10 Hikes Near Philadelphia With Waterfalls and Gorgeous Views

If you're looking for new outdoor vistas, these hikes can be an ideal escape from the city.

Ricketts Glen State Park contains one of the many hikes with waterfalls and gorgeous views in the Philadelphia region. / Photograph by Richard Vetter/courtesy Flickr

If you’re a nature-loving city dweller, any chance you get to dive into Philly’s surrounding wooded spots can be a nice reprieve from all the hustle and bustle. Even in coronavirus times, the CDC allows hiking. They recommend that you socially distance, wear a mask when you are near others, avoid large groups, and use hand sanitizer during your visit. Additionally, the guidelines suggest visiting trails that are close to your home or that don’t require you to make pit stops along the way, as doing so can contribute to the spread of the virus. If you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19, the CDC recommends staying home to keep yourself and others safe.

If you’ve checked all the boxes and are ready to hit the trail, you’ll of course want to make your visit worthwhile. Why not go beyond the Wissahickon, and check out some places with amazing scenery, like vistas and waterfalls? Below, a list of 10 spots for gorgeous hikes near Philadelphia, shared with us by Carl Ewald, author of a hiking guide for our area and founder of Philly Run Fest.

Devil’s Hole

Devil’s Hole Creek. / Photograph by Nicholas A. Tonelli/courtesy Flickr

Where: Cresco, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours

This moderately trafficked 3.1-mile hike is an out-and-back trail, meaning 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.

Governor Dick Park in Mount Gretna

Where: Manheim, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 20 minutes

While jumping off of diving boards into a huge lake is the main attraction at Mount Gretna, there’s actually 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.

Mount Tammany

Where: Columbia, NJ
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 50 minutes

The Red Dot Trail is quick and steep, 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 Blaze 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.

 

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Ricketts Glen State Park

Where: Benton, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours, 30 minutes

“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, with the tallest reaching 94 feet. Per Ewald’s suggestion, if you’re planning to make a weekend of it by camping onsite inside the park, book in advance so you don’t miss out. (Though, all lodging right now is currently closed until at least June 12.)

Kelly’s Run Nature Preserve

Where: Holtwood, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 40 minutes

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. Just note that Kelly’s Run, being a nature preserve in Lancaster County, is currently not open to visitors who have to travel more than 15 minutes from home to visit.

Hickory Run State Park

Where: White Haven, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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.

Mount Minsi

Where: Delaware Water Gap, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours

Hikes Near Philadelphia With Waterfalls and Gorgeous Views: Delaware Water Gap as seen from Mount Minsi | Photo by Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelli

Delaware Water Gap as seen from Mount Minsi. / Photograph by Nicholas A. Tonelli/courtesy Flickr

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.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Where: Kempton, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Make plans to visit this raptor sanctuary when it opens (it’s currently closed until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic) so you can watch red-tailed hawks, ospreys, and bald eagles flocking home. You’ll also be able to complete a moderately challenging 4.7-mile hike that includes varied terrain, steep inclines, and a scramble when you reach the rocky lookout. In the meantime, check out some of their neat virtual programming here.

The Pinnacle

Where: Hamburg, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Though temporarily closed due to COVID-19, you must keep this trail bookmarked for when it reopens, as it features superb views of the 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.”

Bake Oven Knob

Where: Germansville, PA
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour, 25 minutes

This sub-mile hike off 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.”

Additional research by Laura Brzyski and Michaela Althouse.

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