Welcome to the Wissahickon: A First Timers Guide

News // April 11, 2024

Welcome to the Wissahickon! A quick Google search might not give you the whole story, so let us introduce ourselves to the Wissahickon-curious, who might take the chance to visit for the first time with months of sunny skies ahead of us.

The Wissahickon has been a marvel to Philadelphians and international travelers since the days of mills, roadhouses, and horse-drawn carriages. Even so, it seemingly remains a mystery to many city dwellers today as highways can make us feel miles away from vast greenspaces.

Fear not; the park is accessible by train and bus from Downtown Philadelphia and is surrounded by nearby Manayunk, Roxborough, Chestnut Hill, Germantown, East Falls, and Mount Airy neighborhoods. Visit our website here for a transit map to the Wiss. Parking can be limited in the park, we recommend carpooling or taking alternative transportation if you’re able.

A bit about us: Wissahickon Valley Park is 2,000+ acres of beautiful parkland with 50+ miles of trails and access points surrounded by meadows, streams, wetlands, and forests. Friends of the Wissahickon is the non-profit that protects this wonderful green space.

Philadelphia Park & Recreation are the landowners. They have a variety of responsibilities that include providing permits for events, important services like trash pickup and bathroom maintenance, and upkeep of the park’s baseball fields, just to name a few.

FOW is the city’s official park partner, the boots on the ground that care for the environmental well-being of the landscape and provide programming. We organize service days and initiatives to protect and restore the land, provide outreach materials and educational events, create programming to engage all who enjoy the park, and much more! To learn more about our work in the park, click here.

The park has miles of multi-use trails for hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers, some of which are exclusive to hikers. You can fish, birdwatch, picnic, or just go for a stroll. Whatever you desire, we have plenty of ways to escape to nature. For more ways to enjoy the park, click here.

With such a big park and so many ways to enjoy it, it can be daunting for the first-time visitor. Join an experienced guide, one of our trained volunteers, on an educational hike across the Wissahickon. For upcoming hikes, click here to view our events calendar.

There are miles of natural landscape to enjoy in the Wissahickon, dotted with manmade facets, some of which predate President Roosevelt’s WPA initiative (which is responsible for a few Wissahickon landmarks, including Ten Box)!

There are also more modern facets to the park that complement the natural landscape, including the Fingerspan Bridge installed in 1987, designed by Jody Pinto, a world-renowned artist who specializes in integrating art into architecture and landscape. To learn more about the Fingerspan Bridge and some other structures in the park, click here.

Want to have a positive impact on the place we can’t stop talking about? Improve trails, remove invasive plants, pick up litter, maintain planting sites, and clean out stormwater infrastructure, all in the safe hands of our experienced staff and volunteers! Find upcoming volunteer opportunities here.

No matter how you want to enjoy the park, remember to check for ticks, especially in the warmer months. Click here for a quick “tick talk.” The Wissahickon is also home to a few itchy things, including poison ivy. Wearing long pants can help you avoid both of these! Extra points for sturdy footwear: the majority of the trails in the park are naturally surfaced, and many can have challenging footing and changes in terrain.

We’re looking forward to a fabulous spring with plenty of ways to enjoy the park. For volunteer days, including our biggest service day of the year, Super Mega on 4/20, guided hikes, nights of food and friends at our Backyard Bash, and a unique trail-running experience at the Wissahickon Trail Classic. For all the above, click here.

There’s no better time to get out, get involved, and get acquainted with Wissahickon. Happy trails!

Photo courtesy of Stacey Gray