The leaves are already starting to turn from bright green to hues of orange, red and purple. To some (read: me), this signals an end to all things good: no-layers-necessary clothing weather; rooftop bar season; evening walks with ice cream in hand. And to some, it signals the beginning of all things good: the layers! Cozy drinks by fireside! The season when ordering a pumpkin spice latte is socially acceptable!
Regardless of which camp you land in, there is one thing we can all agree on: This time that falls between the dog days of summer and the colder days of fall is a darn pretty one. Those leaves, man. And we suggest you soak up as many of the changing leaves as possible with these five hikes chock-full of fall foliage, as chosen by the woman who wrote the book (quite literally) on hiking in Philadelphia, Lori Litchman, the author of the recently released and SUPER useful 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Philadelphia.
We asked Litchman to spill on her top five Philly-area hikes to see fall foliage. Check them out below, then make your weekend plans accordingly.
Rocky Run at Wawa Preserve
In case you didn’t already know, you can, in fact, hike Media’s 98-acre Wawa Preserve, which is operated by Natural Lands. And the land, once grazing grounds for Wawa dairy cows, really shows off in these breezier months, offering a “lovely view of the Rocky Run Creek and beautiful colors in the fall,” Litchman says. There are roughly four miles of trail to trek across — and look out for wildlife like red foxes and box turtles as you traipse — with access to trails outside of the preserve, too.
Upper trails of Wissahickon Valley Park
This pick is ideal for nature-hungry city dwellers without cars. (If you live in Center City, you can pretty easily get to the Wissahickon, which spans from East Falls to Chestnut Hill, by way of SEPTA or even bike.) And as Litchman notes, “You can’t go wrong hiking there. The fall foliage is amazing anywhere in the park. That being said, the best place to really feel fall in the Wissahickon is at the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge. It’s the only remaining covered bridge in a major U.S. city and it’s right in our backyard.” In order to get there, Litchman suggests parking at Bells Mill Road.
Black Run Preserve
“This is a short, easy hike in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, but the fall foliage is spectacular,” Litchman says. And good news for the hills-averse: The 1,300-acre nature preserve is on the flat side with an “environment unique to the Pine Barrens, with sandy soil and pine trees in addition to the deciduous trees with the lovely leaves.”
Sourland Mountain Preserve
If you’re looking for a calf-burning fall foliage-speckled hike, head to this 4,000-acre preserve. As Litchman says, “This is a more challenging hike and takes you to the ‘mountains’ of New Jersey. The park gets its name from the rocky soil, that was too ‘sour’ to grow on. And rocky it is. Boulders and rocks line the trail along with the lovely forest.” It’s also a popular hangout for rock climbers, if that’s more your speed.
Ridley Creek State Park
Fair warning: The beautiful fall foliage filling the meadows and woodlands of this 2,600-acre Delco gem is no secret. “This is a busy park any time of the year, but especially in the fall,” Litchman says. But the best hike to see the fall foliage might be a bit more under wraps. Litchman’s directions: “The trail to follow is the Orange Trail, and the trailhead is right off of a small perking area off of Gradyville Road. The hike has great forested views of Ridley Creek and is a peaceful retreat.” You heard the woman — hop to it!
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