Kid-Friendly Fall Hiking Near the Philadelphia Area
It's fall in Philly. That means it is time to get outside, take a deep breath, listen to the leaves crunching beneath your feet, and enjoy a hike before winter snow and holiday planning set in.
Taking the kids on a hike or a walk in autumn is a great way to get a fresh look at the Philly area. You can baby-wear the littlest members of the family while encouraging young ones to play fall-leaf bingo.Teens and tweens can handle some of the more challenging hiking trails described below.
So read on for some of the best fall hikes for families in Philly and the suburbs. Our best Pennsylvania state parks post includes more hiking possibilities outside of the Philly area. Meanwhile, our Fall Activity Guide is loaded with seasonal festivals, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and more.
Keep in mind that amid the pandemic some parks offices, learning centers, and even bathrooms might be closed. Visit the websites for COVID-19 protocols before heading out.
Top Hiking Trails in Philadelphia
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum — South Philadelphia
OK, most of us probably don't think marshland when we think of fall hikes. But let's face it, most of us don't think of marshland in and around Philly at all. Believe it or not, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge spans Delaware and Philadelphia counties, making this nature respite super convenient for families living in the city. It's a perfect place to spot some animals, check out the season's changes, and do it all without driving far into the suburbs. Plus, keep an eye out for some of the refuge's organized nature walks and activities for families.
Schuylkill Banks — Various locations
Philly families can find a variety of trails here winding along the banks of the Schuylkill River. Center City Trail has 11-12-foot wide paths, great for strollers, bikes, walking, or running. The Boardwalk is another spot to enjoy the views of the city, with a "down the shore" feel. The trails at Grays Ferry Crescent provide space for walkers, runners, and cyclists. Other trails such as Schuylkill Crossing are under construction and slated to open in spring 2021.
Wissahickon Valley Park — Northwest Philadelphia
This place is amazing, period. Particularly good for families is Forbidden Drive—a wide, level path that follows Wissahickon Creek for about 5 1/2 miles. It’s an easy hike that’s suitable for strollers and even kids on bikes. Families will enjoy lovely views, particularly of the Wissahickon ravine. More advanced hikers can explore the rougher terrain of the Orange, Yellow, Lavender, and White trails. Bird-watching is another perfect fall activity at this spot.
Enjoy a stroll through the farmland at ChesLen Preserve.
ChesLen Preserve — Coatesville
The ChesLen Preserve is a private nature preserve with more than 13 miles of unpaved trails for families to enjoy. Some of these trails are densely wooded, making them prime spots for autumn tree viewing. The trails have various levels of difficulty, making them appropriate for preschoolers and older. Younger children are bound to beg for a stop at Ollie Owl's Playground, a unique, nature-based play area.
Chester Creek Trail — Media
Located in Delaware County, this rail-trail takes hikers along Chester Creek. The paved middle section, which leads from Middletown to Aston, is about three miles and perfect for bikes and strollers.
Chester Valley Trail — King of Prussia/Exton
From King of Prussia to Exton, this paved rail trail spans just shy of 15 miles and is ideal for walkers with strollers or cyclists. Many trees and farmland can be seen along the path, providing a beautiful backdrop despite the proximity to local highways.
There's a trail for kids of every age at Nockamixon State Park. Photo courtesy of PA DCNR
Nockamixon State Park — Quakertown
Best known for its excellent fishing, Nockamixon State Park also offers fantastic family hiking opportunities. The Sterner Mill hiking trail is reserved for foot traffic so no bikes are allowed. It has simple loop trails that go down to the lake and back, making it great for school-aged kids. Other trails in the park in the Old Mill area are more rugged and rocky, so older kids might enjoy that challenge a little more. Either way, families can't go wrong here, especially if they're looking for fall colors.
Perkiomen Trail — Oaks
The Perkiomen Trail is a must-see for families in Montgomery County. The 20-mile trail follows the route of the Perkiomen Creek from Oaks to Green Lane Borough, so families can choose which sections are the most convenient. Plus, it connects to the Schuylkill River Trail and the Audubon Loop. Kids of all ages will enjoy the scenery. Check the website before you go because there are a number of trails under repair in 2020 that could affect your plans.
Ridley Creek State Park — Media
Right in the heart of Delaware County sits Ridley Creek State Park, a popular spot for families who are looking to get outside. With 13 miles of trails (most of them paved), there is something for everyone. Many paths are cool and shady, which means kids have no trouble finding leaves of every color when the season changes.
Dip your toes in the water while hiking through Stroud Preserve. Photo by Mae Axelrod
Stroud Preserve — Coatesville
Responsible for providing drinking water to the Philly region, the watershed at Stroud Preserve is a habitat for wildlife and a great place for families to hike. With 571 acres, there are miles of trails to explore from sunrise to sunset. In addition, Stroud is an educational site and conducts scientific research.
Located in Chester County, Struble Trail follows the east branch of Brandywine Creek. The trail is largely flat and paved, making it a great spot to take smaller kids for easy hiking or bike riding. Much of the trail is rich with mature trees, so leaf-spotting is a perfect pastime. Along the way, be sure to find the Born Learning Trail, which was created for young children through a United Way initiative, and the free library station to grab a book.
The Laurels Preserve — Coatesville
A popular destination in Chester County, Laurels Run is a more moderate hiking trail that affords visitors the opportunity to see wildlife. You must be a member of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, but membership does offer many worthwhile perks.
The Lions' Trail — Downingtown
Adjoining Struble Trail, Lions' Trail is a short, paved half-mile path perfect for families with little ones. The route takes visitors through Kardon Park, aka, the Ponds where, as you may guess, there are ponds as well as acres of land. Visitors also can fish, bird-watch, bike, and inline skate here.
You can stop to drop a line while hiking through Tyler State Park. Photo courtesy of PA DCNR
Tyler State Park — Newtown
Open sunrise to sunset, Tyler State Park boasts trails that take families through some really beautiful countryside. The Neshaminy Creek winds through the area, and four miles of gravel hiking provides a great spot for short-but-sweet hikes. There are bike trails as well, but they can be a little too hilly for the tiny adventurers. Come back to this park in the winter for sledding, ice skating, and cross country skiing.
Valley Forge National Historical Park — King of Prussia
The Philadelphia area is known for its rich history, and what better way to take it in than with an adventure in Valley Forge? Older kids and grown-ups will love the historical information and structures within the park, and everyone will enjoy the beautiful autumn colors sure to burst throughout the whole area. Paved trails make for easy travel for everyone in the family, and it's convenient for families in the city and the 'burbs. This location also has bike and horseback riding trails.
Places featured in this article:
Valley Forge National Historic Park
Tyler State Park
Ridley Creek State Park
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
Nockamixon State Park
Wissahickon Valley Park
Chester Creek Trail
The Lions' Trail
Chester Valley Trail