I’ve been doing a lot more local adventuring in Pennsylvania due to COVID-19. Throughout the summer, I cancelled pretty much all of my travel plans that required air travel and focused on drivable destinations (like Acadia National Park). We’ve spent some time exploring some of the local state and national parks in and around Philly.
It’s important to note that it’s best to avoid these areas on busy days, such as the weekends. Depending on the popularity of the park, I try to get up as early as possible to beat the crowds. We bring masks out of respect to other hikers and for our own protection, but the earlier we get there, the less people we see so the less we have to use them.
Here are some of my favorite spots in northeastern Pennsylvania. All of these spots are accessible from Philly – either for a day trip or overnight/weekend trip. Make sure to check the park’s website before going for current conditions and COVID closures.
Valley Forge National Historic Park
Valley Forge National Historic Park is located about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia ( but probably closer to 45 with traffic). In addition to their historical exhibits (which are currently closed due to COVID), they have a TON of trails that you can explore, including a paved loop trail that’s great for bike riding.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
This beautiful spot is on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You can catch some beautiful views of the mountains and Delaware River. The only downside to this beautiful spot is it gets a bit crowded, so plan ahead and get there early!
For more, see the Delaware Water Gap website.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
I’ve written about John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in detail on past posts about hiking in and around Philadelphia. This is our go-to during our usual summer, however, if you’re traveling during COVID, make sure you go early and on the week day. It tends to get pretty crowded during the weekends, making it hard to social distance. The main trail at John Heinz takes you across a boardwalk – which is AMAZING – but a little tricky if you’re social distancing with kids.
Check the John Heinz website for current closures and services available. At this writing, the visitor center and parking lots are closed, but the trails are open.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Delaware)
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is located about an hour outside of Philadelphia in Delaware. It’s a bit of a drive, but worth it. The refuge has a number of trails along the marsh and is very spread out. You can drive through the roads of the park to various different trailheads to hike. The Refuge has a map that you can access here.
Currently, the visitor center is closed due to COVID. Before you go, check the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge website to see exactly what services are available when you visit.
Ridley Creek State Park
This park is about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia, but it feels like you’re in a whole other world. During the week, the crowds aren’t too crowded. We’ve checked out the Hocking Hill trail loop as well as the Orange Trail and the White Trail. There are lots of trails to try. We usually go with a plan, but if for some reason the lot is full or it looks crowded, we switch it up and try something new.
Hickory Run State Park
We did our first camping trip at Hickory Run State Park in the fall. There are lots of great trails, but the coolest part about the park is Boulder Field. It is literally a MASSIVE field of Boulders. I had seen pictures, but it was definitely MUCH cooler to see in person.
There’s a full trail you can do to access Boulder Field. You can also access it from very easily from the parking lot and do some exploring from there (which is what we did).
For more trails and information on the park, see Hickory Run State Park’s website.
Other Pennsylvania State Parks to check out:
These two cool spots are on my travel wish list:
- Rickett’s Glen State Park: This spot is known for it’s beautiful waterfalls! See more here.
- Cherry Springs State Park: This is Pennsylvania’s very own DARK PARK. It’s the only one on the east coast as well. From here, you can get an amazing view of the stars. This trip requires some planning, as the weather conditions have to be right and ideally you go around the new moon. It’s about four hours away from Philadelphia, so it’s probably ideal to stay there overnight. See more here.
Want more on hiking in Pennsylvania?
See my posts on: