Pictured: Valley Forge contains 19.5 miles of marked hiking trails and 21 miles of authorized biking trails, with connections to both Montgomery County and Philadelphia. Photo credit: David MacFarlane
Want to unplug and explore nature without straying far from the city limits? With summer right around the corner there couldn’t be a better time to hit the trails.
Here are our three favorite hiking destinations in the Philadelphia area. They’re a lot closer than you’d think and guaranteed to satisfy your weekend wanderlust.
The Wissahickon is probably the closest you’ll come to mountainous hiking in Philadelphia. With 57 miles of lush trails incorporating the namesake creek that runs through it all, you’ll forget you’re near a busy city.
But don’t discount the Wissahickon if you’re seeking an easy hike! You can choose the route that best suits your needs. You’ll see many people out with their kids and dogs.
You can also horseback ride on the upper trails. There are three public stables in the Wissahickon where you can ride and take lessons. They include Courtesy Stable in Roxborough, Monastery Stables in West Mount Airy, and Northwestern Equestrian Facility in Chestnut Hill. In order to ride on the trail, you’ll need to obtain a permit.
When you’re done hiking, you can stop by the Valley Green Inn for a hearty meal such as grilled cheese with brie, caramelized onions, and hickory bacon. What’s more satisfying than an early morning sweat followed by brunch?
Valley Forge contains 19.5 miles of marked hiking trails such as the 6.6-mile Joseph Plumb Martin Trail that covers key historic sites, and the Mount Joy and Mount Misery trails known for their hills. In addition to its hiking trails, Valley Forge also has 21 miles of authorized biking trails, with connections to both Montgomery County and Philadelphia.
If you’re searching for a hardcore workout, you can bike to Valley Forge from Philadelphia and then proceed to hike, bike, or picnic. The bike ride from Philadelphia takes about two hours and is a popular routine done by Philly’s more intense exercise fanatics.
Valley Forge also houses over 315 species of animals – 225 of which are birds – and 730 plant species! The park is one of the few protected areas in southeast Pennsylvania, so you can be sure to find this biodiversity on the trails.
Located in Tinicum Township, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is right near the Philadelphia airport. It has the most diverse topography on this list as it includes five habitats: tidal marsh, impounded water, woods, meadow, and field. John Heinz NWR has over 10 miles of trails, the most popular being the “Impoundment Trail” around the body of water, and two boardwalks that cross the impoundment.
In addition to being a great hiking and canoeing spot, John Heinz NWR is one of 44 Important Mammal Areas designated by the Pennsylvania Wildlife Federation. There’s a good chance you’ll see a red fox or otter while hiking (and how awesome of an Instagram would that be?!). You can also always find a bird watching crew observing 350+ species including the Bald Eagle.
Additionally, the refuge protects the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the mammals at John Heinz, check out this page all about wildlife and habitat!
This article was originally published in Philly Voice.