The Wissahickon Valley: A Visitors Guide

The Wissahickon Valley Park, 1,800 acres of lush, wooded gorge tucked away in the heart of northwest Philadelphia, is a historic park that gives Philadelphian’s a taste of Pennsylvania’s wild beauty within city limits.

Once home to the Lenni Lenape, the park surrounds the Wissahickon Creek, one of the most industrialized creeks in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. At the height of the gorge’s industrialization, the creek powered more than 25 mills in the valley. Many of these were demolished when Fairmount Park acquired the land in the late 19th century, but nearly two dozen historical and geological sites remain. Popular points include Philadelphia’s last remaining covered bridge, built in 1737, and a great statue of a kneeling Lenape warrior overlooking the creek.

More than 50 miles of trails run through the valley and range in difficulty and terrain. Many are open to mountain biking and horseback riding as well. Trail maps are posted through out the park and paper maps are available online here through Friends of the Wissahickon, a nonprofit organization.

The main artery of the park is Forbidden Drive, a 5.5 mile road close to motor vehicles. It hugs the creek and is a popular route for joggers, bikers, and families, with benches and picnic tables along the way.No trip to the Wissahickon is complete without a stop at the historic Valley Green Inn. Built in 1850, the inn is the last remaining example of the many taverns and roadhouses that thrived along the creek in the 19th century. It now operates as a popular restaurant.

Wissahickon Valley Park is incredibly accessible via public transit considering how remote it feels. Free parking is available on site but spots fill up quickly, especially on fair weather days. If you are adventuring with a group, plan a meeting location before you arrive. In the valley, or as Roxborough locals refer to it, ‘back the crick’, cellphone service can be spotty. The grounds are open daily from 8am-1am and are free to access.

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