If you’re a nature-loving city dweller, then virtually every weekend with nice weather is spent diving into the area’s surrounding wooded spots. As we all should be: the Philadelphia area is replete with amazing trails and hikes.
“There are two things I look for in a hike: vistas and waterfalls,” says Carl Ewald, author of a forthcoming hiking guide for our area and founder of Run Fest in Philly. “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 gorgeous hike near Philadelphia — some with bubbling waterfalls, some with sweeping views, and some with both. Fresh air is a given.
Where: Cresco, PA
This moderately trafficked 3.2-mile hike is an out-and-back trail, meaning that you go up the mountain and back down on the same path. Your climb and descent will feature beautiful views of the valley, which — when in bloom — is “lined with rhododendron and mountain laurel,” according to Ewald. The trail can be difficult to follow at points because it is unlabeled and crosses the creek several times, warns Ewald. However, “if you stay within sight of the creek, you are not going to miss the waterfall,” he says. For more information about Devil’s Hole, click here.
Where: Manheim, PA
While jumping off of diving boards into a huge lake is the main attraction at Mount Gretna, there’s actual some beautiful nature-filled views that can be discovered with a little work. According to Ewald, “The cool thing about this is the original owner, who donated the land for a park, was an eccentric who loved towers and built a few on the land — but only one remains. If you are not afraid of heights and confined spaces, you can shimmy to the top on a series of ladders for some great views of the valley.” The only downside to scoring these views is that the tower is located right by the parking lot, so if you’re looking for a serious hike, you best use a map to find a trail that ends up at the tower, otherwise “the hike is pretty anticlimactic,” Ewald explains. For more info about Governor Dick Park, mosey on over here.
Where: Columbia, NJ
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). After, you can 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. For more information, mosey on over here.
Where: Benton, PA
“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. For more information about Get more info on Ricketts Glen State Park, click here.
Where: Holtwood, PA
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 River. Here‘s some more info on Kelly’s Run.
Where: 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 ten-minute walk from the parking lot. Score some more info on Hickory Run State Park here.
Where: 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. Learn more about Mount Minsi here.
Where: Kempton, PA
Make plans to visit this raptor sanctuary during the spring migration (from April 1 through May 15 this year, with the peak between April 15 and 22), 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. Click here for more info on Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
Where: Hamburg, PA
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.” You’ll find more info on the Pinnacle trail here.
Where: 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 the full scoop on the Glen Onoko Falls Hike here.
Where: Germansville, PA
This sub-mile hike off of the Appalachian Trail climbs 154 feet in 0.8 miles. The draw? Densely forested vistas. The downfall? The best views are right near the parking lot, rather than being in the thicket. With that in mind, Ewald’s plan is as follows: “I like to start out one trailhead to the east (north) along the trail to make it a better challenge.” Learn more about “the Knob” here.
Additional reporting by Bailey King.
Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: