Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia

February 10, 2016

The following day hikes come from AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia. For more information, check out the book.

1. VALLEY FORGE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK—MOUNT MISERY AND MOUNT JOY

Valley Forge

Climb rocky hills and traverse old fields alongside a meandering creek in a rural landscape imbued with American history.

  • Location: King of Prussia, PA (Chester and Montgomery counties)
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Distance: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 450 feet
  • Estimated Time: 3.0 hours
  • Features: Family-friendly, dogs allowed, public transportation, X-C skiing, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: USGS Valley Forge trail map available at welcome center and online

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
Valley Forge hiking? Philadelphians often think of Valley Forge as a vast, open grassy area where paved drives circumnavigate scattered stone memorials and clusters of log huts—not as a hiking destination. But Valley Forge contains two essential Philadelphia-area hikes: a pleasant riverside walk along the Schuylkill (the River Trail, see Trip 7) and this hike, a trek through a part of Valley Forge that retains a sense of the countryside in which the Continental Army endured a winter of privation during the Encampment of 1777–78.

The northwest corner of the park, surrounding Valley Creek, preserves a landscape similar to that in the Delaware Valley during the Revolutionary War: stone farmsteads with small fields checkering the steep, wooded stream valleys. (Ironically, though, the Encampment devastated much of the landscape, as soldiers tore up fields and felled trees.) Muddy farm fields—not emerald lawns—provided the grounds for the Encampment. To travel any distance was either to go on foot over rugged, unlit dirt traces or to navigate through thick, forbidding woods.

 

2. HIBERNIA COUNTY PARK

Hibernia Park

Hike along an old railroad bed and an upland trail portion with rocky but gently rolling hills in a woodland setting. Historical remnants along the trail reveal the park’s past as an iron forge.

  • Location: Wagontown, PA (Chester County)
  • Rating: Easy
  • Distance: 3.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 90 feet
  • Estimated Time: 1.25 hours
  • Features: Family-friendly, dogs allowed, X-C skiing, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: USGS Wagontown; trail map available at park office and at website for Hibernia County Park

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
From busy industrial site to country estate to a peaceful natural area, Hibernia encapsulates the history of many of the area’s best suburban hiking spots. Hibernia County Park encompasses more than 900 acres of diverse habitats, including the West Branch of the Brandywine Creek. From 1793 to 1876, Hibernia was the site of an iron works. The centerpiece of the park is Hibernia Mansion, which was originally the residence of the ironmaster and was expanded by subsequent owners. By 1850, Hibernia had become a self-sustaining community, with two iron forges, two heating furnaces, a rolling mill, a grist mill, the ironmaster’s residence, houses for employees, a farm, gardens, and orchards. Many buildings of the era are still standing and in use; the area is part of the Hatfield-Hibernia Historic District.

 

3. APPALACHIAN TRAIL—THE PINNACLE AND THE PULPIT

Appalachian Trail Pinnacle and Pulpit

Climb through rich woods, up and over rugged, steep, rocky mountain trails, to stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains and the bucolic valley below; this is the most well-known vista on the Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail.

  • Location: Hamburg, PA (Berks County)
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Distance: 9.25 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 825 feet
  • Estimated Time: 4.5 hours
  • Features: Dogs allowed, snow-shoeing
  • Map: USGS Hamburg

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
The view from the Pinnacle is the most celebrated of any on the 229-mile Pennsylvania segment of the Appalachian Trail, and one of the most renowned of any trail in the state. The hike to the Pinnacle is a must for any collection of day hikes in southeastern Pennsylvania. Indeed, there are hikers who will tell you they could do this hike every day and not be bored. Some know it and love it so much that they hike it in moonlight. That said, it is a challenging hike, with steep, rocky trails and boulders to climb over. And the trail, always popular, gets so crowded on nice weekends that the view may be obstructed.

Nonetheless, this is a hike that makes people fall in love with hiking—and hiking in Pennsylvania. Head from the parking lot past the yellow gate, and continue uphill along the gravel road (blazed blue) about half a mile until it reaches an unpaved road. Note the wooden Appalachian Trail (AT) sign straight ahead indicating that the AT crosses here, going south to the left and north to the right. (AT convention is that toward Maine is north and toward Georgia is south, although here “AT north” is heading east according to the compass.) Turn right, onto the road, following the AT heading north. As with all sections of the AT, the trail is marked with white rectangles; two blazes indicate a turn in the direction of the offset upper blaze.

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Susan Charkes

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.