13 Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails a Short Drive From Philly

These nature excursions within 40 minutes of the city will have you home in time for dinner... or lunch.

These 13 kid-friendly hiking and nature trails offer outdoor family fun — all within a 40-minute drive from Philly. / Photograph by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation via Flickr.

While the Philly area boasts a ton of great hiking trails — including ones with waterfalls and near breweries — not everyone, particularly those with children, has time to set aside a whole day or even a weekend to get out and enjoy nature. And parents everywhere know that getting the kids out of the house — especially this past year — is essential to keeping the whole family in good spirits and cabin fever at bay.

That’s why we’ve rounded up 13 local parks, hiking trails, and nature centers that are not only kid-friendly, but are within a 40-minute drive from the city. Make it a morning and get back before lunch, or an afternoon and be home in time for dinner — either way, the little ones are bound for a post-outing nap.

Andorra Meadow

Distance from Center City: 25 minutes (West Northwestern Avenue, Wissahickon)

Located in the northwestern section of Wissahickon Valley Park, Andorra Meadow features a trail that follows the edge of the area, creating a 2.1-mile loop with tons of picturesque views. The terrain is fairly even, meaning there isn’t much elevation change. Plus, the meadow’s trail prohibits biking, so your kiddos (and dogs!) won’t have to *totally* worry about sharing the path.

Black Run Preserve

Distance from Center City: 35 minutes (Kettle Run Road, Evesham, NJ)

This 1,300-acre nature preserve across the bridge in Evesham boasts multiple trails of varying lengths, but the easier, shorter ones are closest to the parking lot. The flat terrain passes by wetlands, bogs, and plenty of pine trees, with opportunities to see turtles and beavers. Parenting hack: Download the preserve’s activity sheets and bring them with you to keep your little ones even more entertained.

 

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Boxers’ Trail

Distance from Center City: 10 minutes (3800 Mount Pleasant Drive, Fairmount Park)

With 3.8 miles of wooded and paved paths, Boxers’ Trail winds through East Fairmount Park, giving you and your kids a leisurely walk through historic Philly neighborhoods. While there are three trailheads, we suggest starting at the one directly behind Mount Pleasant Mansion if you’re visiting with kids: It’s super close to Smith Memorial Playground.

Chester Creek Trail

Distance from Center City: 30 minutes (249 Knowlton Road, Media)

Located in Delaware County, Chester Creek Trail is a rail trail, meaning it has been converted from old railway tracks. The paved middle section, which runs through Middletown and Aston townships, offers 2.8 miles of relatively flat terrain (great for beginners and little ones). Plus, parents and children alike will love the fall foliage that’s vibrant this time of year.

 

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Cynwyd Heritage Trail

Distance from Center City: 20 minutes (321 Conshohocken State Road, Bala Cynwyd)

Cynwyd Heritage Trail is a two-mile recreational trail with a wide, paved path suitable for bikers and strollers alike. While there are three trailheads, we recommend starting at the one at Cynwyd Station Park to get in a leisurely walk before ending at Bala Cynwyd Playground.

Forbidden Drive

Distance from Center City: 25 minutes (Multiple trailheads)

Forbidden Drive — part of Wissahickon Valley Park — is a fan favorite among Philadelphians, as it is fairly even and flat, offering gentle walking, jogging, or stroller-pushing. Though the five miles might be a trek for young kids, you can always turn back at any point and end the day eating a tasty sandwich or refreshing salad at Valley Green Inn. (Pro tip: Go in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon during the week in order to avoid crowds.)

 

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John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Distance from Center City: 20 minutes (8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Southwest Philly)

John Heinz is a massive wildlife refuge, boasting 1,000 acres and over 10 miles of trails. If you’re coming with kids, we recommend the 3.5-mile wetland loop, as it’s a gentle stroll and is great for bird-watching. The refuge also hosts a variety of walks and nature programs, typically on the weekends.

Palmyra Cove Nature Park

Distance from Center City: 20 minutes (1335 Route 73 South, Palmyra, NJ)

A short drive over the bridge you’ll find this 250-acre nature park featuring wetlands, meadows, a freshwater tidal cove, and wooded areas. Even better, Palmyra Cove is home to the Institute for Earth Observations, a STEM educational center where children can learn more about the planet through interactive activities and technologies.

Pennypack Park

Distance from Center City: 30 minutes (8500 Pine Road, Fox Chase — though there are several park access points throughout the Northeast section of the city)

Open dawn to dusk, Pennypack Park spans nine miles, from the Northeast section of Philadelphia into parts of Montgomery County. Follow Pennypack creek by foot or bike along wooded paths, rolling hills, and even small waterfalls, where you’re welcome to cast a line for some catch and release.

 

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Ridley Creek State Park

Distance from Center City: 35 minutes (1023 Sycamore Mills Road, Media)

With 13 miles of trails across 2,606 acres, Ridley Creek State Park is a great option for families looking to get a taste of the outdoors. There’s a network of paved, no-biking-allowed trails that connect to the parking area near the park office, which is a good option for those visiting with toddlers or strollers. Pack a lunch and picnic at one of the 14 designated areas, four of which feature playgrounds.

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

Distance from Center City: 30 minutes (8480 Hagy’s Mill Road, Roxborough)

A hub for nature education, the Schuylkill Center has three miles of looped hiking trails replete with meadows, small streams, and ponds that are home to frogs, toads, and snapping turtles. The center also hosts a number of youth and adult programs, including wilderness explorations, sensory nature activities, full moon hikes, and field days.

 

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South Philly Meadows

Distance from Center City: 10 minutes (1500 Pattison Avenue, South Philly)

FDR Park’s former municipal golf course and a huge hit during lockdown, South Philly Meadows offers ample space to stroll, frolic among grassy knolls and trees, or even set up a DIY picnic for the afternoon — all without having to trek out to the ’burbs.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Distance from Center City: 35 minutes (1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia)

Going to Valley Forge National Historical Park is a great way to combine nature, play, and history for your little ones. In addition to multiple biking, hiking, and horseback-riding trails, the park hosts tours of the encampment, including 90-minute trolley tours on Saturdays and Sundays. (Fun for kids!) The park also offers educational activity sheets for your visit.