A Short Summer Stroll in the Wissahickon

Nature // July 06, 2017

The upper trails of Wissahickon Valley Park can be a cool respite from the heat of the urban landscape surrounding it. Pachella Field on Henry Avenue serves as a central access point and offers a variety of experiences for all visitors looking to enjoy the park. There is ample parking here, but you could go the more sustainable route and take the 27 bus to the Henry Avenue & Livezey Lane stop.

With a large picnic pavilion and multiple athletic fields, this versatile location is great to reserve if you’d like to host a large event in the park or enjoy an impromptu picnic and a quick toss of a frisbee with a group of friends. Just be sure to contact the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Special Events office here to ensure this location’s availability for events requiring the pavilion, fields and with 75 or more attendees.

There are multiple access points in this area, but our trek will begin at the bottom of the Livezey Lane driveway at the brown park gate. Take this trail downhill and make your first right, then your first left to take the Yellow Trail north. There are some meandering stretches and blind turns on the Yellow Trail, so be aware of your surroundings and make your presence known to your fellow park users when possible. The trails around Pachella Field are open to all users, so please be courteous to everyone you encounter.

Follow the Yellow Trail for a little over a mile. Along the way enjoy some beautiful oaks, abundant ferns and the impressive Umbrella Magnolias. This magnolia species is a fast-growing tree with clusters of large diamond-shaped leaves near its branches that resemble umbrellas. These magnolias have intensely fragrant flowers that develop cone-shaped, rosy-red fruits. Keep your ears open for the flute-like song of the Wood Thrush as well!

The trails in this section of the park are mostly flat, but there is a significantly eroded section of trail in this area. The trail tread has cut into the hillside, creating poor sight lines and damaging the vegetation. We’re aware of the problems here and this section is on the docket for future repairs under the Sustainable Trails Initiative, a multi-year campaign to create a sustainable trail network that limits erosion and protects the fragile forest habitat while enhancing recreational experiences throughout the park.

Continuing along the Yellow Trail, the rocky, meandering section of trail you’ll encounter next is an STI-rerouted trail built by FOW volunteers in 2010 and it’s holding up beautifully! This rebuilt section of the Yellow Trail passes just behind the W.B. Saul High School. The Saul School of Agricultural Sciences, founded in 1943, helps students develop an understanding of and appreciation for the career and leadership opportunities that are available to them in the many fields of agriculture.

Continue over the footbridge and shortly you’ll pass a large log that overlooks the Forbidden Drive and the valley below. Maybe enjoy a short break, a drink of water and a selfie! We’ll head down to Forbidden Drive by taking the first trail to the right after our log break.* Be sure to take your time because this trail is rocky. At the bottom of this trail you’ll meet Forbidden Drive just south of Valley Green Inn, which you’ll see to your left.

To make the return trip to Pachella Field, hang a right on the Drive. But the adventure doesn’t end here. This section of Forbidden Drive is dotted with interesting and intricate stonework on the right and beautiful glimpses of the Wissahickon Creek to the left. Continue along the Drive about a ¼ mile and don’t miss the stone staircase leading down to the Livezey Dam on the left along the creek side. This hidden gem is a favorite destination for families, fisherman, photographers and now you!

Continuing along Forbidden Drive, take the first trail on the right uphill approximately 1/10 of a mile to return to Pachella Field and enjoy the sun peeking through the treetops as you finish this short summer stroll in the Wissahickon.

*This hike can be extended by continuing along the Yellow Trail. Forbidden Drive can be reached by following any trail downhill on the right.