City Hiking Guides

Best Hikes Near Philadelphia: A Comprehensive Guide

POSTED ON November 28, 2023 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

Welcome to our exploration of the best hikes near Philadelphia, where the city’s bustling energy gives way to the serene beauty of nature. Philadelphia, known for its rich history and vibrant urban life, also boasts an abundance of outdoor adventures waiting to be discovered.

From the tranquil allure of beginner-friendly flat trails to the invigorating challenge of rolling hills, Philadelphia’s hiking scene promises a rejuvenating experience for every avid explorer. Let’s embark on a journey to discover the best hikes, where the city skyline is replaced by towering trees and the sounds of nature drown out the city’s buzz.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking the challenge of rolling hills or a beginner looking for friendly flat trails, the region offers many miles of designated hiking trails to satisfy your adventurous spirit.

In this blog, we’ll guide you through the hidden gems and well-trodden paths that showcase the diverse landscapes surrounding the City of Brotherly Love.

Wissahickon Valley Park

Philadelphia, PA, USA

Located just outside of Philadelphia, Wissahickon Valley Park, formerly Wissahickon Gorge, is a 2,042-acre (8.3-square-kilometer) national natural landmark with over 50 miles (80.5 km) of trails for all levels of hikers. With its picturesque views of the Wissahickon Creek and lush greenery, this park is a must-visit for any outdoor enthusiast.

The trails range from easy, flat paths to more challenging routes with sharp inclines, making them a great outdoor option for beginners and skilled hikers.

Wissahickon Creek Trailhead

The Wissahickon Creek Trailhead serves as the primary starting point for exploring the vast network of trails in Wissahickon Valley Park. Located in Northwest Philadelphia, this trailhead offers a convenient access point for hikers coming from Center City.

From here, you can easily connect to other popular trails, such as the Yellow Trail, the Forbidden Drive Trail, and the Orange Trail. The Wissahickon Creek Trailhead is a gravel path that offers a leisurely walk along the scenic creek, perfect for those looking to take in the beautiful surroundings at a slower pace.

For more experienced hikers, this trail also serves as an entryway to the challenging Andorra Natural Area, known for its rugged terrain and vertical inclines.

Here are the top hiking areas within the park:

  • Forbidden Drive: Approximately 5.35 miles (8.6 km) of flat, multi-use gravel path adjacent to the Wissahickon Creek
  • Orange Trail: Approximately 5.64 miles (9 km) of natural surface (dirt and rock) easy trip that runs along the east side of the park
  • White Trail: An approximately 4.39 miles (7.1 km) long single-track, natural surface (dirt and rock) trail that runs along the east side of the park.
  • Yellow Trail: approximately 7.89 miles (12.7 km) of single-track, natural surface (dirt and rock) trail that runs on the west side of the park.
  • Lavender Trail: An approximately 1.5-mile (2.4 km) single-track, natural surface (dirt and rock) trail loops on the west side of the park. 
  • Andorra Meadow Loop: An approximately 1.7 mile (2.7 km) long dirt and rock trail loop on the east side of the park
  • Lincoln Drive Trail: An approximately 1.6-mile (2.6 km) long asphalt trail

Feel free to check out the park’s map here.

Ridley Creek State Park

Located about 26 miles (42 km) or a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia, the 2,606-acre (10.07 km²) Ridley Creek State Park in Sycamore Mills, Upper Providence Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, is a hidden gem for hikers.

With its diverse landscape of meadows, forests, and streams, this park offers over 13 miles (about 21 km) of trails to explore. The park also features picnic areas, a fishing pond, and even a mansion open for tours.

The four most popular trails in Ridley Creek State Park (from the 8 available trails) are:

  • Blue Trail: A 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) challenging out and back trail with woodland scenery
  • Bridle Trail: A 4.7-mile (7.5-kilometer) loop trail that begins at the horse stables and loops through the northern section of the park
  • Fisherman’s Trail: A 0.34-mile (547-meter) challenging out and back trail that begins near picnic area 4 and provides access to great fishing areas
  • Mansion Gardens Trail: This is a 1.0-mile (approximately 1.6-kilometer) loop trail that begins near the parking lot at the mansion and travels around the historic gardens and mansion area.

Check out the Ridley Creek State Park Trail Map (PDF) to find other interesting trails worth visiting.

Schuylkill River Trail

Delaware River

  • Location: Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River
  • Distance: 140 miles (approximately 225 kilometers)
  • Duration: Average hiking time is around 14 days for all segments
  • Difficulty: Ranges from an easy to a moderate challenging hike, with some sections being more challenging
  • Trail Type: Point to point

The Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) is a 140-mile (225 km) multi-use trail that is among the great hiking trails in Philadelphia, offering hikers a scenic journey along the beautiful Schuylkill River. Starting from its headwaters in Schuylkill County, the trail winds its way through small towns, historic landmarks, and picturesque landscapes before reaching its endpoint at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia.

The trail, which is primarily located on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, offers hikers an immersive experience with nature as they make their way through various terrains and diverse landscapes. Whether you choose to hike the entirety of the trail or just a segment, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the river and surrounding greenery.

Aside from the natural beauty of the Schuylkill River, hikers can also enjoy glimpses of Philadelphia’s skyline and center city, adding a touch of urban scenery to their hike. The trail has a mix of easy and moderate sections, making it suitable for hikers of all levels. But don’t be fooled by its ease; the trail also presents challenging sections with vertical inclines that will test even the most experienced hikers.

One of the highlights of this trail is the opportunity to visit some historic landmarks along the way, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park and Manayunk’s Canal Towpath. These stops not only add a cultural element to the hike but also offer a chance for hikers to take a break and learn about the history of the area.

You can get more information about the trail here.

Wissahickon Creek Gorge Loop via Orange Trail and Forbidden Drive

  • Location: Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania
  • Distance: 9.4 miles (15.1 km)
  • Duration: Approximately 3–4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate, with some steep inclines and rocky surface
  • Trail Type: Loop

Nestled in the charming town of Lafayette Hill, just a short drive from Philadelphia, is the Wissahickon Creek Gorge Loop. This 9.4-mile (15.1 km) loop trail offers a diverse and strenuous hike for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. The trail takes you through the mesmerizing Wissahickon Valley Park, where you’ll be treated to amazing views of the tranquil creek below and the lush greenery surrounding you.

As you make your way along the trail, you’ll encounter a mix of terrain, from flat and easy sections to steep inclines and rocky paths. This variety adds an exciting element to the hike and offers a good workout for hikers. The trail’s highlight is the Forbidden Drive, a 5-mile (8 km) stretch of gravel road that follows the Wissahickon Creek. This section is a popular spot for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians alike and offers spectacular views of the creek.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

  • Location: Philadelphia and Tinicum Township, Pennsylvania
  • Distance: 10 miles (16.1 km)
  • Duration: Approximately 3–4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate, with flat and some uneven terrain
  • Trail Type: Loop and out and back

Escape the bustling city and immerse yourself in nature at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Located just minutes from Philadelphia International Airport, this 1000-acre (4.05 km2) refuge offers hikers a peaceful and scenic retreat filled with diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes.

Hikers can explore over 10 miles of walking trails that wind through wooded forests, around an impoundment pond, and along the tranquil Darby Creek. The visitor center serves as a great starting point for hikers, offering information about the refuge’s history and wildlife. From there, you can choose from various trails, such as the Dike Trail, Impoundment LT Trail, Eastwick Trail, Smith Island Trail, Henderson’s Trail, Woodland Trail, Hay Island Trail, and Fishing Pt Trail.

Other Hiking Options Near Philadelphia

Philadelphia Pennsylvania

If you’re looking for more hiking options around Philadelphia, there are plenty of trails and parks to explore. Ralph Stover State Park is just an hour’s drive from the city and has several trails that offer hikers a variety of terrain and scenic views. With many miles of great hikes, you can spend hours exploring the area and its beautiful landscapes. Skippack Creek is another popular spot for hikers with its peaceful trails and scenic views.

Here are the best locations to visit near Philadelphia:

Ralph Stover State Park

Located just 48 miles north of Philadelphia, Ralph Stover State Park is a hiker’s paradise nestled in Bucks County. The park is another national historic landmark, covering approximately 45 acres (18 ha) and offering several great hiking trails that wind through lush forests with magnificent views of the surrounding landscapes.

Hikers can choose from various trail options, including the High Rocks Trail, Blue Section, Yellow Section, and Stover Trail.

Here are the best hiking spots.

  • High Rocks Trail: The High Rocks Trail is a popular choice for visitors as it leads to an impressive rock formation that overlooks Tohickon Creek. Along the way, hikers will pass through beautiful woodlands and enjoy scenic views of the creek below.
  • Blue and Yellow Sections: For a more strenuous hike, the Blue and Yellow Sections offer sharp inclines and rocky terrain, rewarding hikers with breathtaking views of the park’s woodlands.
  • Stover Trail: The Stover Trail is a shorter loop trail that takes you along the creek and through the woods, making it perfect for families or those looking for a leisurely stroll.

Tohickon Valley Park

  • Location: Pipersville, Pennsylvania
  • Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
  • Duration: Approximately 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy, with mostly flat terrain
  • Trail Type: Loop

Nestled in the charming Pipersville community of Pennsylvania, Tohickon Valley Park is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. The 5-mile (8 km) loop trail offers hikers a scenic and peaceful retreat with gentle terrain, making it perfect for beginners and families.

As you wander through the park’s lush woodlands, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Tohickon Creek and its surrounding landscapes. The tranquil atmosphere makes it an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll or a peaceful picnic with loved ones. The park also offers various recreational activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and birdwatching, making it an excellent destination for a day of outdoor fun.

Valley Forge Park

For history buffs and outdoor lovers alike, Valley Forge National Historical Park is the perfect destination. This park is located about 18 miles (29 km) from Philadelphia and offers over 35 miles (56 km) of designated hiking trails through hills and scenic woodlands. Along the way, you can also explore historic landmarks such as George Washington’s headquarters and the National Memorial Arch.

Two of the most popular trails include the 8.7-mile (14-kilometer) paved Joseph Plumb Martin Trail and the Valley Creek Trail along Mount Misery.

Don’t forget to stop by the visitor center to learn more about the park’s history. Also, you can view maps of the park here.

Ringing Rocks County Park

If you’re in the mood for a unique and exciting hiking experience, look no further than Ringing Rocks County Park. Located just 62 miles (about 100 km) north of Philadelphia in Upper Black Eddy, PA, this 128-acre (0.2-square-mile) park is home to a large field filled with giant boulders made out of diabase.

What makes these boulders so special is that they make a ringing sound when struck with a hammer, hence the name “Ringing Rocks.” The high level of iron in the boulders is what gives them their unique acoustic properties. Visitors can bring their hammers and join in on the fun of creating musical notes by striking different rocks.

Aside from its famous boulder field, this County Park also offers a few hiking trails, a waterfall, and the High Rocks Vista, where hikers can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

The park is also popular among rock climbers due to its unusual landscape, which offers a strenuous and thrilling experience.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

If you’re looking for a strenuous hike with breathtaking views, the 2,500 acres (4 square miles) of protected forest in Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the hike for you. The sanctuary is located about 85 miles (137 km) or around one and a half hours from Philadelphia, offering 8 miles of trail that leads to the summit of the mountain.

The hike is steep and rocky, but the views from the top are worth it. Moreover, Hawk Mountain is known for its fall raptor migration, so if you’re lucky, you might spot some bald eagles or peregrine falcons.

But remember that there is a trail fee for non-members, and hiking is only allowed from dawn to dusk

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Delaware Water Gap

Located just over 100 miles (about 162.5 km) north of Philadelphia, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a popular destination for those looking to enjoy nature and explore the great outdoors. Spanning over 70,000 acres (over 280 square kilometers), this park offers a variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.

One of the highlights of this national recreation area is its extensive trail system, with over 150 miles (241 km) of trails to choose from. Whether you’re a beginner or a skilled hiker, there’s a trail for everyone here.

Some popular options include the 1-mile (about 1.6 km) Lower Hornbecks Creek Trail, which follows along the creek and offers scenic views of waterfalls and beautiful rock formations. For a more challenging hike, you can try the 1.1-mile (1.7 km) out and back Buchanan Trail, which leads to stunning overlooks and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

If you’re up for a short stroll, check out the 0.4-mile (743-meter) Dingmans Creek Trail, which takes you along Dingmans Creek and leads to the picturesque Silverthread Falls.

Other trails in the recreation area include the Cliff Trail, Conashaugh View Trail, Hackers Trail, and the Upper Hornbecks Creek Trail.

You can get more information on the park’s hiking page.

Pulpit Rock And The Pinnacle Loop

A little further west of Lehigh Valley, about 78 miles (125 km) from Philadelphia, lies the Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle Loop in Windsor Township, PA. This challenging 9.0-mile (14-kilometer) loop trail follows the Appalachian Trail northwards up to Pulpit Rock and then back down south through The Pinnacle, offering amazing views of the surrounding landscape.

As you go hiking through the rocky surface, you’ll encounter beautiful rock cliff overlooks and the Pulpit Rock Reservoir. This moderately challenging hike features sharp inclines, so be sure to wear good hiking boots.

The highlight of this hike is reaching the top of Pinnacle Mountain, where you’ll find a large rock formation with panoramic views of the Lehigh Valley. This rewarding hike is a must-do for any avid hiker looking to explore the beauties of Pennsylvania’s nature.

Ricketts Glen State Park

For a truly unique hiking experience, head to the 13,050-acre Ricketts Glen State Park, located about three hours from Philadelphia, and approximately 140 miles (225 km) away in. The park is home to 24 named waterfalls and 26 miles (about 42 km) of hiking trails, making it a favourite destination for waterfall hunters.

There are over 20 waterfalls, including Ganoga Falls, a 7.2-mile loop that takes you past 20 of these waterfalls. Nonetheless, this trail is challenging, with steep stairs and rocky terrain, but the views are worth it. So, make sure to bring a camera to capture the beauty of the waterfalls.

You can get some good information at these links:

Conclusion

Philadelphia may be a city, but it’s surrounded by natural beauty that’s waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there are plenty of hiking trails near Philadelphia that cater to all levels.

From serene streams to towering waterfalls, these trails offer picturesque views that will make you forget you’re just a stone’s throw away from the city. So get ready to step into the great outdoors and explore the wonders that await just beyond the city limits. Also, don’t forget to take a break and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Philly skyline from some of these hiking trails.

You can find more trails in our Hikes and Trails guide.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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