbing, tree climbing, camping, and a number of others woods related activities you can do while visiting.
There are variety of things to photograph at McConnells Mill; from the creek that rushes through it, the unique covered bridge, to the old mill itself. Birds to bears, and everything in between call this place home.
The park is pretty well visited so in the middle of the summer on a nice day you may run into quite a few people. Early in the morning or late in the day you’ll have the park mostly to yourself. In the Spring and Fall, once kids go back to school, the park is rather empty.
The best place to park, if you can snag one of the few spots, is right next to the mill and covered bridge. There is access to hiking trails on both sides of the mill as well as across the covered bridge on the left. If you drive across the bridge and head up the hill, take the first right, and about a quarter of a mile down you’ll see cars parked along the edge of the road… This is the rock climbing area. Be careful! At least one person a year falls off the edge.
I think the most interesting photographs are taken down by the mill and covered bridge. There are small waterfalls throughout the park if you take the time to hike and seek them out. Be careful though, to get to all of the falls you’ll have to get off the beaten path and some are quite dangerous treks (one is located under “Breakneck Bridge”, a well deserved name).
If you’re planning on taking your camera be sure to bring a neutral density filter and a circular polarizer. The ND is used to give the water that smooth look you see in the two photographs above. The circular polarizer will keep the sky a nice blue as well as reduce reflections in the water. A tripod is highly recommended because of the dense foliage, you’ll be shooting at slower shutter speeds. Whether you take your camera or not, you may want to invest in some bug spray to protect your precious skin.
Finally, if you take the drive to McConnells Mill Park then be sure to check out Moraine State Park, its only about 5 minutes away and is home to the massive Lake Arthur.
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