Exploring the Andorra Natural Area

Nature // November 02, 2016

The Andorra Natural Area, a quiet stretch of woods, wetlands, and meadow in the most northwest section of the Wissahickon Valley Park, can be reached from one of the lesser used access points in the park, the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Northwestern Avenue. The SEPTA 27 bus stops at this intersection and walkers, vehicles, or bikes can slowly follow Northwestern Avenue for a little over a half mile, pass Andorra Meadow on the right, and enter the park from the parking lot on the right. The three trailheads in this area offer many different and interesting trail experiences.  Please remember that the trails in the Andorra Natural Area and Meadow are open only to hikers and equestrians. Bikers commuting through can opt for the bike bypass route to reach Forbidden Drive. Click here for a detailed map of the Andorra Natural Area trail system.

The Andorra Natural Area was formerly a tree nursery and many unusual, non-native tree species like Japanese maple, Korean evodia, and European beech can be seen in this section of the park. Take the Forest Loop Trail at the trailhead adjacent to the kiosk and make the first right on the Yellow Trail** to visit the Great Beech, a European Beech and a Pennsylvania State Champion Tree with a height of over 102 feet.

Continue along the Yellow Trail for less than a quarter mile to meet up with the Forest Loop Trail again. Turn right to visit the Andorra Meadow, a recent restoration project undertaken by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) to expand habitat for birds, pollinating insects, and other wildlife. This area was cleared of invasive species and planted with native trees, shrubs, and warm-season grasses supporting over 20 species of birds. Check out the Andorra Meadow eBird for recently spotted bird species before you visit.

Want to stay in the woods instead of visiting the meadow? Turn left onto the Forest Trail Loop from the Yellow Trail to visit the Fallen Cucumber Magnolia. This tree had a diameter of over four feet when it fell in the spring of 2008. Continue along this trail for approximately a half mile to reach the Wissahickon Environmental Center, also known as the Tree House because of the giant Sycamore that once grew through the back porch roof. FOW recently invested over $500,000 restoring the exterior of the building, improving the landscaping around the building, and installing the back porch, which serves as an outdoor classroom space complete with a green roof! If you want to visit the Wisssahickon Environmental Center first, follow the trail beginning in the northeast corner of the lot (adjacent to the parking lot gate) down and make a left at the next intersection. You will see the Tree House down the hill on the right.

Looking to just visit Andorra Meadow? You can hike there quickly from the trailhead at the southwest corner of the parking lot where we started our journey.  Take the Forest Loop Trail along Northwestern Avenue. You’ll pass through a Japanese maple grove on your way up the hill to the meadow.

*This trail does not connect to the Yellow Trail that runs parallel to Forbidden Drive along the west side of the park. This trail begins just below Bells Mill Road and ends at the paved bike path along Lincoln Drive.