Field Guide: 8 Hikes Near Philadelphia With Waterfalls and Gorgeous Views
We survived another winter, Philly. Now that the thaw-out is officially setting in, it’s time to shed some layers, head outdoors and hit the trails.
“There are two things I look for in a hike: vistas and waterfalls,” says Carl Ewald, the original founder of TerraMar Adventures, a local club for outdoor enthusiasts, and author of a forthcoming hiking guide for our area. “We’ve got plenty of both right in our backyard.”
If you’re looking for hiking intel that goes beyond the Wissahickon, you’re in luck: We got Ewald to share his spots for a springtime hike near Philadelphia—some with bubbling waterfalls, some with sweeping views, and some with both. Fresh air is a given.
The Red Dot Trail is quick and steep (the 1.5-mile trek to the summit climbs 1,250 feet), but the overlook panorama is worth the effort: You can see for miles, with gorgeous views of the Delaware Water Gap and Mount Minsi (note: also worth a hike; see below). Return along the Blue Trail for a 3.5-mile excursion. More experienced hikers may want to combine the Mount Tammany climb with the Sunfish Pond Trail to make a big loop. Ewald says it makes for a good three to four hour hike that includes time on two mountains; the pond — really a big alpine lake — is at the top of Mount Mohican. // Get more info on Mount Tammany.
Ricketts Glen State Park
“This is the hike that turns first-time hikers into forever hikers,” says Ewald. At 7.2 miles long, the popular Falls Trail features rocky and steep sections, but the payoff is views of 21 waterfalls of varying heights. The tallest reaches 94 feet. Plan to make a weekend of it by camping onsite inside the park. // Get more info on Ricketts Glen State Park.
Don’t be fooled by the baseball fields and picnic pavilions. What feels like a suburban park quickly becomes a serene hike — one Ewald calls a “hidden gem” — when you access the five-mile trail network that crosses the cool, shaded creek in this Lancaster County nature preserve. It includes a short but steep climb to a lookout with great views of the Susquehanna. // Get more info on Kelly’s Run.
Hickory Run State Park
White Haven, PA
On the out-and-back Boulder Field trail, about a seven-mile round trip, you’ll wind through the forest before reaching the 16-acre boulder field, a National Natural Landmark. Don’t hit the road the second you return to your car: Hawk Falls, a 25-foot waterfall, is just a 10-minute walk from the parking lot. // Get more info on Hickory Run State Park.
Delaware Water Gap, PA
Mount Minsi flanks the Delaware River from the Pennsylvania side, offering excellent vistas of Mount Tammany in Jersey. This five-miler is steep and strenuous but doable, advises Ewald, if you’re in good shape and take it slow. There are two outlooks on the way up, where you’ll get good views across the water gap. At the top, where you’ll find the remnants of an old fire tower, you’ll see Mount Tammany in all its glory, stripes of exposed rock and all. Pro tip: Follow the fire road, instead of the trail, back down for a quicker and easier-to-navigate descent. // Get more info on Mount Minsi.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Make plans to visit this raptor sanctuary during the spring migration (from April 1st through May 15th this year, with the peak between April 15th and 22nd), when you can watch red-tailed hawks, ospreys and bald eagles flocking home. You can complete a moderately challenging 4.7-mile hike that includes varied terrain, steep inclines, and a scramble when you reach the rocky lookout. // Get more info on Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
This neighbor to Hawk Mountain tackles portions of the Appalachian Trail and includes superb views of Lehigh Valley from two vistas: Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle. The 8.5-ish-mile hike takes about three to four hours to complete, depending on your fitness level, says Ewald, and he advises doing the route counterclockwise: “The first two to three miles to get up to the Pulpit can get steep, so this way you get the hard hiking done while you’re fresh.” From Pulpit Rock, enjoy a nice view across the valley, then follow the ridge to the Pinnacle. “It’s considered one of the top vistas in this half of the state,” says Ewald. “It’s just really beautiful, long views across fields and mountains.” // Get more info on the Pinnacle trail.
Glen Onoko Falls Hike
Jim Thorpe, PA
At about two miles, this is the shortest hike on the list. But don’t be fooled: it’s definitely not the easiest. Ewald says it ascends more than a thousand feet over two miles and includes some slippery rock scrambles. Your reward for all that huffing and puffing? A series of gorgeous waterfalls. Hiking boots, instead of sneakers, are highly recommended for this one to help keep you from slipping. // Get more info on the Glen Onoko Falls Hike.
Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly — here’s how:
- Like Be Well Philly on Facebook
- Follow Be Well Philly on Twitter
- Follow Be Well Philly on Pinterest
- Get the Be Well Philly Newsletter