Participant Information - Friends & Family Challenge

Rachel Carson Trail Friends & Family Challenge 2017 - Saturday, June 24

This document is for the 8-Mile Friends & Family Challenge.
For the 36-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 the start, 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 family 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 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, anytime between 12:00 PM and 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 Family Challenge, with water, Gatorade, snacks, basic first aid, and radio communication.

Start Tarentum (map)0.0 11:30 AM12:30 PM40.61510-79.75890
Saxonburg Road aid station (map)3.83.812:30 PM3:30 PM40.65494-79.72686
Finish Harrison Hills Park (map)7.74.0 8:54 PM40.65679-79.70278


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 Harrison Hills Park. You will be required to turn in your ID tag in order to receive your shirts. 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 7 miles away from where you started. You have two parking options:

  1. Park at Harrison Hills Park near the Environmental Learning Center (the Challenge endpoint) and carpool to Tarentum 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.
  2. Park at Tarentum (the start), do the Challenge, then wait for the afternoon shuttle to take you back from Harrison Hills Park. The drawback is you will need to wait for the shuttle (perhaps 90 minutes or more) after you finish. However, there will be food and drink at the finish for you to partake while waiting.

Afternoon Shuttle Itinerary

The afternoon shuttle bus will run from Harrison Hills Park and make these stops, depending on passenger needs. When you board, please let the driver know where you need to go.

  • North Park
  • Bull Creek parking lot (Tarentum)
  • Springdale High School parking lot


  • To Tarentum: 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 Environmental Learning Center: 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, then the next left and follow it up to the ELC. Map
  • To Saxonburg Road Aid Station: Take Route 28 to Exit #16, turn east (right if exiting northbound) at the end of the ramp, then immediately turn right again onto Alter Road. Follow Alter Road to its end at Saxonburg Road. Turn right on Saxonburg for 0.2 miles to the checkpoint area on the left at the Donnellville Road intersection. 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.