I hate winter. I hate winter so much, in fact, that I fled from the east coast to Arizona the minute I turned 18, just for the promise of sweater-clad December days. (Choosing your college based on your weather preferences is an awful idea, by the way.) My aversion to temperatures below 45 degrees makes my relationship with fall complicated. The brisk temperatures of fall signal impending doom to me. That said, it is the prettiest darn impending doom there is, what with orange, red and yellow leaves and sweater-weather that is perfect for running, walking or hiking through them.
So to help you soak up the changing leaves of the season before the branches are bare and your hibernation mode kicks in (just us?), we’ve rounded up 10 beautiful running and walking spots (aside from Fairmount Park, because we’re sure you’re already hip to that gem) where you can get up close and personal with the region’s gorgeous fall foliage. We say you make it a goal to check off as many of these as you can over the next few weeks.
Ready, set, go!
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Location: Southwest Philly.
Yes, that funny park just off 95 near the airport is totally worth exploring. Believe it or not, there are 10 miles of tree-lined gravel trails that follow the serpentine waterways, as well as boardwalk crossings that take you out over the water. Bonus: You’ll even get some pretty spectacular views of Center City.
There are six trails at this tree preserve in Delco, but the longest, at 7.4 miles, is called the Minshall Trail. It takes you through most of the arboretum’s 650 acres, past the remains of the property’s 200-year-old farm, and across a few creeks. To extend your run or walk, you can connect with any of the other well-marked trails in the property. Note: It’s $11 to get into the arboretum.
Location: Northeast Philly.
This is probably one of those Philly parks you’ve been meaning to get to forever, but just haven’t yet made the trek. During the fall, the 9-ish-mile trail along the creek is exploding with color. You can extend your run by heading north (Note: It’s also hillier.) along the 2.4-mile Pennypack Trail rail-trail extension into Montgomery County.
Ridley Creek State Park
Another Delco park that’s worth the excursion, this one has 13 miles of wooded trails hiking trails, as well as a paved, five-mile walking and biking path. Whichever you choose, you’ll get your fill of leaf peeping, as you ascend and descend the park’s rolling hills. Check out the trail network here.
Tyler State Park
The name of the game here is hills. But you can take your mind off your screaming quads and gasping lungs by taking in the beautiful scenery, including the quaint covered bridge and pretty Neshaminy Creek. There are 10.5-miles of paved trails and four miles of gravel trails to explore.
Haverford College Nature Trail
This lovely 2.25-mile loop is contained on the campus of Haverford College. Sections of it run through the woods, which makes it a lovely (and surprising) fall foliage-peeping adventure, right in the heart of the Main Line. And since it’s a loop, on both gravel and dirt surfaces, you can do as many (or as few) treks around to achieve your desired distance.
Delaware Canal Towpath
Location: Washington Crossing.
The towpaths that edge the Delaware River canal (on both the east and west sides of the river) are a picturesque escape from your usual stomping grounds, especially in the fall. Park atWashington Crossing State Park, head over the bridge to the west side of the Delaware, and hop onto the canal path. Head north to New Hope, cross over the bridge into Lambertville, and head south. The whole loop is about 15 miles.
The 98-acre Wawa Nature Preserve is tucked behind Wawa (yes, that Wawa) headquarters just off Route 1 in Media. The preserve features a mix of grassy meadows and thick woods, with four miles of unpaved trails to explore. Be sure to download the ExploreNLT app before you go to get your hands on detailed interactive trail maps, wildlife to look out for and more.
Location: West Philly
This tree and plant-filled botanical garden, nestled along the Schuylkill River in West Philly, boasts a number of walking trails that weave through the 45-acre property, taking you through everything from meadows to historic gardens to tidal wetlands — falling leaves always within eyeshot.
Wissahickon Valley Park
Location: Northwest Philadelphia
Oh, you beautiful Wissahickon, you. This 1800-acre park, which you can access from East Falls up to Chestnut Hill, is a year-round favorite of ours — but it really shines in the fall. You can take your pick of over 50 miles of trails, all of which will give you Instagram-worthy views of falling leaves, but the 5.35-mile Forbidden Drive flat gravel path is the easiest on the knees. For more varied terrain, try the orange, white or yellow trails.
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