Hiking isn't necessarily the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of Philadelphia, the nation's fifth largest metropolis. However, there's an abundance of day hikes within just 90 minutes of Philly—some even located inside the city limits. So lace up those hiking boots, throw on a day pack, grab some trail mix, and head to one of these five Philly-area trailheads this weekend.
1. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Each year, more than 18,000 raptors migrate over Hawk Mountain , located in Kempton, PA, about 90 minutes northwest of Philadelphia. Catch a glimpse of hawks, eagles, vultures, and falcons migrating north this spring while hiking one of the many marked trails at the sanctuary. Be sure to make your way to the North Lookout for one of the best views of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. Experienced raptor counters are posted there from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily through May 15 to help hikers identify different species of raptors. Admission to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is $6 for adults (ages 13 and older), $5 for seniors (ages 65+), and $3 for children ages 6-12.
2. The Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock
About five miles from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary lies one of the most popular and scenic hikes on the Appalachian Trail, only 90 minutes from Philadelphia. This 9.2 mile out and back hike offers two gorgeous vistas of the Appalachians, first at Pulpit Rock at mile 2.5, and then at the Pinnacle at mile 4.6, which is also the turn-around point. For best access, park at the Hamburg Reservoir, hike up the dirt road about a half mile until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail, then turn left on the AT. The white-blazed trail is technical and rocky, so be sure to wear hiking boots or trail running shoes. Bring plenty of water and pack a lunch to eat at the Pinnacle before heading back down the trail.
3. Wissahickon Valley Park
Wissahickon Valley Park is an 1,800 acre urban oasis nestled within the Philadelphia city limits among the neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, and Roxborough. The park contains more than 50 miles of well-marked, technical trails enjoyed by hikers, trail runners, horseback riders, and mountain bikers year-round. Start in the center of the park at Valley Green Inn, and find your way off of the wide, gravel Forbidden Drive path as soon as possible to maximize singletrack time. Choose your own adventure on one of the yellow, orange, or white trails running parallel to the creek. Maps are available for purchase online or at the Valley Green snack bar.
4. Blue Marsh Lake
Blue Marsh Lake, located approximately 80 minutes northwest of Philadelphia in Leesport, PA, attracts birdwatchers, swimmers, picknickers, fisherman, and more. The area contains more than 36 miles of multi-use trails overlooking the man-made lake, which are accessible to hikers of any experience level. Pay $3 to access the park in the summer, and park at the Dry Brooks Day Use Area. Venture out on the multi-use trail for an out-and-back hike, and pack your lunch to enjoy along the way.
5. Valley Forge National Historic Park: Mount Misery & Mount Joy
Each year, thousands of visitors flock to Valley Forge National Historic Park to relive its historical significance as the winter base camp for Washington's army during the American Revolution. In addition, Valley Forge offers numerous hiking trails, and is only a 30 minute drive from Philadelphia. The most scenic trails ascend two mountains, which are aptly named Mount Misery and Mount Joy. Park at the trailhead off of Yellow Springs Road, and hike Mount Misery first. Then use this map to find your way to the ironically, more difficult Mount Joy trails. If you're feeling less adventurous, head over to the five-mile Joseph Plumb Martin trail—a multi-use, paved bike path, popular for running, biking, and walking.