Philadelphia’s dense urban landscape is balanced by tree covered valleys following streams and creeks like the Tacony and Wissahickon. Paved trails, like the Schuylkill River Trail and Pennypack Trail, are accessible all year long. However, many unpaved trails are less accessible or sometimes unusable during certain periods of the summer.
These trails are important and often connect urban neighborhoods or transit routes to park space. Maintaining the network of these trails in the summer requires time and effort, but in the fall, nature does all the hard work and clears the path for you to explore even more great natural areas.
Philadelphians are fortunate to have the Fairmount Park system and access to green space a short walk, bike, or transit ride from wherever they live. GoPhillyGo is the easiest way to find trails and parks in our region and find events that are happening there! Android users can download the GoPhillyGo app in the Google Play Store and use it to find great destinations like Wissahickon Valley Park and Tacony Creek Park. If you have an iPhone you can create a shortcut to the GoPhillyGo mobile site on your homescreen and use our trip planner to find parks, trails, and more.
Don’t waste time sitting inside. Get motivated this winter and get outside. Here are some reasons why now is a great time to hit the trails!
Small trails and footpaths wind through many less traveled areas of parks like Wissahickon Valley and Pennypack. Access to these trails usually depends of how recently volunteers or parks and recreation staff were there. If you head out now, you won’t have to worry about stinging nettles or poison ivy, and you may even find a trail that was only passable by wildlife during the summer. Areas that are prone to being muddy become frozen and much less messy to cross as well.
Lower temperature means less sweat
It’s easy to work up a sweat with so much awesome park space to explore. Hiking in the dog days of summer means you need to carry lots of water and the thick, humid air might make you less inclined to hike that extra mile. Cooler temps means less sweat and you will feel comfortable elevating your body temperature. You still need water, but probably a lot less and if you get too hot, you can always take off a layer of clothing.
Less bugs like ticks
Climate change means longer warm seasons resulting in more bugs. Shorter, warmer winters means bugs like ticks remain active longer. Ticks don’t die off in the winter but do go dormant when the temps are near freezing. This year was one of the worst for tick borne illnesses in PA and if you spent any time in tall forests or meadows this summer, chances are you crossed paths with one of these tiny blood suckers. Now that the tall grasses and leaves are dead, there’s less chance of them clinging to your pants or dropping on you from above.
Hiking in the late fall and winter isn’t for everyone so take advantage of less people on the trail. This is a great time to connect with nature and spend time reflecting. If you can hike during non-peak hours you may be the only one using the trails. Listen to the winds blowing through the branches or hike to a secluded spot and experience what the city was like before it was developed.
Many species remain active into the winter and it’s a lot easier to see them since all the leaves are down. As you hike along creeks, keep an eye out for great blue herons stalking prey or deer looking for a drink. Gaze up to the treetops and you might see a red tailed hawk looking back at you. This is also a good time to scope out places to look for bald eagles next summer. The eagles’ nests are usually at the top of the tallest trees and shielded by leaves. Eagles return to the same area and even the same nest so remember where you saw one in the fall so you can come back when the eagles return.