Trails have a reputation for being flat and, to some people, kind of boring. That’s because many were once railroad lines, and locomotives aren’t going to pull a train up a steep hill or around a sharp curve.
Philadelphia’s Pennypack Trail breaks that mold. It winds and climbs (if only briefly) along the Pennypack Creek, offering riders shade and water views. At least in Philadelphia, where it’s paved. Once we reached Montgomery County, it turned to stonedust and a wide, straight trail that, yes, used to be a railroad line.
There’s a gap between the paved and the stonedust version, bridged by an unpaved trail through some fields. And that’s where my biggest criticism comes: signage. There’s some, with mileage to boot, on the Philly side, and mile markers in Montgomery County, but to find your way through that gap … nope. And same for those, like us, who parked at Pennypack Park on the Delaware, biked out of the park … and then wondered where next. (Answer: right, to the other side of the creek, where you’ll see the paved trail joining the sidewalk.) At least we didn’t struggle as much as a pair of riders who passed us on the way back … entered Pennypack Park and then seeminngly ignored the “trail north” signs as they sought to go south to Center City.
All told, this is a 14-mile trail, so it was also 14 miles back to the start for us.
The Pennypack Trail connects to more trails
The trail in Pennypack Park is part of an 11-mile riverfront project in Northeast Philadelphia that will open up access to the river and double as part of the East Coast Greenway. It’s certainly going to be much nicer than the route we took from Trenton to Philly last year, when we rode close to the river and even pulled into Pleasant Hill Park but couldn’t go further.
This time we were able to go north along the Baxter Trail, by the Philly police shooting range, all the way to Pleasant Hill Park. This has been a controversial trail — built and then the police got it closed. Right now it’s open on weekends only from June through Labor Day. We heard them firing shots, but what’s going to get past this wall?
Read about another Philadelphia ride: A bike overnight on the Schuylkill River Trail