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7 Glorious Hiking Destinations Within a Few Hours’ Drive of Philly
A Philadelphian’s guide to stretching your legs, clearing your head, and shaking off your cabin fever in the great wide open.
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Every year about this time, we look forward to a little fall hiking. Some leaf-peeping. Maybe a bit of camping. But this year? This year of claustrophobia, COVID blues and endless ennui? This year, getting out is a must. This year, spending some restorative time in nature feels like a requirement. Or, at the very least, a damn good idea.
Whether you want to bike or hike or camp or fish or just be out in the great wide open, here’s where to go, what to do, and everything you should know before you pack up and hit the road. Happy trails, Philly.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Soak in some history, hike Mount Misery — or Mount Joy! — and be home by happy hour.
Let’s be honest: This hasn’t been the greatest year for feeling patriotic. But when you stand under the spacious skies in Valley Forge National Historical Park — where George Washington and his ragtag Continental Army persevered against the odds in the winter of 1777-’78 — it’s hard not to feel moved by the place. Keep reading here.
Hickory Run State Park
Find the beauty in “Shades of Death” and dine atop a natural wonder.
This massive state park in the wooded foothills of the Poconos boasts multiple claims to fame. The first and most memorable is the giant 16-acre boulder field, a national natural landmark completely surrounded by a ring of evergreens — an attraction that might sound uninspiring on paper but is, in reality, an absolute wonder. Keep reading here.
Rocks State Park
Climb the East Coast’s most majestic rock and take a dip under a hidden waterfall.
The greatest draw at the aptly named Rocks State Park is the King and Queen Seat, a 190-foot-high stone summit that affords the sorts of breathtaking views you see on brochures for state parks — miles of tree-covered hills, Deer Creek and its valley, plus jaw-dropping fall foliage if you time your trip right. Keep reading here.
Lums Pond State Park
Fly through the sky, sail calm waters, and bed down in a cozy yurt.
If you — and/or whatever children you share a home with — are exhausted from the crippling boredom of this past summer, Lums Pond will feel like manna from heaven. The sprawling, woodsy park is built around its picturesque namesake pond. Keep reading here.
Bear Mountain State Park
Scale a mountain, play some ball, and see NYC in a new light.
A river, a mountain, history and playing fields: Bear Mountain has legions of fans because there are so many different experiences to enjoy here. (It’s sometimes too popular; the state occasionally shuts the park down to control crowds — thanks, COVID — so it’s best to call and check before you go.) Keep reading here.
Traverse forest boardwalks, bird-watch on marshes, and bike to the beach.
This enormous natural reserve has many designations: the Pine Barrens, the Pines, the home of the Jersey Devil, and — calling all Sopranos fans — the woods where Paulie Walnuts and Christopher tried (and failed) to bury a body. In actuality, it’s a forest that encompasses 22 percent of New Jersey’s land area and spans seven counties. Keep reading here.
Pine Creek Gorge
Hike a canyon, bike an old rail line, and get way off the grid.
Most gorges don’t have taglines. And Pine Creek’s — “The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania” — is a lot to live up to. But this swath of land is pretty damn impressive: 47 miles long, up to a mile wide, and at one point, 1,450 feet deep. (Right here! In the Commonwealth!) Keep reading here.
Published as “Call of the Wild” in the October 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.