The Great Outdoors: Where to Hike, Fish, Kayak & More in Greater Philadelphia
Where to hike, bike, ride a horse and head into the water...
Nature-lovers, outdoorsy types, adventure-seekers or anyone looking to change up their big city routine can find beautiful parks, trails, nature preserves and other outdoor attractions in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Major spots like Wissahickon Valley Park and Valley Forge National Historical Park may be some of the most well-known spots for adventure — and for good reason — but residents and visitors shouldn’t stop there.
Philadelphia’s surrounding counties are also home to beautiful natural attractions like Ridley Creek State Park and Core Creek Park , where visitors can hike, bike, ride horses, fish and kayak, all within a short drive from Center City.
And offbeat spots like Bucks County’s Ringing Rocks Park showcase interesting and strange outdoor phenomena. (Pro tip: Don’t forget a hammer!)
Residents and visitors in search of trails, waterfalls, winter sports and more can read on to discover the best spots for outdoor adventure in Greater Philadelphia.
Northeast Philadelphia’s Benjamin Rush State Park is the only state park located within Philadelphia’s borders. The park is home to large natural areas, community gardens and 3.5 miles of mostly flat trails that attract runners, hikers and bikers in the warmer months, and cross-country skiers in the winter. Also home to a 400-foot runway, the park is a popular spot to watch model-plane enthusiasts take to the skies.
Visitors to the 800-acre Central Perkiomen Valley Park can find peace in the natural setting that stretches from Collegeville to Spring Mount in Montgomery County. Perfect for a picnic and a simple walk, the park is also great for biking and horseback riding, as the Perkiomen Trail meanders through woodlands, grasslands and the magnificent Spring Mountain. Other attractions include a creek for fishing, a children’s playground, shuffleboard courts and large multi-use ballfields.
At the 1,200-acre Core Creek Park , visitors can enjoy a day on the waters of Lake Luxembourg with canoe, kayak and rowboat rentals available from spring through fall. Hiking trails wind through woodlands, some of which accommodate bicycles and horses, and picnicking is very popular during the warmer months. It’s common to spot wildlife like white-tailed deer, waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds and migrating birds roaming the grounds. Other highlights include tennis courts, ball fields and an off-leash dog park.
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 glimpse into the area’s history.
A mix of cropland, meadows, old fields and mature woodlands, Evansburg State Park offers a chance to relax and enjoy the tranquility of nature. Sports enthusiasts can also find plenty to do with a golf course; four regulation baseball fields; 20 miles of trails for horseback riding, biking and cross-country skiing; 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 species like eel and catfish.
The 2,000-acre expanse of Fairmount Park spans both sides of the Schuylkill River, offering gorgeous fountains, a traditional Japanese tea house and garden, ball fields and picnic areas, the Treetop Quest Philly aerial adventure park, an Olympic-sized public pool, and some of the city’s top attractions, including the Please Touch Museum and The Mann Center . More park highlights include the all-ages Philly Pumptrack bike adventure course and horseback trails.
A large observation deck sits at the high point of the 493-acre Fort Washington 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 along the East Coast, the large expanse of forested, hilly terrain is also a favorite for picnickers, hikers, backpackers, campers and bikers.
Hikers at French Creek have a variety of opportunities for quiet reflection, nature study and physical challenge. The 130-mile Horse-shoe Trail — connected to the Circuit Trails network — is a favorite among horseback riders and hikers and runs through this park along both Hopewell and Scotts Run lakes, which are home to a wide variety of local species of fish. Also popular here: a swimming pool and two disc-golf courses.
The 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake inside Marsh Creek State Park 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 explore the trails, which wind through forests, fields and wetlands.
The influence of the ocean’s tides can be seen in this 339-acre park , where the waters of Neshaminy Creek meet the Delaware River. Boaters and anglers can launch their vessels at a full-service marina. A large pool and spray fountains provide relief from the heat on summer days. And two picnic areas serve as great spots for large group gatherings.
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. Throughout the park , more than 20 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails wind through the relatively flat landscape.
Fourteen miles of trails are just one of the many outdoor activities that Peace Valley Park has to offer. Adventurers can 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 a quiet observation of cardinals, woodpeckers, finches, titmice, sparrows and more.
The 1,600-acre Pennypack Park dips in and out of several neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, with woods and meadows offering serene breaks from city life. Some remnants of the park’s 17th-century industrial history are still intact and set alongside the park’s working farm, environmental center, ball fields and concert stage. Miles of paved and unpaved trails — connected to the Circuit Trails network — serve casual strollers, bike enthusiasts and horseback riders.
Home to the stunning views from High Rock Vista, Ralph Stover State Park offers year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure. The park’s 45 acres include picnic areas with fireplaces for cold winter gatherings and November-through-March whitewater boating conditions along Tohickon Creek. The park’s cliffs are popular among rock climbers in warmer months. Bonus: Trails connecting the adjacent Tohickon Valley Park make this a twofer experience for nature lovers.
Just 16 miles from Center City Philadelphia, Ridley Creek State Park offers bountiful options: guided trail rides on horseback, fly fishing in Ridley Creek (well-stocked with trout) or strolls through the park’s 2,600 acres of woodlands and meadows. Snow-lovers can get in on the action with cross-country skiing or tobogganing in colder months.
Picture this: A sprawling field of enormous rocks that ring like bells when struck with a hammer. That’s the scene at Ringing Rocks , located in a lush, 120-acre Bucks County forest. The area is a powerful draw for curious would-be geologists, as well as hikers, walkers, bikers, backpackers and picnickers. The park also houses the county’s largest waterfall.
More than 1,700 acres of parkland occupy the original farm of Tyler State Park , which is now home to special features like a theater, arts center and environmental education hub. Sunfish, carp and other fish fill Neshaminy Creek, which is also open to motorboats and canoes. A 50-mile trail network supports hiking, biking and horseback riding, and winter offers plenty of fun for those on skis, sleds and ice skates.
With more than 3,600 acres of rolling hills and well-worn trails, Valley Forge National Historical Park is a magnet for runners, bicyclists and picnickers, as well as history buffs. Part of the Circuit Trails network, the park connects to the Mason Dixon Trail and Appalachian Trail. In addition to wildlife like hawks, deer and toads, visitors should keep an eye out for elite athletes, as the park has been used as a training area for Olympic runners from Kenya.
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 cycling, and the top of Bowman’s Hill Tower offers sweeping views of the park and surrounding Bucks County .
This lush, 1,800-acre gorge offers 57 miles of trails, crossing forest and meadow before plunging down to the waters of the Wissahickon Creek. Visitors to Wissahickon Valley Park can walk, bike or ride a horse through maintained trails, or venture up the steeply wooded paths for a more challenging hike or off-road cycling adventure. Alternatively, the low-lying gravel road that follows the creek offers a relaxing space along Forbidden Drive.
More Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors
Some of the best running and biking trails in Greater Philadelphia are easily accessible from Center City . Those looking for a chance to stretch their legs or push their limits can find plenty of options, like an 8.8-mile loop up and down the Schuylkill River, the out-and-back pedestrian walkway of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge or the meandering course that follows Rocky Balboa’s famous run through the city.
Philly’s many urban parks offer ways to cool down, relax and get fit within walking distance of the city’s top attractions. Rittenhouse Square hosts a regular farmers market, while Dilworth Park ’s summertime fountains and winter ice rink draw visitors to the paved paradise. And The Rail Park boasts elevated views of the city, with benches and swings above the developing Callowhill neighborhood.