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Top 10 Running Trails in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a top runner’s destination, with miles of trails weaving through the city, near historic attractions, and through scenic, local natural landscapes. Next time you’re in Philly, here are 10 of the best places to get a great run in.

1. Ben Franklin Bridge Pedestrian Walkway

View of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

The Ben Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian path is a three-mile round trip run over the Delaware River, connecting Philly to New Jersey. With picturesque views of the water and Philadelphia skyline, this route is very popular among runners and is easily accessible at Pearl and 4th Street. The pedestrian walkway is separate from the busy roadway on the bridge, so you never have to worry about traffic. Instead, you can just soak in the sights and sounds and enjoy your 3-mile workout above the river. After your run, cool down with a walk or some light stretches at the Race Street Pier, a relaxing waterfront area with plenty of green space and trees.

Tips: You can bring your pet along with you. Just make sure they’re on a tight leash. There’s also a portable toilet at the south entrance of the trail in Philadelphia if you need it.

2. Boxers’ Trail

This 3.8-mile trail gets its name from famous boxer “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier and other Philadelphia boxing champions who used it as a part of their training regimens. It starts at Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course and curves its way through the wooded East Fairmount Park and along a hilltop that offers stunning views of the Schuylkill River. This shaded trail also connects several noteworthy landmarks in the park, including the Smith Memorial Playground, East Fairmount Park’s historic mansions, Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, Joseph E. Mander Playground, and The Discovery Center.

Tips: If you want to extend your run, the Boxers’ Trail also connects to the regional trail system that leads to Valley Forge.

3. Schuylkill River Trail

Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail offers more than 75 miles of a multi-use path for runners to enjoy. It will eventually extend a whopping 120 miles from Frackville to Philadelphia when completed. Currently, it meanders along the riverside land spanning five southeastern Pennsylvania counties. It also stretches across the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, where you can run right over the river and enjoy scenic views of the city from four different overlooks. USA Today named the Schuylkill River Trail one of the top three riverwalks in the U.S. last year, citing the 30-mile stretch from Philadelphia to Parker Ford, which passes through Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Tips: This trail also passes the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a worthwhile side trip that’s home to 200 galleries of world-class art.

4. Valley Forge National Historical Park

View of Valley Forge Park.

Runners flock to Valley Forge National Historical Park for its 30+ miles of trails connecting many of its historic sites. The paved 8.7-mile Joseph Plumb Martin Trail is especially popular among runners and joggers. Many runners enjoy its 5-mile loop section, featuring rolling hills and distinctive landmarks. However, if you want something more rugged, there are also several unpaved trails on Mount Joy, Mount Misery, and near Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River.

Tips: Not quite sure where to run at Valley Forge? The National Park Service provides excellent descriptions of all the trails here to help you choose the one that’s best suited to your interests and goals.

5. Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Valley Park

Wissahickon Valley, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

The Wissahickon Valley Park Trail, more commonly known as Forbidden Drive, isn’t nearly as prohibitive as it sounds. The trail gets its name from the fact that cars were banned from using it back in the 1920s, but it’s fair game for runners today! The trail runs along the Wissahickon Creek for 5.35 miles and is a wide, flat, gravel path with an average grade of 3%, making it an ideal workout for both skilled and beginner runners. This scenic and well-shaded trail offers a nice respite from the city and is an area favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Tips: More than one million people run, walk, and bike this trail every year, so prepare yourself for crowds, be respectful, and make room for everyone so all can enjoy it!

6. Delaware River Trail

View southeast down the Delaware River from along the Appalachian Trail near the summit of Mount Minsi in the Pennsylvania section of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

The Delaware River Trail (DRT) offers a scenic run that can be anywhere from .5 mile to 2 miles long in one direction. Still a work in progress, the trail is broken up into three sections:

  • South trail: This segment of the DRT runs along the river between Washington Avenue Pier and Pier 68 in South Philadelphia. It’s beautifully landscaped, lighted, and has benches along the route. 
  • North trail: This part of the trail connects Rivers Casino to the historic Penn Treaty Park and broadens into a combined esplanade and seat-wall. If you need to stop and rest, this is a great spot to do it while you enjoy the views of the river!
  • Central trail: This segment of the DRT is currently under construction but will run between Washington Avenue and Spring Garden Street on the east side of Columbus Boulevard and Delaware Avenue.

When completed, the DRT will link several waterfront destinations and parks, including Race Street Pier, Washington Avenue Pier, and Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest and Winterfest.

Tips: The Delaware River Trail will also connect to the Circuit, a vast regional system of hundreds of miles of multi-use trails.

7. Rocky Run

Philadelphia Museum of Art on Rocky's Run.

Although we don’t recommend running 30 miles across the city like Rocky did, we can offer an equally fun (and more realistic) running route. The “Rocky Run” is a three-mile run from 9th Street and Washington Avenue (the Italian Market) to the famed steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are 72 steps total from bottom to top, and running up and down them several times in a row is an excellent workout. The Rocky Run is primarily flat and follows this route through the city, although you can easily adjust it or add to it.

Tips: Of course, there are plenty of tourists in this area all the time, so you’ll need to be mindful of the people around you if you choose to exercise on the infamous Rocky steps.

8. Kelly Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Loop

Philly Skyline from MLK Drive.

This popular running route circles the Philadelphia Museum of Art and continues along the Schuylkill River via MLK Drive for a relatively flat 9-mile loop of paved path. Along the way, you’ll pass Boathouse Row, a National Historic Landmark featuring 15 different 19th-century boathouses, each outfitted with a dock along the river. The second portion of the loop along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is closed off to vehicle traffic, so you can even run on the road worry-free!

Tips: Try warming up with the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then conquering this loop after.

9. Penn Park

Philadelphia skyline taken from the South Street Bridge, showing Penn Park in the foreground

Speed training? Head to Penn Park, where you can run on the half-mile, three-quarter-mile, and full-mile loops to build your speed. This beautiful 24-acre urban park is owned and operated by the University of Pennsylvania. It sits between the campus and the Schuylkill River waterfront and features four different running routes to explore. Penn Park also has plenty of recreational spaces, fields, and meadows, all open to the public.

Tips: You can quickly get to Penn Park from the Schuylkill River Trail via the South Street or Walnut Street bridges.

10. Cobbs Creek Trail

View of Cobbs Creek Trail

Cobbs Creek Trail is a scenic 3.7-mile smooth asphalt path that runs through the borough of Lansdowne, just west of Philadelphia. This well-shaded trail wraps around Cobbs Creek, winds through the historic Mount Moriah Cemetery, passes over two historic parkway bridges and continues through several neighborhoods. From Cobbs Creek Trail, you can also access the 58th Street Greenway, which will take you to Bartram’s Gardens and the Schuylkill River Trail. If you get hungry after your run, you can also indulge in several international food options from two points along the trail: Market St. in Millbourne (north) and Woodland Ave. and 65th St. (south).

Tips: This trail connects several historic and educational sites that are fun to visit, like the Bartram’s Garden National Historic Landmark house and 8-acre garden, built by John Bartram in 1728, and the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center, which offers programs for adults, kids, and families.

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References:
https://www.drpa.org/bridges/ben-franklin-walkway.asp
https://myphillypark.org/what-we-do/arts-culture/boxers-trail-signage/
https://www.phila.gov/2018-07-20-walk-or-run-the-boxers-trail/
https://schuylkillriver.org/schuylkill-river-trail/
https://www.phillyrunners.org/routes.html
https://fow.org/visit-the-park/maps/
https://www.delawareriverwaterfront.com/planning/projects3/delaware-river-trail1
https://www.circuittrails.org
https://www.traillink.com/trail/mlk-drive-trail/
https://www.facilities.upenn.edu/maps/locations/penn-park
https://pecpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2-Trail-Itineraries-Brochure.pdf
https://www.traillink.com/trail/cobbs-creek-trail/

Photo Sources:
Thomas from Philadelphia Area, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ngilmour3, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ii2nmd, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ii2nmd, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Famartin, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Rgordon6~commonswiki, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
michaelwm25, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mefman00, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Larry Felton Johnson, Cobb County Courier, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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