Five ways to feel the love in the Wissahickon
In 1844, Edgar Allan Poe wrote that “the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue.” While it’s a bit of a flowery description, we’re inclined to agree, and we certainly can’t think of a better place to spend time with a significant other or take a liking to a landscape. With Valentine’s Day coming up, we’ve put together five Wissahickon activities to feel the love!
1. Find a new trail.
The Wissahickon in winter is always a different experience, with spectacular valley views, icicles, and occasional blankets of snow over more than 50 miles of trails. So, hiking date? Some of our favorites at this time of year include:
- Yellow Trail and Lover’s Leap – at the south end of the park, follow the Yellow Trail atop the ridge line to Lover’s Leap, a lookout high above the creek where Philadelphia author George Lippard was married to Rose Newman in 1847. (He was also responsible for a sensational tale about doomed lovers jumping off the promontory, but happily, the story is fictional.) The trail down to the Bluestone Bridge is steep and rocky, so please exercise caution in the snow.
- Andorra Meadow – for a leisurely hike, the meadows of Andorra Natural Area in the north of the park are pedestrian only and have multiple loops to wander and explore. It’s perfect for a winter walk!
Don’t forget hats, gloves, face masks, and lots and lots of layers to stay warm – it’s a great idea to check out our map and information pages as well before you go. And of course, always follow Leave No Trace principles on your hike to help continue to care for the park.
2. Send a love letter – to the Red Covered Bridge.
With its first iteration dating to 1737, the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in the Wissahickon. The red covered bridge was restored in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and again in 1999 with funds from the Fairmount Park Commission (now Philadelphia Parks & Recreation). As you might imagine for such a handsome structure, the red covered bridge has its share of fans, and has hosted a box where they can leave letters and stories about the bridge since 2018. Friends of the Wissahickon regularly retrieves them and publishes the best on our reflections page. Read more about this charming tradition here!
3. Get into those birds and bees.
Well, breeding season isn’t just yet… but the Great Backyard Bird Count is Valentine’s Day weekend, from Feb. 12 – Feb 15! If you’ve ever wanted to get started in birding, now’s a great time to do it, as birds are a lot more visible when the trees don’t have leaves. (A great identification resource for beginning birders is the Merlin app, which automatically identifies most birds you can catch a photo of; don’t forget to record your sightings on eBird too so others know what you’ve been seeing!) For those less inclined towards avian antics, iNaturalist is another great way to search for and identify nature in the park.
Lastly, if you’re making observations for citizen science in the park, let us know about the time you’ve spent through the FOW habitat monitoring program!
4. Drop by a wedding destination.
Valley Green is one of the jewels of the Wissahickon Valley, anchored by the picturesque Valley Green Inn (built 1850) on Forbidden Drive. Not surprisingly, the Inn is a destination for many hikers after a stroll down the flat gravel path or a strenuous hike on the upper slopes of the Valley – it currently offers outdoor dining and takeout beside the creek. (Psst… in non-COVID times, they also do weddings. Check it out here.)
5. Become a friend.
There’s lots of ways to show your love for this wonderful park. You can volunteer at one of our many workdays or help clean the park on your own time by becoming a Wissahero – and support the Wissahickon by becoming a member. Until Valentine’s Day, we’re offering a limited edition Wissahickon Love shirt to anyone who joins at the $20/month Sustainer level or up, plus tons of perks for being a FOW member!