Philadelphia may be known for its all killer no filler Philly Cheesesteaks. It may also be known for its thriving music and arts scene, and American Independence history.
But, do you know what else Philly is proud of and known for? Its love of running!
Not only has Philadelphia got a bunch of green, urban spaces to its name, but take a short drive out of the city and you’ll find an abundance of nature trails that scream “run on me”.
Whether you’re kickstarting a new running regime or a seasoned trail runner, the trails below will get you inspired to lace up the sneakers and run in, around, and on top of the great city of Philly.
Schuylkill River Trail – Schuylkill Banks And Broadwalk
Location: Philadelphia City
Length: 1.6 miles
While the entire Schuylkill River Trail extends some 140 miles from Schuylkill county to Fort Mifflin, thankfully this inner-city running trail comes in at a nice and considered 1.6 miles.
Schuylkill Banks is an easily accessible trail that starts at an impressive section of boardwalk that extends over the river to create the sense of running over water.
After the boardwalk, the trail connects up to a paved path that leads you toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Rocky Balboa style).
Along the way, you will be presented with the iconic Philly skyline, river views, and nature. Of course, due to its accessibility from the city, Schuylkill Banks is frequented by joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, and casual strollers.
This means heading out early in the morning is your best bet to avoid the crowds and take in the trail’s serenity with the dedicated running crew. If 1.6 miles isn’t long enough for you, once you get to the Museum of Art simply do a 180 spin and run back to where you came.
Not only will this give you a different perspective of the trail, but it’ll have you running 3.2 miles. Which, in our books, is worth a pat on the back.
The Centennial 5K Route
Location: Fairmount Park
Length: 3.1-mile loop
There’s just something about a 5k that feels so perfect to run. Long enough to be considered a respectable run, and not too long that it can’t be convincingly achieved by people with a basic level of fitness.
The Centennial 5K Route is a paved, multi-use loop with little to no elevation, which also makes it perfect for families.
The trail’s unofficial start/ endpoint can be found just behind the Please Touch Museum. Heading out into Fairmount Park, the trail is a windy one that snakes its way through an abundance of grassy parklands.
The trail then loops around the historic Centennial District wherein 1876 the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United States took place.
So, not only does this trail pass historical sites, lead you through nature, and loop back around to where it started. But, it’s also super accessible from the city center and with a distinct lack of elevation, is suitable for all levels of runner.
Location: Pennypack Park
Length: 9.1 miles
Head Northwest out of central Philly just 10 miles and you will find an extensive park that’s perfect for running. Pennypack Park is a municipal park run by Philly’s Parks and Recreation.
For this reason, the inspiring fauna and flora that can be found in the park are well cared for and intentionally kept pristine.
Even though there are multiple paved and unpaved sections of trail in Pennypack, most visitors come for the 9.5-mile Pennypack Trail. This dramatic trail takes you through dense woodland, rolling meadows, marshy wetlands, and rocky creek crossings.
Of course, 9.5 miles is a long slog, so once you reach your capabilities on the out-route, just turn around and jog back to the starting point by the Delaware River.
If you are training for something big like the Philly Marathon, then Pennypack is the perfect training ground that can offer a demanding 19-mile out-and-back to really see what you’re made of.
Location: Neshaminy State Park
Length: 2.5-mile loop
This Bucks County gem can be found just 20 minutes out of Philly off the US-95 highway. Neshaminy State Park is a park that, for its size, sure does pack plenty of nature into it.
The 2.5-mile loop trail that the park is known for offers wildlife enthusiasts ample sighting opportunities as it weaves through lush woodland right alongside the mighty Delaware River.
On top of being a prime location to spot wildlife, Neshaminy also offers a very unique view of Philly’s iconic skyline, across the river, and in the distance.
If it’s summertime and you’ve worked up a particularly potent post-run sweat, what better way to cool down than a swim in the park’s swimming pool?
With gentle slopes and plenty of flat sections, this trail is an easy one to complete. Just remember to watch your step as it’s unpaved and there’s bound to be a few tree roots and loose rocks looking to trip you up.
Ben Franklin Bridge Pedestrian Walkway
Location: Ben Franklin Bridge
Length: 3 miles
1.5 miles out to Camden and 1.5 miles back into Philly doesn’t sound too strenuous now does it? Wrong! With a three-quarter-mile climb up each side of the mighty Ben Franklin Bridge, this trail may not be considered long, but it sure is tough.
Luckily, the Ben Franklin Bridge that connects New Jersey and Pennsylvania is known for its spectacular across-river panoramic views of both Philly and Camden.
Popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists, this multi-use cross-state walkway gets particularly busy on weekends.
One cool thing about the trail is that it’s open from 6 am to 9 pm. So, hitting the bridge as the sun is rising or dipping over the horizon will guarantee you a tranquil run – something that everyone should experience at least once.
One final tip is to have your running playlist turned right up to drown out the overpowering sounds of traffic that will be buzzing along underneath you.
John Heinz Lake Loop
Location: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
Trail Distance: 3.5 miles
You know how we said Neshaminy State Park is a hot spot for spotting wildlife? Well, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is hotter.
The low-lying marshland of John Heinz makes it an ideal breeding ground for countless bird species, with over 300 species having been documented here in recent years.
In terms of running trails, John Heinz has, in total, 10 miles of trails across its 1,000-acre refuge. The lake loop is 3.5 miles in total and takes in the best of John Heinz.
Not only is it predominantly flat, easy to follow, and plays host to nesting birds each year, but it’s also only a stone’s throw out of Philly.
On the outskirts of the city right alongside the Philadelphia International Airport (we know, random right?) John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is ready to give runners a real sense of the wild.
Cobbs Creek Trail
Location: West Philadelphia
Length: 3.7 miles
Cobbs Creek is a paved, multi-use, 3.7-mile trail that is also impressively wheelchair accessible. The beauty of this inner-city strip of the pristine trail is that it offers joggers the desirable feeling of being immersed in nature, while still being super easy to reach.
Starting at 63rd Street Station, and finishing at Cobbs Creek Pathway, this tree-lined asphalt trail is also accessible by train.
On top of its 3.7-mile paved trail, Cobbs Creek has plenty of unpaved trails that are itching to be explored by the adventurous types. One of the less-trod trails winds down to a 19th-century cemetery.
Taken over by nature, the overgrown ruins of Mount Moriah Cemetery features crumbling tombstones and is a spooky place to investigate.
Skippack Creek Loop Trail
Location: Evansburg State Park
Trail Distance: 4.5 miles
At almost an hour’s drive out of central Philly, Evansburg State Park is the perfect weekend running destination. Skippack Creek Loop Trail is what the park is known for, and is a decent run at 4.5 miles in length.
Set within dense woodland, the trail weaves and winds itself along the creek edge, which makes it a great run to escape the summer sun.
Popular with all types of trail users, Skippack is a well-trod unpaved path that is super easy to follow. In total, the trail has 246 feet of elevation, which isn’t a huge amount, but it’s not nothing either.
On top of being open year-round, Evansburg is also a dog-friendly park, as long as your pooch is kept on-lead at all times.
Although most visitors come for the Skippack Creek Loop, there are four more defined trails in the park that are likely to be just as idyllic and a lot less trafficked.
Philadelphia is a city that loves to run almost as much as it loves playing host to a stacked calendar of running events every year.
Events like the iconic Broad Street Run which takes place through Philly’s streets on the first Sunday of May, and has done so since the early 80s.
Not only is this run the largest on-road 10-mile in the U.S with 40,000 tickets up for grabs. But more importantly, it gives Philly locals something to work towards, and if they’re lucky enough to gain a lottery-driven ticket, participate in.
Broad Street aside, it’s easy to see that Philly has convincingly fallen head over sneakers for running.
With big plans to extend many of its green spaces, nature trails, and, in turn, strengthen its running community – running up the steps of Philly’s Museum of Art isn’t just for Rocky Balboa, it’s for you too.
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