Our Story

History and Mission

Fern Hollow Nature Center inspires people of all ages to appreciate the environment through educational programs and opportunities to discover the natural resources of the Sewickley Valley parks.

The staff and volunteers who operate the non-profit organization, funded mostly by membership and donation dollars, serve over 10,000 visitors each year by creating and hosting a variety of family programs, adult programs, nature walks, community events, as well as offering educational programming to local schools specifically aligned with their curricula.

Originally formed when G. Whitney Snyder donated his property to Sewickley Heights Borough, Fern Hollow has committed to preserve the landscape and remains an invaluable educational and environmental resource in the community.

As we approach our 25th year as the local leader in nature education and outdoor experiences, your donations and membership dues safeguard our commitment to remain steadfast in our mission to help our community EXPLORE, LEARN and DISCOVER!

Our Grounds

Located on roughly 33 acres of land in the borough of Sewickley Heights, Pennsylvania, Fern Hollow Nature Center functions as the gateway to the region’s vast park and creek system.

In 2008 Fern Hollow Nature Center received a generous grant from the Mackenzie Foundation and Child Health Association which funded a three-year collaborative environmental education project, entitled “the ABC’s of Trees”, with Quaker Valley Middle School to plant a variety of native trees and wildflowers on Fern Hollow’s property.
Fern Hollow now offers 32 different species of native trees that will help to attract local wildlife throughout the year and serve as an educational tool to highlight the importance of native biodiversity.

Native Tree Walk Map

Welcome to Fern Hollow’s Interactive Nature Walk.  Fern Hollow began as a park in 1965 when G. Whitney Snyder purchased land from the Lewis Park estate.  Officially founded as Fern Hollow in 1997, the Nature Center has been educating the public through a variety of camps and school programs. Using this Nature Walk, you have your very own opportunity to learn more about the world around you.

interactive nature walk map

On your way to our garden, you will pass through the Outdoor Classroom, which is perhaps the most popular space at Fern Hollow amongst some of our younger visitors and members. The boundaries of the classroom are formed by repurposed logs and branches from the Fern Hollow grounds, and the bed of pine needles makes for a soft and springy play area for kids to run around in. The Outdoor Classroom consists of many different stations that allow for children to create, play, and interact with nature. 

The first thing that greets you as you walk through the archway of the Outdoor Classroom is a tree covered in climbing holds that allow children to hoist themselves up for a better view of their surroundings. Moving to the left and continuing clockwise are a small amphitheater made of tree stumps, as well as a set of recycled tires that make a great place to practice your jumping skills. From the tires you can continue on to the left for a tunnel that is fun to crawl through or climb over, and once you are through the tunnel you will reach the sensory walkway. From there you will see the wooden hanging xylophone which can be played with nearby fallen branches from the surrounding White Pine trees. However, this is not the only thing that children use the fallen branches for– a nearby lean-to has been fashioned out of these large sticks, and children seem to love adding to this structure or using it as cover during a game of hide and seek. Past the lean-to is our “nature kitchen”, which features many different pots and pans for the children to cook up a meal. The most common ingredients being used in this type of kitchen are pine needles, pine cones, rocks, and even dirt!

Turning to the middle of the Outdoor Classroom you will see the tall wooden playground structure, which, in addition to offering more climbing holds for children to try out, provides perhaps the best view of the entire area. The nearby fossil pit is a great place to write or draw in the sand, or even dig for undiscovered treasure! There really is an activity to engage every type of young mind, particularly in a way that fosters a relationship with the natural world from a young age.

outdoor classroom map