Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, including some in New Jersey, are a virtual Mecca for cyclists, replete with a healthy dose of the infrastructure needed to spawn a thriving cycling community. A growing network of recreational trails interlace the region. Plus, a solid foundation of cycling clubs, a full calendar of organized rides and a host of bicycle shops help to keep the rubber on the road. Cycling enables thousands of Philly area natives to make new friends, engage the historic cityscape and explore the countryside.
The Greater Philadelphia Area Cycling Paths
The Delaware Valley is blessed with great cycling destinations and has the routes and trails to get you there.
In Greater Philadelphia, the planned 750-mile trail network, known collectively as the Circuit Trails, is anchored by the Schuylkill River Trail (recently named the Best Urban Trail in the United States). Connecting Center City through Valley Forge to Parkerford, it has many points of interest including the new Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Manayunk, Conshohocken, Norristown and, of course, Valley Forge National Park. There are spurs at Plymouth Meeting, Wissahickon and Valley Forge. Also, just north of Valley Forge in Oaks, the trail connects to a 20-mile Trail to Green Lane (Perkiomen Trail Oaks to Green lane). To the north, the Pennypack Trail runs through Northeast Philadelphia to suburban Montgomery County. The Chester Valley Trail meanders along the edge of Routes 30 and 202 in Chester County.
Biking Advocacy in Philadelphia
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is a group that helps spearhead cycling progress by promoting the extension of trails, connecting missing links and weaving them into a network. So there is a flywheel of momentum spinning to make Philadelphia an even better place to ride a bike, such as plans to extend the Schuylkill River Trail from Center City to Southwest Philadelphia.
Crossing the Border
While Pennsylvania has a strong network of cycling trails, there are good reasons to consider checking out New Jersey. Unlike George Washington, you do not need a flatboat to make the crossing. There are numerous walkways across most of the Delaware River bridges from Trenton and north, including a pedestrian-only footbridge at Lumberville. In Philadelphia, both the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Tacony Palmyra Bridge have pedestrian walkways that allow crossings into New Jersey.
On the other side of one of the bridges you’ll find the V-shaped Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail that runs along the canal’s towpath down from Princeton to Trenton and then up to Frenchtown.
Outlying secondary routes through the Pine Barrens are also considered for cycling enthusiasts. The low rolling terrain is a welcome change of pace for Pennsylvania cyclists.
The ride to the Jersey shore from Philadelphia is the theme of several popular fundraising cycling events that draw thousands of cyclists each year. The annual American Cancer Society Bike-a-Thon is an annual one-day event that usually attracts thousands of cyclists. The Bike MS is a weekend overnight ride from Cherry Hill to Ocean City New Jersey with multiple route options to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Ride offerings go from 25 to 180-mile routes.
Another favorite ride is the French and Pickering Creek Iron Tour ride through Chester County starting in Kimberton. Not to be confused with an Iron Man triathlon, the Iron Tour raises funds to support open space land conservation and connect people to the land in northern Chester County.
Rides feature rest stops, food, support from local bike shops and festivities with live bands at the finish line.
Begin Your Cycling Journey
One place to start on your cycling journey is the Internet. Google can help you find the nearest local cycling club and a schedule of their rides. Cycling clubs are all over the metro area. There are numerous trail maps online documenting Philadelphia area cycling trails, bike lanes and recommended bike-friendly routes. The Bicycle Club of Philadelphia also has a lot of information, including a listing of events, local cycling clubs, bike shops, and more.
Another resource are the local bicycle shops. They can often help inform you on the most appropriate bike and equipment for your level of riding and the local terrain. Whether the store is locally run or part of a chain, the staff are likely to be local cyclists like yourself. Look for a store with skilled mechanics and friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Becoming a cyclist opens up a whole new world. The Philadelphia region is one of the best places in the country to make that discovery.
*Note: You may need a permit for some trails such as the upper trails in Wissahickon Valley Park and the soft trails in Pennypack park. https://www.phila.gov/services/trees-parks-the-environment/get-a-trail-permit/