Walk It Off: 12 Nature-Filled Spots to Go for a Long Walk Around Philly
Is there anything better than a nice long walk in nature? The answer is no — and recent research reported on by the New York Times hammers this home.
As the New York Times reports, people may be best able to reap the mood-boosting benefits of walks if they take place outside in nature. For a study published last month in PLOS One, researchers flipped around the standard workout scenario — instead of focusing on the intensity of a workout, they emphasized the length of the activity at a low intensity, hypothesizing that this tweak may increase enjoyment and, eventually, participation. Because if you enjoy a workout, you’re more likely to do it (duh).
Study participants were asked to complete three activities, at about three hours each: an outdoor walk, an indoor walk on a treadmill, and, as a control session, spending time in a lounge room with computers, reading materials and other participants, encouraged to chat. After each session, the participants moods were recorded. Walking outside, in nature, was found to have the greatest effect when it came to a mood boost. We will take that as all the excuse we need to go get lost on a walking path this weekend.
If you would like to do so too, here, 12 nature-filled Philly-area walking paths (many paved) where you can enjoy a long jaunt through nature, sans hills and protruding boulders and, hopefully, reap the mood-boosting benefits. Added bonus: The natural sounds of the environment can help improve your sleep.
The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Where to Access: 86th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, Southwest Philly
Located down by the Airport in Southwest Philly, this wildlife refuge is magically secluded from city life. There are a whole slew of paths, some open only to pedestrians (score!) with views and wildlife galore. This change of scenery will surely keep you engaged in a lengthy walk.
Where to Access: Byberry Road, Huntingdon Valley or State Road, Holmesburg
Pennypack Park offers a little over 14 miles of paved and unpaved trails connecting Montgomery County to Philadelphia, along the Pennypack Creek. A long walk in this densely wooded park will have you ooh-ing and ahh-ing all the way home.
Cooper Trail in Tyler State Park
Where to Access: The equine parking lot near the Tyler Park Center for the Arts, Newtown
Located in Bucks County, just a little over 30 miles from Center City, Tyler State Park offers that feeling of a full-blown escape in nature, without the time commitment. The Cooper Trail features three miles of easy walking, adorned by some serious beauty, including clusters of mature oak and tulip poplar trees. In addition to the Cooper Trail, Tyler State Park is home to 10.5 miles of paved multi-use trails.
Delaware Canal Towpath
Where to Access: The Washington Crossing trailhead off of River Road, Taylorsville
This 60-mile trail along the Delaware Canal connects Bristol and Easton. The flat, crushed-stone trail, nestled between trees and the canal makes for a nice, calm walk. Because this is such a lengthy trail, you can hop on at different point and get a new experience for every visit!
This seven-mile stretch of path along the Wissahickon Creek never disappoints. It’s a go-to spot for many of Philly’s running groups, joy-riders and walkers alike. Plus, if you have your pooch, there are a lot of spots for a doggie swim as well! A win for one and all.
Where to Access: Two blocks west of Germantown Avenue on Millman Street, Chestnut Hill
Located in Chestnut Hill, this park is a favorite of the community. It is home to 16 acres of trees, a pond and a natural amphitheater (as in, it was formed by nature. So cool.) where summer concerts are held. Go for a walk, and stay for the show — now that’s a damn good day.
Where to Access: At Chew Avenue, between Washington Lane and Haines Street, Germantown
This 100-year old arboretum located in Germantown is a greenscape unlike any other in Philadelphia. The Awbry is a self-proclaimed “zoo for trees,” so as you can imagine, you’ll be getting allllll the tree views in a long walk on the grounds.
Cobbs Creek Trail
Where to Access: 63rd and Market Streets, West Philly or Cobbs Creek Parkway and 70th Street, Lansdowne
This trail is perfect for city folk who want a dose of nature, without straying too far from the city. It is completely paved and because it’s a part of the East Coast Greenway, this trail connects to many others. Plan a route (and pack a lunch) and make a day of it!
Ridley Creek State Park Loop Trail
Where to Access: Barren Road parking lot (where the dam is), Media
This multi-use trail is perfect to give new visitors a taste of the park. It’s about four miles of paved path, close to Newtown Square, with views of the creek, woods and fields — providing a serious dose of nature and a solid walk.
I’m sure your sneakers have graced the paved path of the SRT at least once in your time here in Philly, so, you’re likely in the know about its beauty. But, if you’re new the game, the SRT is a great place to start. It’s a pretty lengthy trail, ranging from the South Street Bridge all the way past Valley Forge, complete with beautiful scenery of nature, it’s critters and, of course, the Schuylkill River. Hop on at any point for a mood-boosting walk.
Where to Access: The Welcome Center, 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, West Philly
Here, you have eight-acres of paths through Bartram’s historic garden to stroll through and gawk at along trails of grass, stone and dirt. The garden houses an array of impressive, unique and old (er, aged) trees.
Where to Access: The River Trail parking lot off of Pawlings Road, Valley Forge
Located in the Valley Forge National Historic Park, this crushed-gravel path is not to be confused with the well-known Schuylkill River Trail. This trail offers an easy-going three miles along the Schulykill river chock-full of the nature views we all desire.
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