All Trails Challenge: From Pachella Field to the Valley Green Inn
You lead a busy life, but you still make time to turn to the Wissahickon trails for solace, exercise, and around this time of year, to get your All Trail Challenge miles in.
Gear up your Strava App, lace up your best hiking shoes, and join us for a 2-mile loop from Pachella Field to the Valley Green Inn. Service provided by the Yellow Trail.
Pachella Field is a fabulous place to start a hike by virtue of its generously sized parking lot. That being said, an urban green space such as the Wissahickon is also notably accessible via public transportation. The Wissahickon Transportation Center is a hub for a number of busses: 9, 27, 61, 65, 1, 35, 38, 124, 125, and the R. From this point, take route 9 or 27 bus to Valley Avenue, a block from Pachella Field, our starting point.
The recreational area, suited with sports fields and a Pavilion, sits along Henry Avenue. This access point serves as a connector trail to the Yellow Trail, which runs 7.89 miles along the west side of the park, the longest established trail in the Wissahickon.
From the Pachella Field parking lot, walk East to the nearby wooded area. There are a couple of access points that can be found in the lower lot. The easiest to navigate to is a meandering trail behind the Pavilion into the brush.
On our hike, you’ll venture along a relatively flat, naturally surfaced path until the end of your route, where you’ll encounter a steeper, rockier path that requires careful navigation.
This is a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Take those earbuds out and enjoy the sounds of nature and keep an ear out for potential bikers and horseback riders calling out around a corner. There are plenty of designated areas just for those of us on foot, but this shared trail requires hikers to yield to horseback riders. And bikers to yield to horseback riders and hikers.
The park is beautiful, but our park visitors are the ones who make it inviting. Make sure to share the trail and be courteous to other park users.
If Forbidden Drive is Route 76, this chunk of the Yellow Trail is a reliable backroad. On my hike, I only passed three or four other hikers and bikers. It’s quiet and cool, thanks to the lush tree canopy. Expect to see the oak trees, beeches, and birches typical of the park, as well as a special guest, the Umbrella Magnolia. This small, deciduous tree is native to Pennsylvania and has large, clustered leaves and milky white flowers that bloom in the spring.
We’ll take the quiet Yellow Trail back road Northwest toward Valley Green Inn. This area of the park has been subject to trail improvement projects since the mid-2000s, which makes it even more of a pleasure to make use of.
FOW staff and volunteers in 2011 partnered with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to manage stormwater runoff along this section of trail as a part of the Sustainable Trails Initiative. When too much water from heavy storms and melting snow prevents infiltration, these surges pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and whatever stands in its path and runs off into larger bodies of water. Not only does this stormwater transfer pollutants into our creeks and rivers, but it also can erode our rimental effects.
On our hike, you’ll trot over a small footbridge, which carries you over a small dribbling creek and adds a bit of charm. This will take you up a hill, just yards away from the Inn.
Once you hit a down-sloping patch of larger rocks, you’ll know you’re close to our final destination: the Valley Green Inn. This long-standing roadhouse is bustling with wedding parties, local cross-country teams, tandem bikers, fishermen, geese enthusiasts, and hungry diners. It’s also the perfect halfway point for any hike, as it has public restrooms, a counter to re-up on water and snacks, and shady views of the creek.
There are plenty of nearby Wissahickon hotspots to take in on your walk back down Forbidden Drive; just glance across the creek, you’ll be able to spot Devil’s Pool and the Livezey House about half a mile down the Drive from the Valley Green Inn. For leisurely park users, the Valley Green Area is a great place to take a break and recharge for the latter half of their hike on one of the many benches bordering the creek.
The second half of our hike? The same as the first, just backward. Unless you’d like to take a stroll down a Wissahickon staple: Forbidden Drive.
Forbidden Drive, which runs parallel to the Yellow Trail, was completed in 1856 by the Wissahickon Turnpike Company after decades of rock blasting, road widening, and building. It was originally a private toll road to benefit the mills that produced paper, cloth, carpets, gunpowder, lumber, ground grain, vegetable oil, dyes, and horseshoe-cut nails. There was a need for a flat road that could be used to transport materials to these bustling factories. Once this road was in the hands of the city, the toll fee was revoked.
The Wissahickon’s renaissance shortly followed in the 1870s.
What was once an inaccessible nature sanctuary, with steep hills and no throughway for wagons to safely enter, became a pin in a map for international tourists and even locals who were previously not able to walk down into the narrow gorge.
They were welcomed to the newly opened inns and roadhouses, like the Valley Green Inn, the only one of the crop that is still in operation today.
For more information about the history of Forbidden Drive, visit our website here.
Our hike to this iconic Wissahickon landmark is an ode to the park’s rich history. Instead of driving our cars to the busy Valley Green lots, we’re making a pilgrimage that was once of great prestige and privilege reserved for the lucky few who lived nearby.
in 1924 when it was closed to vehicular traffic. The park has flourished around this protected pedestrian walkway.
Today, the Drive is a main artery to the park and the place where many park visitors begin their love affair with the Wissahickon. Critics have corroborated this admiration in 2018 when Forbidden Drive was awarded Trail of the Year by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The next year, Friends of the Wissahickon made huge strides to protect this trail of huge historical significance, recreational use, and great practical value by initiating stream bank stabilization efforts. Without this project, which was made possible by numerous public and private donors and participants, parts of the Drive would be subject to collapse due to extreme cases of erosion.
To round out our hike, take the Drive down the connector trail we used to hop onto the Yellow Trail shortly after you pass Glen Fern, which sits across the Creek approximately .6 miles down the Dr. Head West uphill back towards Pachella Field.
I enjoyed the varying terrain and thick brush surrounding the Yellow Trail. This is a fully immersive experience. You might hear chipmunks, birds, and squirrels scampering through the brush, surprised that another individual has found their secret spot. That’s how quiet it is. Navigate around a bend that seems it was carved out of a hill, with plant roots exposed in the earth up at your eye level. Trees fighting for sunlight, curving in and out of each other, supporting each other’s trunks.
Back at Pachella Field, you’ve knocked off 2 miles from your All Trails Journey! Only 48 more to go. Thankfully, we have 10 weeks of exploring ahead of us.
Photo courtesy of Charlotte Bernstein