My Top 5: Under-the-Radar Bike Trails Around Philly

Katie Monroe, founder of the Facebook group Women Bike PHL, spills on her favorite less-crowded bike trails around town.
Pennypack Trail | Photo via Flickr

Pennypack Trail | Photo via Flickr

It seems our recent weather — in the breezy 70s — was made for biking. Only problem: Paths like Kelly Drive, delightful as they are, can get a bit crowded. So we chatted with Katie Monroe, the founder of the Facebook page Women Bike PHL, bike enthusiast and social activist to find out what her top five hidden-gem bike trails in the Philly area are. Katie is super involved in the Philly biking community and has a bunch of tips and tricks to ease your biking experience. From a how-to video for mounting your bike on the bus so you can get to these lovely places to where to enter a trail and where the nearest Indego bike rental station is. Soak up all of Katie’s wisdom — and plan your weekend bike ride! — below.

Ben Franklin Bridge Path
“I know too many Philadelphians who haven’t been up on the bridge (outside of a car) and it’s a shame! It’s easily the best view of the city and is totally separate from all car traffic. The trick is to enter the bridge at 5th and Race Streets — don’t go all the way down to the Delaware River or you’ll be underneath it. Some of my favorite memories of biking the bridge are from when I used to lead Gearing Up rides up there. Watching women conquer their fear of heights while conquering so many other challenges in their lives was deeply inspiring. After you snap that skyline photo for Instagram, celebrate your accomplishment with a show at FringeArts, the red building nestled under the bridge. There’s even an Indego station right at Race Street Pier. Keep in mind, so you don’t get stuck: the Ben Franklin Bridge path closes at 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the season.”

Pennypack Trail
“The Pennypack is a more adventurous trail option — no Indego option here. Located in Northeast Philadelphia, this trail is best accessed by throwing your bike in the car, or better yet, via SEPTA (from City Hall, take the MFL to the Frankford Transportation Center and transfer to the 20 or 14 bus. If you’ve been too nervous to put your bike on the bus in the past, fear not, I was too, until the day I made this how-to video! It’s way easier than you think.) The Pennypack Trail is gorgeous — a mix of paved and smooth gravel. The trail offers over 14 miles of great woodsy and farmland views — don’t forget to dip your toes in the creek!”

 John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
“This is one of my absolute favorite spots to ride, located right down by the Philadelphia Airport. I like picking destinations that you might not think are accessible by bike, and figuring out how to get there on two wheels. Heinz is a great option for this type of challenge. There are a couple ways to get there, the most direct being Lindbergh Boulevard (be careful, this road does have some traffic, but there is a shoulder). You can also take a longer, calmer, route that includes Cobb’s Creek Trail. The Refuge itself is a magical retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city — I see a new (to me) bird every time I ride through. Not all paths are open to bikes, making this spot a great bike-and-hike destination if you remember your lock. The main loop around the marsh never disappoints.”

Martin Luther King Drive
“This one’s still a secret to far too many. When the Schuylkill River Trail on the east side of the river is overflowing with people, pop over to the other side, MLK Drive, which is closed to car traffic on Saturdays and Sundays from April through October. Four miles of wide open streets, folks! Serious racing cyclists mingle amongst kids just learning to ride — and there’s enough space for everyone. Even when it’s not closed to cars, there’s a sidewalk path (just like on Kelly Drive) to enjoy safely. MLK Drive offers access points to West Fairmount Park, which is full of hidden gems like the Pavilion in the Trees. Closest Indego Station: Philadelphia Museum of Art, temporarily relocated to Paine’s Park (which is even closer to MLK Drive!).”

Coming soon…
“Some of the trails I’m most excited about don’t exist yet, but they’re on the way! Imagine being able to ride from the Schuylkill River Trail alllll the way south, past where the trail currently ends (South Street Bridge) to Gray’s Ferry Crescent Park and across the river to Bartram’s Garden. One piece of this vision, Bartram’s Mile, will open up this Earth Day, April 22nd. Philly-area trails are always a work in progress, with advocates working across the region to better connect them into a unified vision, The Circuit Trails, our regional trail network. I have to give some serious props to the work of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, one of the biggest champions of our regional trail network.”

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