East Falls Insider: Walkable Wissahickon

Go play outside! Pics and directions to three easy ways into the Wissahickon locally — no car needed.  Shortcuts to trails, playgrounds, and dog-friendly “beaches” in our area.  

Happy Spring, East Falls! With temps in the 70’s all week, the Great Outdoors beckons with fresh air, sunshine, and the prettiest — and largest — green space in Philadelphia, right in our own back yard:  the Wissahickon Valley.

No matter where you live in East Falls, you’re within walking distance to this amazing natural wonderland boasting 70 miles of wooded trails with a scenic, fish-able, swim-able creek.  Dotted with historic bridges, walls, caves, monuments, mansions, out-buildings…  Some of these, fascinating ruins tangled in vines and repurposed by local wildlife.

The Wissahickon really and truly is a special place, perhaps our greatest local resource.  Starting this month, we’ll be hosting monthly Wissahickon Walks from one of these three access points, and then we’ll rotate thru them so we can all be experts on our neighborhood trails in no time.

Pics and details below show how easily East Fallsers can slip from urban hub-bub to bucolic beauty. Although these local trailheads are “walkable” from different parts of our neighborhood, we threw in parking info for maximum accessibility.

  1. WISSAHICKON TRANSFER CENTER

Ample parking available on Ridge before you reach the waterfall, but also this trailhead is easily walkable from Schoolhouse Lane and the “New Homes,” as well as anywhere below the railroad tracks.


From here, a paved path leads by the historic bridge & waterfalls, then a dramatic stairway  up into Roxborough, then along Lincoln Drive…

Hey look: a nice grassy  “beach” by the creek where a dog might splash around.

More pretty views, including Wissahickon Hall and the Henry Bridge.

  1. GYPSY LANE

Parking lot off Lincoln & Gypsy, across from Wissahickon Hall (pictured above from across the creek — formerly a resort, now Forestry offices). Great access from Philly U & the homes around Ravenhill campus.

Just above the parking area (below a stretch of modern “Hollywood Hills”-style homes), a green & orange trail marker leads to a dirt path along Lincoln Drive on the opposite side of the Wissahickon Transfer Center trail.

This trail runs above Lincoln Drive, so you’re looking down on the traffic & the sounds seem far away.

The trail is gorgeous — the most “natural” of the three described here.  The elevation varies the most on this path, too, with some pretty steep climbs & descents, and maybe a fallen tree to scramble over here and there.

Follow to historic Rittenhouse Town, where you can explore the grounds of a 17th century mill & (possibly haunted) homestead.  Or turn off mid-way thru, and pop out behind PhillyU’s Design Center on Henry Ave (right on Schoolhouse lane, then right again on Gypsy returns to trail head).

(PS if, after you park, you cross Gypsy Lane and climb up the trail in that direction you will reach the Wissahickon Transfer Center in about a half mile.)

  1. HENRY AVENUE

Farthest afield, but with a family-friendly bonus: a playground! Parking lot on the left, at Hermit Lane, just after you cross the bridge.

Follow gravelly lane right into the Wissahickon or take the narrow road behind some houses to the Hermitage Mansion, where Doomsday monks were said to have carried out some weird stuff here back in colonial days.

River access and bike trails if you head down this path by the Hermitage.

For a great local playground, continue on Hermit to Daisy Field, a secluded recreation area listed on several  “Best Kept Secret” lists for awesome urban parks.

No wonder — this scenic, compact space has two ball fields plus a sprawling playground with swings for big & little kids, both.

Spectacular setting by a wooded gorge!

As always, this post is evolving with new photos and info as we try to be as helpful as possible. Questions or corrections? Hit us up in the comments, on social media, or privately in email.

Orrrrr chat us up at one of our monthly Wissahickon Walks — starting Saturday, March 26th at 10:00 am. We’ll be meeting at the Gypsy Lane parking lot for a dog-friendly hike along the most rustic of our three Wissahickon entry points.

Bring your kids and wear the whole family out! (Update: event has passed but follow us on Meetup.com to keep posted on the latest walks.)

BONUS TIP:  Less than one month till MLK drive closes on weekends — get ready to get out our bikes and ride!

 

8 Comments

  • RoxRun

    Great article! You hit many known and unknown sites of the Wissahickon. The trail above the Lincoln Drive is a favorite, which is less traveled by many. You have to check out Hermit’s Cave, just below the Hermitage Mansion.

  • MorganB

    Jody and I almost rented that house at the park entrance by Henry and Hermit Lane. It’s actually inside the park.

  • Juliet

    Thanks so much for the tip on Daisy Field. I had no idea that playground was there — we checked it out this weekend, and it’s a wonderfully quiet alternative to the noise that you get at either of the other neighborhood public playgrounds.

  • Amee

    I’m new to this neighborhood and love the nature and architecture here. Can you please recommend how I can join any local walking groups to explore these great trails?

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Have you tried Meetup.com? When you sign up (it’s free), you’ll check off your interests on a list, and they’ll show you all the activities available within a certain radius (you can tweak settings to widen or focus this area). Or you can search by location/activity — I just typed in “Wissahickon” and found a bunch of walks including nature, history, architecture… Hope you’ll join us September 23rd for our “Best of the Wissahickon” meetup, which starts off Henry Avenue and hits some cool spots like the Hermit’s cave, Lover’s Leap, and over/under some bridges, too. More info at NW Philly Pack Walk’s meetup listing, and also on this website’s calendar, linked at the top of the page (or at EastFallsLocal.com/events). Cheers!

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