We all live downstream. While the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers provide drinking water for many of the people in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the streams that feed into them are all part of our watershed. Also known as a basin, a watershed is simply the land in which all the water such as rainfall, snowmelt and runoff drains to a nearby river, creek or stream.
Looking to create a deeper connection to our watershed? Get up close and personal with the waterways that connect to our major drinking water supplies with these walks that explore them.
- Schuylkill River Trail
The Schuylkill River provides drinking water to almost two million people in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Whether you want to jump on in Center City or further upstream anywhere from Conshohocken to Norristown to Phoenixville, the Schuylkill River Trail gives hikers and bikers alike a great view of the river.
- Wissahickon Valley Park
The Wissahickon Creek drains 64 square miles of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties and joins the Schuylkill River just north of the Queen Lane Water Treatment plant. Wissahickon Valley Park surrounds the lower 9 miles of the creek from Chestnut Hill down to where it flows into the Schuylkill and contains hiking trails for all levels that follow the creek closely. The most famous of which is Forbidden Drive, a gravel path that traces the edge of the creek great for exploring the Wissahickon via hiking or biking.
- Green Ribbon Trail
Want to explore even more of the Wissahickon? The 12.6-mile Green Ribbon Trail has many entry and exit points including those in North Wales, Gwynedd Valley, Penllyn, Ambler and Fort Washington and has plenty of great vantage points to explore the stream.
- Tacony Creek Park
The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed is 30 square miles and includes a large swatch of North/Northeast Philadelphia as well as parts of Montgomery County. You can hop on the 3.2-mile paved trail that runs along Tacony Creek in the 300-acre Tacony Creek Park. The Tacony Creek eventually turns into the Frankford Creek before emptying into the Delaware River near the Betsy Ross Bridge.
- Delaware Canal State Park
Explore the Delaware along the historic route of the Delaware Canal on the 59-mile Towpath Trail that stretches from Easton all the way to Bristol. There are plenty of opportunities to get close to the Delaware, whose basin gives drinking water to more than 17 million people.
- Stroud Preserve
The Brandywine Creek Watershed covers 330 square miles and is home to over 300,000 people, covering areas in Southeastern Pennsylvania as well as northern Delaware. Explore the East Branch of the Brandywine at the Natural Lands Stroud Preserve in West Chester, which contains a variety of trails that explore both the creek as well as the surrounding hillsides and historic buildings.
- Valley Forge National Historic Park
Famous for its history, Valley Forge also contains several great walking paths that explore both the Schuylkill River and Valley Creek, a tributary that flows into the Schuylkill inside the park. The River Trail will give you great views along the Schuylkill and you can see Valley Creek along the appropriately named Valley Creek Trail.
- Perkiomen Trail
The Perkiomen Creek Watershed is 362 square miles and includes parts of Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery Counties and is the biggest tributary of the Schuylkill River. The 20-mile Perkiomen Trail runs between Oaks and Green Lane and connects to the Schuylkill River Trail as it moves through the Perkiomen Valley.
- Pennypack Trail
The Pennypack Creek drains approximately 56 square miles of Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia counties. The Pennypack Trail runs for 16 miles parallel to the creek. The northern section of the trail — between Pine Road and Roosevelt Boulevard — is noted to be the more beautiful section, but don’t miss Pennypack on the Delaware, where the creek flows into the Delaware, a noteworthy bird-watching locale.
- Ralph Stover State Park
The Tohickon Creek drains into the Delaware in the northern part of Bucks County. Ralph Stover State Park gives easy access to the creek and provides great vistas over the valley as well as some excellent stream side hiking.
This list is just a starting point and there are hundreds of trails that explore the watersheds around Philadelphia. Add your favorites in the comments.
Looking for even more ways to get involved in your watershed? Check out our blog from March 2022 for six easy things you can do.