The Best Trails for Running Around Philadelphia During the Winter

A little snow won't stop Philly runners.

Photo courtesy of Gary Brown

While we’re just shy of two weeks away from the official start of winter on December 21, winter has made it’s presence known a little early this year. This weekend’s snow seems to have opened the floodgates — snow gates? — for the season, as we’re expecting another visit from the snow fairy later this week.

We know there are some hardcore runners out there that don’t let a little bit of snow get in the way of their endorphin high — like all the folks I saw out running on the SRT bare-legged (!!!) while it was snowing on Saturday — so, we did some digging, chatted with the pros, and collected the run-down on running in Philly in the snow. Read on for the best spots to run in Philly when there’s frozen precipitation covering the ground, and remember safety and warmth first, friends! (And for the latter, we’ve picked out some cold-weather leggings to help keep you warm).

For a Plowed Path

Where: Parts of the Schuylkill River Trail

 

As I’m sure most of you may know, there are many, many hands in the pot that is the Schuylkill River Trail — which makes sense because it’s comprised of over 60 miles, spanning many different counties in that stretch. That said, the snow plowing of the SRT isn’t straightforward — some parts of the trail are plowed, while others are not.

The Schuylkill Banks and Kelly Drives stretches of the trail are plowed by the city after a snowfall, according to the Schuylkill River Trail Association. Montgomery County, however, does not plow any of it’s sections of the trail while Bucks and Schulykill counties are not likely to plow either. Elaine Schaefer, executive director of the Schuylkill River Trail National Heritage Areas, confirms that the section of the trail from Pottstown and north is not plowed to give cross-country skiers a chance to enjoy the snow.

For Perfectly Untouched Snow

Where: Martin Luther King Drive Trail, a.k.a. West River Drive

“West River usually has very little traffic on a snow day, so the road and the trees all stay a stunningly bright white! I’ll run and dodge snowflakes on the path until I reach Sweet Briar Drive and take a right, then another right on to — you guessed it —Landsdowne Drive and climb that hill until I’m running under the Smith Memorial Arch and along the Avenue of the Republic until I reach The Please Touch Museum. These lush lawns and open green spaces covered in snow are beautiful sight to see. After a few photos and a cartwheel or two in the snow, I head back down Black Road until it meets the West River Drive path again and run my way back home. This is about a seven mile route and is just enough time out on the trails to get lost in the beauty of the winter weather before your fingers and toes are begging you to head indoors for a nice warm cup of joe!” — Suzanne Allaire, founder of the November Project.

For a Journey Through the Woods

Where: The Yellow Trail in Wissahickon Vally Park

“My favorite time to run in the Wissahickon Valley is during the snow. My favorite run starts off from the Jannette Street trailhead and turns left at the Yellow Trail.  The Yellow Trail will take you through the woods and across smaller creeks and waterspouts, as well as through a newly constructed part of the trail system. Continue on the Yellow Trail until you get to the entrance for the Houston Meadow. Now you’re in one of the prettiest parts of the park — be sure to take a selfie.  Keep going until you get to the hill that we call ‘Mother.’  You’ll end up on the Forbidden Drive, continue across the street (Bells Mill Road) and take the first trail on your left. This trail will take you to the Andorra Meadow. Some would argue this is the most beautiful and environmentally important feature of the park, and it’s also amazing in the snow! Finally, after you loop back to Forbidden Drive you can enjoy the creek views on your way back to Jannette Street. The entire distance is close to a half marathon, but you can chop it where you want.” — Gary Brown Jr., leader/co-founder of Chasing Trail. Check out a map of Gary’s path here.

For a Break from the City

Where: French Creek State Park  in Elverson

“Located one hour northwest of the city, French Creek is easy to get to and peaceful in the winter, with a nice big lake. This is definitely a hilly park so, I would avoid it if there’s significant snow.” — Carl Ewald, executive director of Runfest.

For the “On Top of The World” Vibes

Where: The Orange Trail in Wissahickon Valley Park

“I love seeing the Wiss covered in snow from up high! The Orange Trail from Valley Green is my jam. I take that up to the Toleration Statue and get an awesome North-South view of the valley with the trees and river covered in snow.” — Charles Scogna, owner of Charge Performance and Wellness.

For Some Time Spent on a Trail Less Traveled

Where: The Manayunk Canal Towpath in Manayunk

“This is truly an amazing spot: it’s underused — less people is always a plus in my book because I like to tune out the world and tune into nature and my breath— it’s beautiful, and it’s super easy to get to. If I’m doing a long run I’ll just run from the Schuylkill into Manayunk and connect onto the trail. If it’s a shorter run, I’ll just drive to Manayunk, park right on Main Street (there’s parking right by the entrance), and jump onto the trail. I love it because you run by a river, around cute bends and under bridges. You see a lot of art and graffiti, and you can even climb out onto the dam (although probably not if it’s snowing and slippery!). Running on the trails can shield you from the bulk of any bad weather and create a really picturesque experience.” — Amandah Povilitus, Flywheel Sports.

For the Snow-Filled Workout

Where: Chestnut Hill Avenue and Seminole Street in Wissahickon Valley Park 

“The loop begins at the trailhead at the bottom of Chestnut Hill Avenue in Chestnut Hill. You will descend into the gorge and cross over several bridges (including the local favorite, “The Red Covered Bridge“), climb the Rex Avenue steps and even meet up with the famous “Kneeling Lenape” statue, known to the locals as ‘Teddy’ (Tedyuscung). After returning through the trees to the start, we like end our run with an expression of gratitude by placing a stone on the pile, a nice way to end the run with positive focus. Though it is a mere three miles, it offers a challenging punch with some technical trail terrain and steep switchbacks. You’ll pack a solid workout into a very manageable timeframe. Plus, the beautiful setting will hold your attention, taking your mind off the effort!” — Amy Carolla and Schuyler Nunn, co-founders of iRunTheHill.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Forbidden Drive is also plowed. 

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