While Penn's close proximity to downtown Philadelphia is certainly a perk that many students take advantage of, life in the city can sometimes feel overwhelming and crowded—especially if you happen to be a nature nut. It’s easy to miss the quiet of the outdoors when surrounded by skyscrapers and bustling streets. Fortunately for us, there are a number of scenic hiking spots a mere walk or bike ride away from campus that serve as oases from the hectic energy that characterizes Philly.
Many Penn students are familiar with the Schuylkill River Trail and the walk through the Woodlands Cemetery. However, it’s often hard to discover new places to hike and explore while juggling homework or a summer internship. If you're looking to take advantage of the warmer weather this season and enjoy the views that nature has to offer—look no further than these local hiking trails, perfect for novice hikers and those with muddy and worn–in hiking boots alike.
Distance From Campus: 8–minute drive
Trail difficulty: Easy
Right under our noses is the beautiful Fairmount Park. Along with scenic hiking trails, Fairmount Park is home to a variety of attractions that you can stop to view along the way—including the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Fairmount Water Works, Smith Memorial Playground, and the Philadephia Zoo.
- Wissahickon Creek Gorge Loop Trail (9.4 miles)
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Distance From Campus: 15–minute drive
Trail Difficulty: Easy
The John Hienz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is America’s First Urban Refuge, founded in 1972. It is home to the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in the state, and is both bike– and dog–friendly. In terms of the wildlife you can expect to come into contact with at John Heinz, the refuge is notably home to 300 different species of birds. This park's ten miles of trails are generally flat and easy, with the lake loop being especially popular.
- John Heinz Lake Loop (3.6 miles)
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Distance From Campus: 25–minute drive
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Moderate
This 3,500–acre national historic part, located in King of Prussia, PA, boasts ample biodiversity and historical importance. The history fanatics out there might recognize it as the site of the winter encampment of George Washington’s Continental Army from 1777 to 1778. What's more, the park features 35 miles of designated hiking trails and 19 miles of biking trails.
- Valley Forge Historical Trail (7.7 miles)
- Mount Misery Trail (2.9 miles)
Ridley Creek State Park
Distance From Campus: 27–minute drive
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Moderate
Only 16 miles from Center City, the 2,600 acres of land that are Ridley Creek State Park in the Delaware County woodlands are friendly to both hikers and bikers. The park's well–known White and Yellow Trail Loops in the park are popular, though more difficult hiking trails, while, bikers often cycle down a paved, multi–use trail on Forge and Sycamore Mills roads. Ridley Creek is a National Historic Landmark due to the 300–year–old working farm and an 18th–century mill village, Sycamore Mills, present on its grounds. The area is ADA accessible and includes hundreds of picnic spots in 14 parts of the park. In the winter season, you can even cross–country ski or toboggan here.
- Ridley Creek State Park White to Yellow Trail Loop (4.8 miles)
- Ridley Creek Full White Trail Loop (4 miles)
- Ridley Creek Yellow Trail (7.6 miles)
Wharton State Forest
Distance From Campus: 36–minute drive
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Moderate, and Advanced
New Jersey's Wharton State Forest is where you can explore the Pine Barrens, the largest remaining Atlantic coastal pine barrens. This state forest welcomes hikers, campers, and bikers and houses a wide range trails—from the flat, short Batsto Lake Trail to the most famous Batona Trail, a three–day trek that spans more than 50 miles.
- Batsto Lake Trail (4.1 miles)
- Lower Forge and Mullica River Camps (13.5 miles)
- Batona Trail (53.5 miles)
Hiking and exploring these popular escapes from city life are great ways to connect with the land and the larger Pennsylvania community. If you're feeling adventurous and craving some sunshine this season, take some time to explore these trails—and feel free to bring friends, family, or your adorable doggo along for the ride.