So you love nature walks, and you’re living the city? If your home city is Philadelphia, you're golden. You don’t even have to leave the city for exceptional hiking. Philadelphia has such great paths that people come in from outlying counties to enjoy nature walks here.
These five are among the most satisfying places to take your boots and day pack. Don’t forget to bring water and stay hydrated.
1. The Wissahickon Loop
The Wissahickon Valley, park of the Fairmount Park system, is an expansive and forested park, encompassing 50 miles of scenic trails, stretching from Philadelphia’s picturesque northwestern border to the meeting point of the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River.
Take the Wissahickon Loop for a moderately challenging, 7-mile hike. There are a few narrow ledges—but nothing too daunting. It can get busy, as it’s a very beautiful place, with goldfinches, catbirds, deer, and gorgeous scenery complete with a waterfall.
The Wissahickon Valley has outdoor restrooms beside the Valley Green Inn restaurant. Parking is available where the Forbidden Drive Trail meets Bells Mill Road. Speaking of which…
2. The Forbidden Drive Trail
The Forbidden Drive once was a permitted drive, but that was more than a century ago.
In fact, it was once the Wissahickon Turnpike. It became "Forbidden" when the city closed it off from vehicle traffic. Today, it is a splendid, five-and-a-half-mile walking and jogging trail.
Every February, Forbidden Drive (near Northwestern Ave.) is the venue for the free maple sugaring demonstrations, so be sure to mark the date and plan a winter walk.
Read More: Moving to Philadelphia: A Compact Guide
3. The Lincoln Drive Trail
Check out the photo gallery to see this unique pathway that starts at Ridge Avenue, where the Wissahickon Creek converges with the Schuylkill River Trail.
This trail is a connector, just a mile and a half long, and paved. Up at the north end of the trail, hikers and bikes can enter the Wissahickon Valley Park Trail along Forbidden Drive.
The trail is accessible by bus as well as car or bicycle. The nearby hub is the SEPTA Wissahickon Transportation Center at 4900 Ridge Avenue.
Did you know?
The Forbidden Drive Trail and the Lincoln Drive Trail form segments of the Circuit Trails. This network will ultimately be an 800-mile system of urban trails in metro Philadelphia. Already, about 350 trail miles are open for your enjoyment.
4. The Schuylkill River Trail
The 10-mile Schuylkill River Trail runs along the Schuylkill Banks park area. Bordered by Fairmount Water Works, Locust Street and the boardwalk, it's a popular place for recreational events.
Walk along the paved trail to East Falls. Take in Boathouse Row. Continue from East Falls to Ridge Avenue, then on to Lock Street in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. Keep going along the Manayunk Canal towpath, then onto Nixon Street to Port Royal Avenue. Interesting as this walk is, it’s part of a much longer path: connections are underway to take you all the way through to Valley Forge and beyond. You’ll need a bike for that trip.
A new, local, and soon-to-be connected segment is the scenic Bartram’s Mile, on the west river bank, with an entry point and parking at 56th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard.
5. The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
In Tinicum Township, just outside the city and right beside the Philadelphia International Airport, is a great surprise. It offers environmental education, and is famous for bird watching.
The refuge has a well maintained, four-mile loop trail with boardwalks extending the trail over the wetlands. Much of the loop is designed for accessibility.
The trails are cool and shady, and time passes quickly here. There’s just so much beauty to see. Spot the bald eagles, and look for osprey, herons and egrets, and swans. Bring your binoculars or pick a pair up at the site.
Parking is no issue; it’s ample and free.
On the Move? Give Us a Call
Philadelphia’s great neighborhoods are highly walkable, but it’s nice to know you can find yourself in forested trails, too — right here in the city.
Come home to beautiful Philadelphia. Call 215.545.1039 and set up a tour of a Carlyle Property Management apartment that’s waiting for you. Bring your boots. As John Muir said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”