Picnics, photos and more: Summer in the Wissahickon!

News // July 02, 2020

Lots of people come to Wissahickon Valley Park to hike or bike, but not everyone knows about the other kinds of activities its 1800 acres of parkland have to offer. We’ve put together a helpful guide of the exciting things to do in the park in the summer!

Summer Trail Tips

If you’re in the Wissahickon in the summertime, it’s good to know about seasonal best practices and the occasional hazards. Bring plenty of water to drink and cool off with, as well as sunscreen to avoid a sunburn. Both ticks and poison ivy are very present during the summer, so wearing long pants is a good idea, as well as making sure to do a tick check after any hikes. Wear a mask (it’s mandatory in Philly’s parks!) and as it’s the most crowded time of the year, make sure to be courteous and give space to everyone when passing on trail.


While the Wissahickon is best known for its trails, it also has many designated picnic areas with space to stop and eat – and there aren’t many better ways to enjoy the outdoors than a leisurely park picnic!

For a successful park picnic, start with the people – and staying safe during COVID-19. You should only be picnicking with members of your household or specific friends with whom you are not socially distancing (your bubble, quar-pod, or quaranteam); for that same reason, make sure to wear a mask when not eating and give at least six feet of space to other park users and picnickers! There’s plenty of room for everyone. Keep in mind that most park services are closed too (including bathrooms and water fountains), so it’s a good idea to bring along plenty of water to drink, and hand sanitizer.

What to eat? Think simple: sandwiches, fruit, salads and food that can take a trip in a container.. Bring some snacks and dip to start off, and baked goods to finish at the end. You can also use your picnic as an opportunity to support a local restaurant, as both the Valley Green Inn and Cedars House Cafe, also offer takeout menus you can call ahead for and pick up on the way. Find a shady spot or picnic table, spread out your blanket, and enjoy!

Lastly, make sure you clean up after yourself and bring everything you brought into the park back out with you. Following Leave No Trace principles is both polite and key to keeping the park a nice place for the humans who use it and wildlife who call it home. Thanks for your help in conserving Wissahickon Valley Park.

Check out our map of picnic places here!

Nature Spotting

Many different species of plants and wildlife rely on the Wissahickon. From opossums, deer, groundhogs and red foxes, to salamanders, frogs, toads, turtles and snakes, there’s a lot out there in the park. And during the summer breeding season, numerous bird species use the park to raise their young in this important migratory bird habitat – meaning if you keep your eyes out you might be able to catch sight of some of them.

Nature spotting can be a bit intimidating when you’re just starting out, but there are a lot of free tools to help! First among these is the iNaturalist app, a crowdsourced database of all the species in a given area that you can even contribute sightings to! For those looking for feathered friends, the E-Bird app from Cornell Ornithology provides advice and information on identifying your recorded sightings. For a real life species scavenger hunt, get started on your next trip to the park.

Summer Snapping

The lush green of the Wissahickon in summer is a backdrop to the picturesque remains of old buildings and structures, the cliffside scenery of the Wissahickon valley, and an ever changing cast of visitors to Wissahickon Valley Park – over one million per year from all over the world. It’s no surprise then, that the valley has been an inspiration to artists, musicians, and photographers, and it continues to offer opportunities for striking photos. 

This year is also the 2020 Wissahickon Photo contest, which FOW hosts along with our upstream partners Wissahickon Trails and the Woodmere Art Museum. Participants can submit up to four photos to compete in four categories: People, Structures, Landscapes, and Wildlife, and photos taken in the past three years in the Wissahickon are eligible. We can’t wait to see another side of our favorite place! Learn more about the competition here

Landscape by Emily Treu from the 2018 contest!

Keeping Cool

Philadelphia’s summers get hot, and even in the relative cool of the park it’s tempting to take a dip in the creek – especially since Philly pools are closed this year. Unfortunately, that’s not a good idea! With hidden currents and submerged sharp objects, plus variable water quality, the Wissahickon is not a safe place to swim. 

Instead, make sure you bring lots of water for everyone in your party, wear light and loose-fitting clothes, and spend some time in the shade. Avoiding peak sunlight hours (between 10am and 3pm) is a great way to beat the heat, as well as miss some of the most crowded times in the park.

We hope this guide was helpful – and that you have a sweet summer in Wissahickon Valley Park!