UPDATED NOV 11, 2019
Philadelphia is currently experiencing a biking renaissance thanks to bikeshares and flat and accessible city streets. There’s never been a better time to dust off the old two-wheeler and hit the trails, and we've got you covered with this guide to some of the best.
Don’t worry — you don’t need to know how to pronounce “Schuylkill” in order to enjoy it. The Schuylkill River Trail can be whatever you want it to be: a relaxing bicycle ride, a full workout incorporating stair intervals, or just a chance to stare in awe at the local university rowers practicing on the river. Either way, the 30-mile-long segment of trail from Philly to Parkerford is as epic as it gets, and you’ll be re-energized thanks to the accompanying river breeze.
After the city streets were closed to automobiles for Pope Week 2015, Philadelphians learned the value of open streets for bikers. Instead of constantly worrying if a Range Rover is on your tail, you can swerve all around the West River Drive path. The trail is closed to cars on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, so you can shift gears all day long, and then get the best view of the city’s sunset. Plus, it’s another chance to stare at those university rowers we referenced earlier (boy, they’re swell) because it also runs along the river.
Living in the city is great, but sometimes you need to unplug and get back to nature. Or maybe, you just want to capture a really good photo of some fall foliage. Feel like a rebel and take a ride down Forbidden Drive on the Wissahickon Trail, or just cruise around until you get to the historic Valley Green Inn where you can order the famous brie-stuffed French toast. Just be sure you can still bike back after!
Runners get the joy of sprinting up the Rocky Steps, but what do bikers get to do? We’ve got your back; you can have your inspirational moment when you take a ride along the 3.5-mile-long Boxers’ Trail in East Fairmount Park. Named because it was used as a training ground for boxers like Joe Frazier, it’s the perfect opportunity to blast “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on your Bluetooth bike speaker without any neighboring judgment (you’ll be hidden, thanks to the scenic woods).
If you want to bike along a different river beside the Schuylkill River, the Delaware River Trail has a ton to offer. Begin your ride in Penn Treaty Park before continuing riding down the trail past Race Street Pier for free daily yoga in the summer, or keep going until you reach Spruce Street Harbor Park for a relaxing rest in a hammock and ping pong!
The 8.8-mile trail that runs along Pennypack Creek is definitely a favorite. Just a taste of the 1,600 acres of woodlands, meadows, wetlands and fields, this swatch of Pennypack Park offers an express look into what Eastern PA wildlife was like back in 1900. Although, the paved trail has some modern comforts, like restrooms, water fountains, and multiple parking areas.
The meaning of the word “Manayunk” dates back to the Lenape Native Americans that inhabited the area. Literally translated to “place to drink,” it’s the perfect stop along the Schuylkill River Trail to grab just that…or pancakes, cold-pressed juice, coffee, sandwiches, and anything else. So, they should really change the meaning to “place to eat and drink anything your heart desires.” Oh, and bike.
If you’re looking to visit Kobe Bryant’s old stomping grounds, a bike ride through Lower Merion’s Cynwyd Heritage Trail is a slam dunk. Along the way, you can grab some refreshing ice cream at the Trail’s End Café, bird-watch from the giant orange and teal chairs, or get involved with some regularly scheduled programming.
Philadelphia’s top-secret biking spot goes out to Cobbs Creek Park. Away from all the Schuylkill hub-bub, this path takes riders on a paved, off-road bike trail through the West Philadelphia park. And the whole time you’re riding, you can sing to yourself, “In West Philadelphia, born and raised…” Fitt tip: If you want an even heavier dose of nature, take your bike ride all the way to Bartram’s Garden where you can admire the garden’s signature tree, the Franklinia alatamaha (surprisingly, not a Harry Potter spell.)
You're going to be surprised when you see how close this nearly 1,200-acre wildlife refuge is to the city of Philadelphia. Grab your bike and hit the nearly eight miles of trails that wind through the tidal marshlands. The flat, hard-packed gravel trail will allow you to see what the flora and fauna were like before Philadelphians took over, but there'll still be view of the city skyline to bring you back to reality.