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Fairmount Park System Trails

Lehigh Valley Region

Urban Legend
Directions & Trail Description

Location: Eastern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, PA.

Length/Configuration: 8 mile recreation loop along Kelly Drive and back on West River Drive. 5.5 mile ride on Forbidden Drive along Wissahickon Creek. Other bike paths & trails within park.

Terrain/Surface: Recreational loop along Schuykill River is paved. Forbidden Drive is gravel. Other paved and natural surface paths.

Technical Difficulty: Easy to moderate.

Elevation Change: Minimal. 

Caution: Bicycles share the trail with hikers and equestrians. Vehicular traffic on paved roads.

 

 

 

Local Resources: Bike shops, bike clubs, adventure travel, bike tours, bike events, trail maps, bike safety, camping, historical places, where to stay and other related sources visit our Resource Hub.

Fairmount County Park Trail Map

Note: The free trail maps on this website have been simplified to provide an overview with approximate locations of trails and special features. Read Full Disclaimer.

 

Directions:

Fairmount Park is located on the west side of the city along the Schuykill River and Wissahickon Creek.

Forbidden Drive Access:

The paved path which connects Forbidden Drive south to Ridge Avenue and the confluence of the Wissahickon and Schuylkill River is a popular access point for cyclists coming off the River Drives or pedestrians departing the R-6 transit route at Wissahickon Station or Bus Interchange.

Forbidden Drive is also accessible at its midpoint at the Valley Green Inn. Valley Green Road can be reached from Springfield Avenue in Chestnut Hill, two blocks west of St. Martin's Lane and the St. Martin's R-8 Station. Just above Valley Green, Wise's Mill Road meets Forbidden Drive, connecting it to Henry Avenue in Roxborough.

 

General Description:

Extending behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along both sides of the Schuykill River and Wissahickon Creek, Fairmount Park is the largest municipally owned park in the United States. An urban paradise, consisting of 5,400 acres of natural areas, some of the most popular mountain biking trails in the city of Philadelphia, recreational trails and at least a dozen historic sights and mansions.

Nestled within the fifth largest city in the US, Fairmount Park is the "jewel in the crown" of Philadelphia's park system. It is larger than New York's Central Park, but it is spread out throughout Philadelphia, consisting of 62 separate neighborhood parks. The Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

 

The Trails:

All users of Fairmount Park trails over the age of 16, except those on foot are required to have a permit. Trail maps for the Wissahickon Valley and Pennypack Parks are available for a donation of $2.00 for each map. (Visit the park website for permit and map request forms. (See For More Information below.)

Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon Valley Park is the only trail open to bicyclists and equestrians without a permit. The Fairmount Park Commission requires that those using the upper trails in the valley for off-road biking or horseback riding secure a trail permit.

 

River Drives Recreation Loop:

This 8.4 mile paved riverside path runs parallel to Kelly and West River Drives. guiding walkers, bikers and runners and roller bladers along the Azaela Garden, Boat House Row, beautiful vistas and sculpture with terriffic views of scullers rowing on the Schuykill.

 

Forbidden Drive : Wissahickon Gorge

Part of Fairmount Park System, The Wissahickon Valley Park, located in the Northwest section of the City is designated as a National Natural Landmark. It is a spectacular 1,800-acre, seven mile long forested alpine gorge cut by the Wissahickon Creek before it empties into the Schuylkill River. This incredible pocket of wilderness contains 57 miles of trails which include some the best trails for off-cycling in Philadelphia.

Forbidden Drive, also known as Wissahickon Drive (5.42 miles in length) runs the length of the Valley from Manayunk to Chestnut Hill. It is one of the most popular and beautiful trails in the system. The speed limit is 7 m.p.h. Strolling families mingle with bikes and equestrians along with hikers, fisherman and birdwatchers who seek the dramatic scenery and peace of the valley.

From Forbidden Drive, several steeply wooded paths climb out of the valley and connect with blazed "upper trails" which run along the walls of the valley. Of interest to mountain bikers is the green blazed designated multi-use trail. Mountain biking is allowed for mountain bikers with permits. The blue blazed trail is a designated a hiking trail.

Along the Forbidden Drive, you can see the only covered bridge in a major U.S. city. Originally built in 1737, The Thomas Mill Road Covered Bridge (see Historical Note below) spans the creek in the park.

 

Note: In 1996, the park commission adopted a Trails Master Plan to reduce user conflict. Bicycle access was restricted on some of the upper trails and a designated a multi-use trail was authorized along the east and west sides of Wissahickon Creek. It is important for mountain bikers to follow IMBA's rules of the trail and ride responsibly. To prevent erosion, the Fairmount Parks Commission requests that bikers stay off the trails for a whole day after it rains.

 

The Friends of the Wissahickon publishes a detailed Map illustrating the trails where bikes are permitted (www.fow.org).

 

Belmont Plateau:

Located near the Mann Music Center, Memorial Hall and the Horticulture Center, the Belmont Plateau is used for special events and sports activities throughout the year. Enjoy the spectacular view of the city skyline from this favorite picnic location. There are some short sections of singletrack and fire roads. Bicycle clubs frequently host races beginning and ending at Belmont Plateau.

There is ample parking at Belmont Plateau and a concessions facility open on weekends that offers a variety of hot and cold fast food items.

 

Pennypack Park:

Pennypack Park, located in the Northeast section of the City, covers 1,395 acres of the Fairmount Park system. The Park boasts many natural and man-made features that are easily accessible from the many neighborhoods that surround the Park. Of the over 40 miles of trails throughout the park, 10 miles are a paved multi-use trail that runs from Pine Road to the mouth of the Delaware River.

 

Pennypack on the Delaware:

Located at the mouth of Pennypack Creek, on the easternmost tip of Pennypack Park is a newly created 150-acre park that offers an array of recreational amenities for the public. There is a beautiful view of the Delaware River. A paved path, perfect for walking, jogging, bicycling and rollerblading connects with the eight mile path in Pennypack Park.

 

Andorra Natural Area:

Andorra Natural Area is Fairmount Park's Wissahickon Valley Environmental Education Center. Located at the northern end of the Wissahickon Valley, this 210-acre preserve is one of the last Wild Places of Fairmount Park.

Bikes are not allowed on Andorra's trails except on the driveway to the Tree House and on the bypass, which connects upper Northwestern Ave. with Forbidden Drive. Bikers are welcome to leave their bikes at Tree House while hiking on the trails here.

 

Schuylkill River Trail and The Manayunk Tow Path

The River Trail trail can be accessed from the Philadelphia Museum of Art where it continues 22 miles through Fairmount Park to Valley Forge. The trail is built on the Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way and parallels the scenic Schuylkill River as it passes through various townships and boroughs. The U.S. Department of Interior’s National Trails System has recognized it as a National Recreation Trail.

In Philadelphia the trail uses the Fairmount Park trails and the Manayunk Canal Tow Path. The trail is paved along the riverfront in Fairmount Park, but uses the gravel towpath of the former Schuylkill Navigation System, in Manayunk. The Manayunk Tow Path, part of Fairmount Park, follows the Manayunk Canal and runs parallel to Main Street.

 

Historical Note:

The Thomas Mill Road Covered Bridge

The only covered bridge in a major U.S. city. Spans the Wissahickon Creek. It is the only remaining covered bridge in the Wissahickon. Originally built in 1737, it provided a connection across the gorge between developing communities in Chestnut Hill and Roxborough. Several houses belonging to mill owners occupied the field on the east side of the bridge.

Directions To The Bridge: Along the Forbidden Drive at Thomas Mill Rd., between Bells Mill Rd. and Wises Mill Rd., in Fairmount Park.

 

 

For more information:

 

Fairmount Park Commission
Attn: Permits Office
PO Box 21601
Philadelphia, PA 19131-0901

Phone: (215) 685-0052
Website: Fairmont Park

 

 

 

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