The Philly burbs have an abundance of hiking options for hikers of all abilities. A few weeks ago, we decided to head out, with a few requirements. We needed to be relatively close to Norristown, we wanted something we could easily complete in a couple hours and we needed a stroller-friendly trail. We found all this in the Audubon Loop in Oaks.
After parking at the Pawlings Road Trailhead parking lot, we took a look at the posted map and headed to our right, toward Pawlings Rd., and then turned left to go over Rt 422. Though this section was rather sunny, after we walked past St. Gabriel’s residential treatment center’s animal farm (the animals watched us curiously as we passed), the trail soon curved to the left, away from the road and provided some tree cover and much appreciated shade.
The loop circles the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, the first U.S. home of naturalist John James Audubon. A 4.3-mile paved path, it is shared by hikers, runners and bicyclists and is relatively easy, with one steep climb that we unintentionally avoided by heading in the opposite direction (we walked down this steep hill). A sign points out the remaining mine shaft along the trail that was used to extract copper between 1840 and 1855. (A second mine shaft for lead was near the main house.)
The trail follows the Perkiomen Creek for a stretch and goes through Lower Perkiomen Valley Park.
For a portion of the loop, you travel on the Perkiomen Trail (and just to make it more interesting, you also travel over the Perkiomen Trail and can see the signs for it below you). Going the direction we chose (which seems to be opposite what most do), we then ended up on the Schuylkill River Trail (which was the only portion we had to stop and ponder which direction to go. (If you follow in our footsteps, turn right and continue uphill, then go over the bridge.) The trail took us alongside Rt. 422, where we turned right and headed back to the parking lot.
Though this was not true “hiking,” it was a nice walk where we saw several deer, many geese and a relatively fearless rabbit while walking past fields and through meadows and wooded areas. On the day we took this walk, there were quite a few bicyclists but for the most part, the trail is wide enough to share. (Even so, it is wise to pay attention and not take up the entire width of the path.) There are a number of side trails that could be explored (not stroller-friendly) as well as a bird blind to watch for some of the many birds that can be found at the nature sanctuary. The Mill Grove Center has a museum, shop and art galleries and offers special programs throughout the year.