Founded by William Penn to be a “greene countrie town,” Philadelphia has always cherished its lush landscapes and open spaces. It’s no surprise, then, that the Greater Philadelphia area does as well.
The Philadelphia region is full of amazing parks, trails, preserves and other attractions that offer endless opportunities for outdoor activities and recreation. Major spots such as Longwood Gardens and Valley Forge National Historical Park are some of the most well-known places that nature has to offer, but don’t stop there.
There’s a lot more outdoor fun to be had in Philadelphia’s surrounding counties, whether it’s fly-fishing in Ridley State Park, renting a rowboat in Core Creek Park or hiking and biking through some of the 800 acres of Central Perkiomen Valley Park.
Philadelphia’s towns also boast some of the strangest and most interesting outdoor phenomena in the country. Look no further than the audible sounds of Bucks County’s Ringing Rocks and the ecologically fascinating Goat Hill Serpentine Barrens in Delaware County to see why. Whether it’s hiking, biking, rowing, fishing, sailing, running, horseback riding or dog walking, Philadelphia’s towns are full of fun ways to get outdoors.
This trail aims to show just how easy it is to combine a city visit with a quick day-trip into the countryside.
The 600-acre preserve of serpentine barrens found along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border is one of only three such occurrences in the eastern United States. Vast acres of wildflower meadows, cliff outcroppings and pitch pine forests are prime habitat for the many rare species of moths, butterflies and birds. Don’t forget to pack a lunch — the steep bluffs overlooking Octoraro Creek are perfect for a picnic.
Where: 500 Red Pump Road
Nottingham, PA 19362
At Longwood Gardens, it’s easy to imagine meandering through a giant, royal garden in Europe. Stroll along the many paths through acres of exquisitely maintained grounds featuring 11,000 different types of plants. Encounter a new vista at each turn: the Italian Water Garden, Flower Garden Walk and aquatic display gardens. And each season brings a different pleasure: spring magnolias and azaleas; summer roses and water lilies; fall foliage and chrysanthemums; and winter camellias, orchids and palms.
Where: 1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Northbrook Canoe Company offers an amazing way to tour the Brandywine Valley and Wyeth Country by kayaking, canoeing and tubing along the scenic Brandywine River. Coast downstream along the calm, meandering river and take in the beautiful, bucolic countryside on a nice, easy-paced river that’s perfect for a novice or relaxing for the more experienced person.
Where: 1810 Beagle Road
West Chester, PA 19382
Follow the trail along the line that famously separated the northern states from the southern states in the 19th Century. Start from the banks of the Brandywine River in Chadds Ford, wander into parts of Delaware and Maryland. Eventually, the path reaches the Appalachian Trail.
Where: 719 Oakbourne Rd
West Chester, PA 19382
The 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake is a rest stop for migrating fowl, as well as a popular spot for most water sports, including sailing and fishing. With two boat launches and 220 seasonal mooring slips, the lake is especially popular with sailboaters who take advantage of the combination of good natural terrain and prevailing winds. Fishing in the lake is good-to-excellent for warm water fish. Those who prefer to remain on land can try exploring the trails, which wind through forest, field and wetlands.
Where: 675 Park Road
Downingtown, PA 19335
Hikers at French Creek have a variety of opportunities for quiet reflection, nature study and physical challenge. The 130-mile horse-shoe trail, a favorite among horseback riders and hikers, runs through this park along both Hopewell and Scotts Run lakes, which are home to a wide variety of local species of fish. There’s also a swimming pool, and two disc golf courses are popular year-round.
Where: 843 Park Road
Elverson, PA 19520
Who can resist an open field of rocks, piled 10-feet high, which ring like bells when struck lightly with a hammer? Ringing Rocks, located in a lush, 120-acre Bucks County forest, is a powerful draw for geologists as well as hikers, walkers, bikers, backpackers and picnickers. The park also houses Bucks County’s largest waterfall.
Where: Lonely Cottage Road and Ringing Rocks Road
Upper Black Eddy, PA 18972
Find peace in the natural setting of an 800-acre park that stretches from Collegeville to Spring Mount in Montgomery County. Take a picnic and enjoy a simple walk, bring a bicycle or even go horseback riding — the Perkiomen Trail meanders through woodlands, grasslands and the magnificent Spring Mountain. There’s also fishing access to the creek, a children’s playground, shuffleboard and large multi-use fields.
Where: Central Perkiomen Park
1 Plank Road
Schwenksville, PA 19473
A mix of cropland, meadows, old fields and mature woodlands, Evansburg State Park offers a chance to relax in the tranquility of the natural world. There’s also plenty for the sports enthusiast: a golf course, four regulation baseball fields, 15 miles of designated trails for horseback riding, a five-mile mountain bike trail and more than 1,000 acres open to hunting during established seasons. For anglers, Skippack Creek is stocked with bass and trout, along with more uncommon finds like eel and catfish.
Where: 851 May Hall Road
Collegeville, PA 19426-1150
With more than 3,600 acres of rolling hills and well-worn trails, Valley Forge is a magnet for runners, bicyclists and picnickers as well as history buffs. Don’t miss the “Revolutionary Run” every April or the celebration of hiking with National Trails Day in June. Keep an eye out for elite athletes, as the park is often used as a training area for Olympic runners from Kenya.
Where: 1400 N. Outer Line Drive
King of Prussia, PA 19406
Just 16 miles from Center City Philadelphia, Ridley Creek State Park offers myriad options: guided trail rides on horseback, fly fishing in Ridley Creek (which is always well-stocked with trout) or wandering through the park’s 2,600 acres of woodlands and meadows. When it snows, try cross-country skiing or tobogganing.
Where: 1023 Sycamore Mills Rd.
Media, PA 19063
Linvilla Orchards, one of the last working farms in Delaware County, is a great family attraction — patrons can pick fresh fruits and vegetables or stop by the farm’s market. Throughout the growing season, kids can visit with the farm animals, catch a big fish in Orchard Lake or play in the “Playland” Playground. Come September and October, Linvilla Orchards transforms into Pumpkinland, which marks the beginning of the harvest season as over 100 tons of pumpkins sprout up in piles around the landscape.
Where: 137 W. Knowlton Road
Media, PA 19063
Running all the way from the Schuylkill Banks in Center City to Parkerford in Chester County and beyond, the Schuylkill River Trail is an immensely popular trail for running, walking, biking, skating and more. From the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Center City, cyclists can ride along the gorgeous Schuylkill River waterfront through East Falls, Manayunk, Conshohocken and Norristown to the charming town of Parkerford, located roughly 30 miles away.
Where: 1 Boathouse RowPhiladelphia, PA 19130
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tim Linehan (@timlinehan) on Nov 1, 2015 at 1:20pm PST
A post shared by Tim Linehan (@timlinehan) on Nov 1, 2015 at 1:20pm PST
The iconic Manayunk Bridge offers a convenient crossing between Lower Merion Township and Main Street in Manayunk. The bridge trail equips bicyclists and pedestrians (no cars allowed!) with a safe and accessible pathway over the landmark bridge between the Cynwyd Heritage Trail in Lower Merion Township and the streets of Philly’s Manayunk neighborhood and the nearby Schuylkill River Trail. Its vantage not only connects two communities but also provides a destination for incredible views of the Schuylkill River Valley.
Where: Dupont and High Streets
There are 57 miles of trails in this lush, 1,800-acre gorge, crossing forest and meadow before plunging down to the waters of the Wissahickon Creek. Visitors can walk, bike or ride a horse through this undisputed gem of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park system or venture up the steeply wooded paths for a more challenging hike or off-road cycling adventure. Alternatively, relax along Forbidden Drive, the low-lying gravel road that follows the creek.
Where: 206 Lincoln Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19144
A large observation deck sits at the high point of this 493-acre state park, which takes its name from the temporary fort built by George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War. While birders know the park as a major flyway for all 16 species of raptors that migrate on the east coast, the large expanse of forested, hilly terrain is also a favorite for picnickers, hikers, backpackers, campers and bikers.
Where: 500 Bethlehem Pike
Fort Washington, PA 19034-2107
The ocean’s tides show themselves here, where the fresh waters of Neshaminy Creek meet the Delaware River. Boaters and anglers can launch their vessels at the full-service marina. There’s also a large pool and spray fountains for hot summer days. Meanwhile, two picnic areas are great spots for a group gathering.
Where: 3401 State Road
Bensalem, PA 19020
The 1,200-acre Core Creek Park has something for everyone. For a fun day on the waters of Lake Luxembourg, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks and rowboats. Hiking trails wind through woodlands, some of which accommodate bicycles and horses, and picnicking is very popular during the warmer months. And look for wildlife, including white-tailed deer, waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds and migrating birds.
Where: 901 E. Bridgetown Pike
Langhorne, PA 19047
Washington Crossing State Park commemorates the night in 1776 that General George Washington and his troops quietly crossed the Delaware River to surprise the British. But it’s not all about history here: The network of trails that lead throughout the forested grounds are great for walking, running and hiking, as well as cycling.
Where: 1112 River Road
Washington Crossing, PA 18977
Fourteen miles of trails are just one of the many outdoor activities that Peace Valley Park has to offer. Bring a picnic for a lakeside lunch, or paddle out onto Lake Galena and hook a bass, walleye, catfish, bluegill or carp. The bird blind at the Peace Valley Nature Center next door offers quiet observation of cardinals, woodpeckers, finches, titmice, sparrows and more.
Where: 170 Chapman Road
Doylestown, PA 18901
With more than 1,450 acres and four public launching areas, Lake Nockamixon — the largest lake in southeastern Pennsylvania — is a popular spot for boating of all kinds, including catamarans and windsurfers. Anglers also enjoy this warm-water lake, which is stocked with a variety of species, and there’s a pool for swimming. A series of trails winds through the relatively flat landscape around the lake.
Where: 1542 Mountain View Drive
Quakertown, PA 18951
More than a series of canals, rivers and railroads, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor connects the mining counties of northern Pennsylvania to the Landmark Delaware Canal in Bucks County and its final stop in Philadelphia, where coal was eventually sold. Today, boaters, runners, hikers, campers and picnickers enjoy the natural landscapes of the parks, canal boat rides and more.
Where: Bridge and Main Streets
(The trail stretches 165 miles along the Delaware River)
New Hope, PA 18042
A 60-mile linear park along the Delaware River from Easton to Bristol, Delaware Canal State Park is perfect for joggers, cyclists and nature enthusiasts, who enjoy the wildlife that thrives on the many miles of river shoreline and 11 river islands. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of fun on the water, too: the river and canal that the path follows offer ample opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Check out the Lock Tender’s House Visitor Center in New Hope for a ticket on a mule-drawn canal boat ride.
Where: 11 Lodi Hill Road
Upper Black Eddy, PA 18972-9540
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