Happy Trails: The Best (Less Crowded) Places to Hike Around Philly

Where to lace up your sneakers for a less crowded (read: more pleasant) weekend hike.

Belmont Plateau Trails | Photo via Facebook

Belmont Plateau Trails | Photo via Facebook

Going hiking during a fall weekend is a no-brainer: It doesn’t cost a dime, you get your heart rate up, and, oh, the leaves. But a peaceful Sunday-morning outing can quickly turn sour when you find yourself literally bumping into strangers at every bend. (I love you, Wissahickon trails, but man, you are crowded.) Still, there’s no need to hole up in your house all autumn long. We asked around to find the best lesser-known—but just as beautiful!—spots every hiking enthusiast should trek to this fall. Just not all at once, please.

Boxers’ Trail // This nearly four-mile trail in the Strawberry Mansion area of East Fairmount Park gives you a Schuylkill-side hike without the Schuylkill River Trail’s many cyclists and doublewide strollers. Plus, secluded wooded portions are guaranteed to trick you into thinking you’ve teleported straight out of the city.

Wawa Preserve // You’ll see everything from red foxes to box turtles to brown bats on a hike through this sprawling 98-acre preserve, the former grazing grounds for Wawa Dairy cows. But the real beauty of this woodland- and meadow-filled Media destination is that not many people know it’s open to the public.

Bridlewild Trails // This suburban gem, a network of little-known hilly trails in Gladwyne, mimics the feel of the Wissahickon. We’re talking skinny dirt trails (the kind you can appreciate when you don’t have to constantly shimmy to the edge to make room for large groups), streams, and the occasional passing dog-walker.

Mount Joy // When hunting for a hilly hike at Valley Forge, many people (surprisingly) choose Mount Misery over Mount Joy. Their loss, though: Mount Joy boasts the same calf-burning terrain and great views as its counterpart, but with fewer trail-trekkers sharing the road. Win-win, right?

Belmont Plateau Trails // Be prepared to get dizzy. This underappreciated web of narrow trails, accessible from Belmont Plateau, is squeezed into a tiny pocket of Fairmount Park. This makes for a winding hiking ground with very few straightaways and plenty of hidden nooks and crannies to explore.

This article first appeared in the October issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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