National Take a Hike Day is held every November 17. The Adventure Travel Trade Association recently reported that hiking is the most popular outdoor activity. Of course this makes sense as it is the simplest activity to start. Though there are many hiking specific items you can purchase to make your hike more comfortable and interesting, you probably have everything you need readily at hand.
Thanks to the efforts of Maurice K. Goddard, director of the PA Department of Parks and Forest in the mid-1900s, just about every Pennsylvanian has easy access to some outdoor area. There are 2.5 million acres of state parks and forests in the commonwealth and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Explore PA Trails website offers information on more than 10,000 miles of trails. Locally we have 14 Pennsylvania state parks, with more nearby in New Jersey and Delaware.
The Philadelphia area also is home to several National Park Service sites: Valley Forge and Hopewell Furnace National Parks both have trails offering everything from an easy ramble to a challenging hike and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor offers a flat scenic trail along the canal. Other National Park trails include the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail that runs through MA, RI, CT, NY, PA, DE, MD,VA and DC, First State National Historical Park, a collection of sites in PA and DE, and not too far out in the burbs, the Potomac Heritage Trail that links the Potomac and Younghiogheny river basins in PA, MD, VA and DC, and the Delaware Water Gap where you can hike 28 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Of course there are many local options as well. The Philadelphia suburbs have established many county and municipal parks; most of these offer hiking or multi-use trails. You might also choose one of the several rail-to-trail options such as the Perkiomen, Schuylkill River or Chester Valley Trails.
Once you choose a destination, be sure to check out the difficulty of trails and estimated time to complete. Most parks offer a trail map or you can find them online. Especially this time of year, it is a good idea to carry a source of light and an extra layer of clothing (just in case you are out after dark) and don’t forget to bring water and a snack. If you are bringing a furry friend along, make sure to keep him on a leash (check park rules – some dictate the length of the leash) and bring water for him too. Remember that kids can be enthusiastic hikers, as long as you take their attention span into consideration. They are especially good at pointing out what adults may miss seeing. Finally, make sure to do a post-hike tick check for everyone (dogs can get lyme too). Ticks are present even in cold weather.
Take a Hike Day is a good excuse to explore someplace new. What new trail do you want to tackle?