Our Urban Hiking Series: Philadelphia

Ranked as one of the World’s 10 Best Cities for Parks, Philadelphia’s lush green spaces bloom with parks, gardens and hardwood forests. Add in a bevy of historical monuments and art museums, and the city offers something for everyone. Fairmount Park alone includes over 215 miles of trails to explore, which is just one reason we had to include Philadelphia in the urban hiking series. Heading to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time, or want to rediscover an old favorite? Check our guide to a few standout spaces below:

The Schuylkill River. Flickr: Tom Ipri.

Schuylkill River Trail

Say it with us: “SKOO-KULL.” Though pronouncing the river’s name may be tricky, enjoying the trail that runs along it is anything but. Most residents know the Schuylkill River Trail as a 10-mile trek through downtown, but plans are underway to expand it to over 130 miles. For gorgeous waterfront views, check out the Manayunk Towpath. This 28-mile canal pathway blends industrial and rural settings for a unique historical experience complete with rail lines, canal locks, old textile mills and wildlife.

Sunset at Fairmount Park. Flickr: Juan Torres.

Fairmount Park

As you make your way down the Schuylkill River Trail, you’ll undoubtedly come across one of the largest metropolitan parks in the country – Fairmount Park. Actually made up of 63 individual parks, the whole of Fairmount Park includes over 9,200 acres to explore. Visitors can enjoy America’s oldest zoo, over 200 historic buildings and trails ranging from strenuous (like the infamous 3.8-mile Boxers’ Trail) to a leisurely stroll (like the 5.5-mile Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon Gorge).

Right: Steps on Forbidden Drive. Flickr: Kristina Dymond. Left: Bridge on the Wissahickon Valley Park Trail. Flickr: Kathie Leck.

Wissahickon Gorge

Cruising through the 57 miles of rugged trail in the Wissahickon Gorge will take you through forests, meadows and the sparkling waters of Wissahickon Creek. Hikers, cyclists and pedestrians are often found along the 7-mile long Wissahickon Valley Park Trail (also known as Forbidden Drive), which spans the entire length of the park. Aside from hiking, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy trout fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding in the park’s 1,800 sprawling acres. Birders will especially enjoy the area, which was recently recognized by the National Audubon Society as an “important birding area,” featuring five species of woodpecker, nuthatches, Carolina wrens, blue jays and a resident population of owls.

View of downtown Philadelphia from the Reading Viaduct. Flickr: Jukie Bot.

Reading Viaduct

Similar to New York City’s High Line, Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct is a converted railroad path that is becoming one of the city’s newest reclaimed green spaces. While the project to renew the viaduct is still in its early stages, visitors are already enjoying the 3-mile pathway. As you traverse rooftop meadows and city tunnels, keep an eye out for the interesting blend of industrial history and natural wildlife. Though much of the viaduct is just a few feet above city streets, it’s amazing how quiet and peaceful it can be.


These are just a few of our favorite outdoor spots in Philadelphia. Have a favorite location you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to use our ParkFinder tool to check out a park near you!

  1. Alexandra Kenin | April 18, 2014 | 10:06 am

    Hi there! I run a company called Urban Hiker SF (www.urbanhikersf.com). I’d love to help you out if you do a San Francisco post in your series! Please reach out if I can help – thanks!!

    • Laurie | L.L.Bean | April 25, 2014 | 3:15 pm

      Hi Alexandra, Thanks, we will keep that in mind. Best, ^LB

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