A Beginner’s Guide to Main Line Hiking Trails
Are you looking for a healthy habit for your family? Go take a hike!
There are so many benefits in simply taking a walk — for both physical and mental health! Walks around your neighborhood are great for mind and body, but taking a hike in the woods is a wonderful way to also connect with nature. And really, hiking is just a walk in the woods. Of course, some hikes are technically challenging, especially trails in the mountains. But around the Main Line, there are plenty of hikes that are easy and perfect for beginners, and families with kids.
So if you’re ready to hit the trails, here are a handful of parks and gardens with easy hiking for the whole family. Plus we included some tips to help ensure your hike is a pleasant experience for all!
Tips for Hitting the Trail:
- Wear comfortable footwear. Hiking-specific shoes are better than sneakers if you have them.
- Pack bug spray.
- Charge cell phones ahead of time.
- Bring plenty of water.
- Bring granola bars or packable snacks.
- Know your route ahead of time.
Parks & Preserves
Bryn Coed Preserve
1869 Flint Road, Chester Springs
Bryn Coed, which means “wooded hill” in Welsh, is a 1,505-acre “mosaic of forest and farmland” that has been preserved by the Natural Lands organization. Fairly flat, easy terrain make Bryn Coed a popular choice for families. There are three trail options with differing lengths: 1.1 miles, 2.6 trail, or 3.8 miles. In the event that you go, don’t miss the Pennsylvania Champion white oak along the way. This magnificent tree with a sprawling crown presides over one of the meadows. To find additional preserved, open spaces, be sure to the Natural Lands website.
Chester Valley Trail
Trailheads in Exton, Malvern, Berwyn, and King of Prussia
The Chester Valley Trail runs through Chester and Montgomery counties for more than 14 miles between King of Prussia and Exton. The trail is paved and welcomes walkers, joggers, cyclists, inline skaters, wheelchairs, and strollers. What’s more, there plenty of amenities along the way, which can be viewed on their map.
Haverford Heritage Trail
Multiple entrances in Haverford Township
More of a gentle walk than a hike, this is a splendid option for those who want to get out and walk and find points of interest along the way. With entrances at the Lawrence Cabin site, Merry Place, and several others, you can spend as little or as long as you’d like on the 14-mile loop of a trail. Check out the interactive map so that you can find entrances and parking, and see the many historic sites in Haverford that you will encounter on this trail.
9000 Parkview Drive, Haverford
Right in the heart of the Main Line, Haverford Reserve offers 11 paved and unpaved trails for walking and biking. The footpaths vary in length for short walks, as well as longer hikes. What sets the Haverford Reserve apart is the option to combine trails — most of the trails tie into one another so you can make the call on which you want to try together, and which you’d like to put off for another time. In addition to trails, Haverford Reserve has a dog park, playground, and sports fields.
Ridley Creek State Park
351 Gradyville Road, Newtown Square
Ridley Creek State Park encompasses more than 2,606 acres of Delaware County woodlands and meadows with Ridley Creek meandering through it. If you want to take a hike along rustic trails or paved road, Ridley Creek State Park has both for your enjoyment. All in all, there are 13 miles of hiking trails for all levels! Additionally, this vast park offers lots of family fun including hiking, biking, fishing, environmental education, and a preserved colonial plantation to explore. Plus 14 picnic areas equipped with restrooms and charcoal grills. Check the Ridley Creek State Park map to see all the amenities. The park is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset.
Saunders Woods Preserve
1020 Waverly Road, Gladwyne
Saunders Woods Preserve is a hidden gem in the heart of the Main Line. This 25-acre nature preserve is a natural oasis for wildlife with a pedestrian-only trail and the Bridlewild Trail, a pedestrian and equestrian trail woven through it. A walk here reveals a lively forest habitat as well as an open meadow that is home to a variety of bird species.
Schuylkill River Trail
Multiple trailheads between Philadelphia and Phoenixville
The Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) is an impressive, multi-use path that upon completion, will stretch 120 miles northwest from Philadelphia to Frackville in Schuylkill County. The SRT currently comprises 75 completed miles, including a 26-mile section that runs through the Main Line area between Philadelphia and Phoenixville. Most of the trail is built over old railroad lines paved with asphalt or gravel and is popular with cyclists, joggers, and walkers. Highlights along this stretch include Manayunk, Conshohocken, Valley Forge, and Sullivan’s Bridge, a 14-foot wide, 602-foot long bike/pedestrian bridge across the Schuylkill River.
Valley Forge National Park
Visitor Center, 1400 N Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia
Don’t let the 28 miles of authorized hiking trails scare you — Valley Forge National Park has plenty of hiking trails for the novice. There’s also trails for biking and horseback riding. If you’re looking to keep your trek flat, try their River and Valley Creek trails. Want something paved? The Joseph Plumb trail and Schuykill River trail are also good bets. For detailed information on each trail and to choose which one is right for you, check out the official trail map.
Wissahickon Valley Park
Multiple entrances, including 200 W Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia
Wissahickon Valley Park is a long swath of woodlands located at northern tip of Philadelphia that offers more than 50 miles of hiking trails. These scenic hiking trails run along the Wissahickon Creek and provide absolutely gorgeous spots for a photo op. Trails are mostly unpaved, and are also open to cyclists and pets on leashes. Also great news for beginners: several hiking clubs offer guided hiking tours through the trails so you can follow along easy without the fear of getting lost. Lastly, the Friends of the Wissahickon have made it especially easy to hike here with a map of the trailheads and places you can park.
1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square
Longwood Garden comprises nearly 200 acres of lush, formal gardens, open meadows, and stunning conservatory garden rooms, all expertly manicured and maintained. For the most part, each of the different areas are called “Districts,” which you can explore as you stroll the many winding, paved pathways. An outing to Longwood Gardens is definitely a special occasion, which offers breathtaking beauty throughout the seasons. Admission is $25 for adults, $22 for seniors (62+) and college students, $13 for youth (ages 5–18), and free for children 4 and younger.
Stoneleigh: a natural garden
1829 East County Line Road, Villanova
Once a family home and estate, Stoneleigh was acquired by Natural Lands and is now preserved as a free public garden. Paved walkways wind around the property, showcasing its soaring trees, expansive vistas, and dynamic displays of native plants and biodiversity. In addition, picnicking is welcome in the pavilion and public restrooms are available.
515 Painter Road, Media
If you like to mix your hiking with birdwatching, Tyler Arboretum is the place for you! With 650 protected acres of beautiful woodland, meadows, and 17 miles of hiking trails and paved walkways, Tyler Arboretum is a delightful escape into nature for birders, botanists, and families. Whereas there are trails of varying difficulties, all are clearly marked on their trail map. Admission is $15 for adults, $9 for children, ages 3–17, and free for children under 2 and younger. Admission is free for Tyler members.
We’d love to see the fun you have on your hikes — tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #MainLineParent and we maybe feature you on our homepage’s Instagram feed!
Lead photo courtesy of Tyler Arboretum. Jes Lyons contributed to this article.