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.

hiking near philadelphia

Atsion Lake in the New Jersey Pinelands, one of the best places to explore and go hiking near Philadelphia. Photograph by Colin Lenton

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.

hiking near philadelphia

Atsion Lake in the New Jersey Pinelands. Photograph by Colin Lenton

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Soak in some history, hike Mount Misery — or Mount Joy! — and be home by happy hour.

valley forge

Washington’s Headquarters in Valley Forge. Photograph by B. Krist/Visit Philadelphia

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.

hickory run state park hiking near philadelphia

Checking out the giant 16-acre boulder field in Hickory Run State Park, one of the best places to go hiking near Philadelphia. Photograph by 500px/Getty Images

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.

hiking near philadelphia

River kayakers near Rocks State Park. Photograph by Edwin Remsberg/The Image Bank/Getty Images

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.

hiking near philadelphia

Go camping this fall in Lums Pond State Park, one of the best places to go hiking near Philadelphia. Photograph courtesy Delaware State Parks

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.

bear mountain state park

Bear Mountain State Park at Bear Mountain Bridge. Photograph by Sudhagar Shanmugasigamani/Unsplash

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.

The Pinelands

Traverse forest boardwalks, bird-watch on marshes, and bike to the beach.


The historic Whitesbog cranberry bog. Photograph via Getty Images

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.

pine creek state park

Where to visit in Pine Creek State Park this fall. Photograph via Getty Images

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.