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Top Hiking Trails In Philadelphia

July 26, 2013 7:00 AM

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(Credit: Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

(Credit: Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

Hiking is the perfect way to connect with nature while also getting a great workout. Strengthen your muscles, clear your mind and feel your spirits lifted as you enjoy a day hike on one of the many trails in and around the Philly area. Philadelphia-area hiking expert Shane O’Donnell shared his picks for the best.
Shane O’Donnell
TBW Productions
945 Bradfield Road
Roslyn, PA 19001
(267) 664-3769
www.tbwproductions.com

Shane “Jester” O’Donnell is a Triple Crown long distance hiker and hiking documentary filmmaker who has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Long Trail in Vermont and the John Muir Trail. His feature-length trail documentaries include “Wizards of the PCT” and “Embrace The Brutality: A Continental Divide Trail Adventure.” When not on long trails, Shane — who is from Roslyn, PA — spends his free time hiking in and around the Philadelphia area.

Wissahickon Valley Park
300 Northwestern Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19118
(215) 685-9285
www.schuylkillriver.org

Forbidden Drive and the surrounding trails of Wissahickon Valley Park can be accessed via Valley Green Road in the Philadelphia Chestnut Hill neighborhood for parking and bathrooms. O’Donnell, who frequents these trails when training for long-distance hikes, says that Forbidden Drive trail is a flat seven-mile gravel road paralleling the Wissahickon Creek. The trail is shared with cyclists and horses, but you can head across the river to find a series of footpaths; O’Donnell suggests it for a shady, cool hike on a hot day. Like many families, O’Donnell has fond memories of hiking this trail with his grandfather to search for a large statue of a Native American Lenape Chief, who overlooks the valley from his perch on Council Rock.

Wharton State Forest
31 Batsto Road
Hammonton, NJ 08037
(609) 561-0024
www.state.nj.us

The 4.2-mile Batsto Lake Trail in New Jersey’s Wharton State Forest loops shares tread with the Batona Trail, a 50-mile trail that winds through the Pine Barrens. Pick up a map at the visitor’s center in Batsto, suggests O’Donnell, to find loops of shorter lengths (including a one-mile wheelchair accessible route). For longer walks, O’Donnell recommends piecing together bigger loops using the Mullica River Trail and a few connector trails. The white loop, he adds, is an easy, relatively flat trail that has a few nice scenic views of Batsto Lake.

Valley Forge National Historical Park
Mount Joy and Mount Misery Trails
1400 N. Outer Line Drive
King of Prussia, PA 19406
(610) 783-1077
www.nps.gov

Valley Forge National History Park, a “must-see” attraction for many visitors to Philadelphia, has an excellent network of hiking trails on the western side of the park. O’Donnell recommends the Mount Joy and Mount Misery trails, both of which can be accessed from Washington’s Headquarters. Hiking is a great way to get the kids outdoors and active, and this location is well-suited for families with youngsters since there is easy access to bathrooms and parking. Both trails offer moderate to difficult, hilly, wooded climbs with some interesting ruins along the way. The best loop for Mount Misery, O’Donnell says, starts with the Horse-Shoe Trail to the Mount Misery Trail, taking the Valley Creek Trail back for a nice, easy return.

Related: Tips For Keeping Your Kids Active From A Philadelphia Area Fitness Professional

The Pinnacle Trail
1700 Hawk Mountain Road
Kempton, PA 19529
(610) 756-6961
www.hawkmountain.org

The Pinnacle is a ridge-top outcropping of rock with what many claim to be the best view along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, O’Donnell says. From Hawk Mountain Road, he advises, it’s a tough, rocky, 5.3 miles to a blue-blazed side trail that takes you a short walk to the Pinnacle. The climb, heading from north to south on the AT, is moderate, O’Donnell says, but typically dry, so bring plenty of water. Make this hike longer by trekking another 1.8 miles to Pulpit Rock for more breathtaking views. This hike can easily be turned into a multi-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, O’Donnell says, and the nearby Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is definitely worth a visit.

Ridley Creek State Park
1023 Sycamore Mills Road
Media, PA 19063
(610) 892-3900
www.dcnr.state.pa.us

According to O’Donnell, Ridley Creek State Park is a gem of a park for hiking trails. Located in Delaware County, the park boasts 12 miles of hiking-only trails that you can use to create loops – short or long — to customize your hike. Because the four trails are interconnected, O’Donnell says, you can hike here many, many times and never take the same route twice. In addition to the hiking trails, Ridley Creek also has five miles of paved multi-use trails that walkers share with cyclists and equestrians. This is moderate to easy hiking in a beautiful, well-maintained park, O’Donnell says, adding that while at Ridley, be sure to also check out the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation.

Related: Top Places For Outdoor Winter Activities In Philadelphia

Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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