Wednesday, September 11, 2013

10 Things You Should Know about Philadelphia's Wissahickon Gorge

If you are an outdoor recreation enthusiast living in Philadelphia or are planing to visit this world-class travel destination, here are 10 things you should know about the city's premier urban wilderness and home to some 50 miles of trails used for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and cycling - the Wissahickon Gorge.

The Orange Trail clings to the northeastern wall of the Wissahickon Gorge
  1. Wissahickon Valley Park, known by locals as The Wissahickon, or sometimes simply The Wiss, is part of the Fairmount Park system, one of the largest urban park systems in the world. The park has been managed by the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation since 2010. Before that, Philadelphia's park system was managed by the Fairmount Park Commission.
  2. The principle feature of the park is Wissahickon Creek, which runs some 23 miles from its origin in Montgomery County through Northwest Philadelphia, carving a deep valley, or gorge, as it flows.
  3. The wooded Wissahickon Gorge, as it is commonly called, creates the illusion that you are in a wilderness area rather than in a sliver of protected land located between bustling city neighborhoods, which is actually the case.
  4. The Wissahickon Gorge is home to a vast network of trails in the park - some 50 miles of trails, in fact -  including four primary through-trails that run the entire length of the park. The Orange Trail, White Trail, and Yellow Trail cling to the walls of the Wissahickon Gorge and are primarily used for hiking, trail running, horseback riding and mountain biking. Forbidden Drive - a former carriage road - sticks close to the banks of the creek and is mostly used by families, touring cyclists and joggers.
  5. Wissahickon Valley Park borders six Philadelphia neighborhoods - Roxborough, Manayunk, East Falls, Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill. Its northwestern border is made up of unincorporated communities of southern Montgomery County.
  6. Wissahickon Gorge hikers are provided unique views of the underside of several high bridges, each with historical significance, which serve automobiles to seamlessly link the surrounding communities. Five historic stone-arch bridges also are found in the park, crossing Wissahickon Creek, and are now only accessible to pedestrians. There is also a covered bridge to be found here.
  7. The park is home to several statues and monuments erected to commemorate events that occurred here from the colonial period, through the Revolutionary War and even into the period of early industrialization of the late 1800's, when the area was officially designated as a park and conservation efforts began. Also, many historic buildings can be found in the park, including the remnants of one of the area's first mill towns, called Rittenhousetown, as well as the Valley Green Inn, which is still in operation as a restaurant.
  8. The geology of the Wissahickon Gorge is fascinating, and you can read more about it in this report. The predominent bedrock throughout the park is Wissahickon Schist, which is sparkly because of the presence of quartzite. 
  9. The organization Friends of the Wissahickon sells an excellent map to the trails and sites of the Wissahickon Gorge, which you can find online here
  10. The Wissahickon Gorge is accessible to ANYONE thanks to Philadelphia's amazing system of public transportation, provided by SEPTA (a.k.a. the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). Find your way to the Wissahickon at SEPTA.org.
Trail marker along one of the Wissahickon Valley Park trails
So there you have it! Are you an outdoor recreation enthusiast? Do you live in Philadelphia or are planing to visit this world-class travel destination? Then, you're welcome! Now please, click one of the social media buttons on this page to like and share these 10 things EVERYONE should know about this city's premier urban wilderness - the Wissahickon Gorge.

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