Nature Centers and Preserves

There are many nature centers in our area that provide an opportunity to get out in nature and possibly see some wildlife. Most of these have hiking trails. Many also offer educational programs and some overnight opportunities.  Most of these are open to the public free of charge; some charge an admissions fee which may be waived by becoming a member.    
(Where indicated, photos and text below have been provided by the organizations listed. Clicking on the links will take you to their websites.)

Bucks County

Peace Valley Nature Center (PVNC) is an environmental education center and sanctuary dedicated to providing outdoor educational opportunities for people of all ages to promote a better understanding and appreciation for the world of nature. Along many miles of nature trails surrounding Lake Galena, guests can visit diverse habitats and spot animals, tracks and abundant plant life. The Nature Center offers a wide variety of programs, including Bird Walks, Sunday Naturalist Walks, Moonlight Walks, and birthday parties. The Solar Building hosts a children’s library and puppet-theater, as well as the Sunflower Shop, which sells an assortment of nature-themed items and books, proceeds from which benefit The Friends of PVNC’s environmental education programming. The Solar Building and Sunflower Shop are open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

Silver Lake Nature Center, Bristol

Chester County

Banffshire Preserve, Franklin Preserve, Goodwin Preserve, White Clay Crescent Preserve,  Landenberg

Preserves with hiking trails located in Franklin Township

Myrick Conservation Center (Brandywine/Red Clay Watershed Association headquarters), Pocopson Township

The 318-acre center contains historic structures such as an early 19th century barn, an early 20th century wood silo and a springhouse that dates back to the American Revolution. It is the site of educational programs and has walking and equestrian trails as well as areas for picnicking and bird watching.

Crow’s Nest Preserve, Elverson

Great Valley Nature Center, Devault

Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens, Devon

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square ($)

Okehocking Preserve,Willistown Township

Natural Lands Trust Preserves

The following sites are owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust, the region’s oldest and largest land conservation non-profit. The preserves are open dawn to dusk, daily, free-of-charge thanks to the support of Natural Lands Trust members.

Natural Lands Trust’s Binky Lee Preserve, Chester Springs, PA

Binky Lee Preserve is a 112-acre expanse of former agricultural land that is being converted back to natural woodlands and meadows. An exploration of the trails provides a wonderful introduction to natural area restoration techniques. The view from atop the hill offers a rare glimpse of Chester County past: undeveloped woodlands and fields in all directions.

Natural Lands Trust’s ChesLen Preserve, Unionville, PA

The 1,263-acre ChesLen Preserve—one of the largest private nature preserves in southeastern Pennsylvania—features sweeping agricultural fields, densely wooded stream corridors, and rare serpentine barrens. There are many points on the property from which visitors can gaze for miles in any direction and see virtually no signs of modern development. The preserve includes Ollie Owl’s NaturePlayGround, a play space that encourages kids to experience nature with all of their senses.

Natural Lands Trust’s Crow’s Nest Preserve, Elverson, PA

Crow’s Nest Preserve is made up of 621 acres of woodlands, meadows, and crop fields along French Creek. Crow’s Nest is the gateway to the Hopewell Big Woods, a 73,000-acre expanse of forest that reaches north into Berks County. Just next door, you’ll find French Creek State Park and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, making Crow’s Nest part of one of the largest areas of protected land in the region.

Natural Lands Trust’s Peacedale Preserve, Landenburg, PA

The 222-acre Peacedale Preserve includes two streams that flow into Big Elk Creek, which in turn leads to the Chesapeake Bay. The property also includes vast expanses of woodlands and hayfields, some of which are being converted to native grassland meadows for bird habitat.

Natural Lands Trust’s Sadsbury Woods Preserve, Coatesville, PA

The 508 acres that make up Sadsbury Woods include one of the largest remaining, unfragmented woodlands in Chester County. The preserve is an important habitat for interior nesting birds and small mammals.

Natural Lands Trust’s Sharp’s Woods Preserve, Berwyn, PA

The 27-acre Sharp’s Woods Preserve is an island of nature surrounded by the suburban development of Easttown Township. The headwaters of the Darby Creek run through the woods, surrounded by a mix of meadows and marshlands.

Natural Lands Trust’s Stroud Preserve, West Chester, PA

Stroud Preserve consists of 571 acres of culturally and ecologically important land in Chester County. This rolling mosaic of once-pastured grasslands, working farmlands, and woodlands now serves as wildlife habitat and a unique site for research by the Stroud Water Research Center, one of the premier stream research labs in North America.

Natural Lands Trust’s Willisbrook Preserve, Malvern, PA

The 126-acre Willisbrook Preserve includes more than 20 acres of the Sugartown Serpentine Barrens, a rare ecosystem. These barrens support a diverse variety of plants, including serpentine aster, round-leafed fame flower, and warm-season grasses. The preserve, which was donated to Natural Lands Trust in 1961, holds special significance as the first property that we received through donation.

Delaware County

Chanticleer, Wayne ($)

35 acres of constantly-evolving gardens, designed by seven different horticulturists.

Haverford College Arboretum, Haverford

McKaig Nature Center, Wayne

Rattlebox Nature Center, Media

Photo: Rattlebox Nature Center

Rattlebox Nature Center was conceived and created in response to an awareness that in our increasingly urban and technological society many children exist with little experience or appreciation of the animals with whom we share this planet and the natural world that surrounds us. The goal of Rattlebox Nature Center is to provide individuals of all ages and capabilities with hands-on experience that will better their understanding of the critical role that animals play in the health and welfare of our world and to dispel false stereotypes and myths regarding their behavior and characteristics. To accomplish these objectives Rattlebox Nature Center provides supervised contact with animals in  family farm tours ,horse care and introductory riding,nature focused workshops and art projects.During the summer months these activities are also presented through a day camp for children. Additionally, an animal presentation and educational program is available offsite at locations such as retirement facilities,special needs facilities, schools, private homes, camps and shelters.

Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Swarthmore

Stoneleigh, Villanova

Tyler Arboretum, Media ($)

Delaware County Natural Lands Trust Preserves

The following sites are owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust, the region’s oldest and largest land conservation non-profit. The preserves are open dawn to dusk, daily, free-of-charge thanks to the support of Natural Lands Trust members.

Natural Lands Trust’s Hildacy Farm Preserve, Media, PA

The 55-acre Hildacy Farm Preserve contains a diversity of habitats that attract abundant wildlife—particularly birds—and offers a sampling of the most common natural resource restoration efforts underway throughout the Natural Lands Trust preserve system.

Natural Lands Trust’s Wawa Preserve, Media, PA

The 98-acre Wawa Preserve is owned by Natural Lands Trust and operated in partnership with Middletown Township. Parts of the property were once used to graze cattle for the Wawa Dairy. Visitors can enjoy trails that traverse a variety of habitats, including dense woodlands along Rocky Run Creek and sunny meadows filled with milkweed, goldenrod, and little bluestem.

Montgomery County

Briar Bush Nature Center, Abington

Jarrett Nature Center, Horsham

John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Audubon ($)

Lower Merion Conservancy, Gladwyne

Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy’s Dragonfly Farm, Lower Salford Township

Riverbend Environmental Education Center, Gladwyne

Robbins Park, Upper Dublin

With 38 acres, this park and nature preserve offers a one-mile paved trail that is handicap-accessible. Ten interpretive signs throughout the park share environmental concepts, facts and messages. Highlights include an historic spring house and a man-made pond. Visitors can also walk along the north branch of the Rose Valley Creek as it f

Temple Arboretum, Ambler

Wissahickon Trails, Ambler

Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association
photo: Wissahickon Trails

Since 1957 Wissahickon Trails (formerly the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association) has been protecting land, water and life in the Wissahickon Watershed. Today, there are nearly 1,300 acres of protected land on 12 Preserves and 21 miles of natural wooded trails available to the public for year-round enjoyment.  The Green Ribbon Trail is a passive recreational trail that begins in Upper Gwynedd and connects with Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park.

WVWA practices cutting edge techniques in conservation including bird banding, wetland restoration, monthly water quality monitoring, deer exclosures, planting native plants, and scientific inventories. Last year, 2,300 local students participated in WVWA’s education program, where they learned about water quality, the environment and history. Each year, approximately 500 volunteers pitch in almost 8,000 hours to help land, water, events and administration

Montgomery County Natural Lands Trust Preserves

The following sites are owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust, the region’s oldest and largest land conservation non-profit. The preserves are open dawn to dusk, daily, free-of-charge thanks to the support of Natural Lands Trust members

Natural Lands Trust’s Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, Ambler, PA

Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve is a 279-acre oasis of meadows, woodlands, and wetlands nestled among the highly developed suburbs of Blue Bell and North Wales. After more than a century in agriculture, the preserve’s fields are being carefully restored. A walk along the trails reveals a re-emerging ecosystem of native flora including warm-season grasses and native wildflowers.

Natural Lands Trust’s Meng Preserve, Schwenksville, PA

Meng Preserve is 101 acres of rocky woods and vernal pools. Two miles of hiking trails are split up into four named trails, rated easy to moderate.

Natural Lands Trust’s Saunders Woods Preserve, Gladwyne, PA

Saunders Woods Preserve is a 25-acre natural oasis for wildlife and community residents in the heart of the Main Line. The Bridlewild Trail passes through the preserve and connects to a wider system of paths that wind through the community. A walk here reveals a lively forest habitat as well as an open meadow that is home to a variety of bird species.

Natural Lands Trust’s Stone Hills Preserve, Schwenksville, PA


Bartram’s Garden

Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center

The Discovery Center

John Heinz Wildlife Refuge, Tinicum Township

A National Wildlife Refuge, John Heinz was America’s first urban refuge and is home to the largest freshwater tidal marsh in PA. It offers 10 miles of trails and offers many outdoor recreation opportunities including hiking, biking (on designated trails), kayaking, fishing, nature photography, and wildlife observation.

Morris Arboretum  ($)

Morris Arboretum
Photo: Ryan Estes

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is a 92-acre garden in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. The Arboretum offers an ever-changing landscape complete with winding paths, colorful gardens, champion trees, and bubbling fountains. Its nationally award-winning exhibit Out on a Limb takes visitors 50 feet up into the treetops on a canopy walk that requires no climbing. An seasonal outdoor Garden Railway exhibit features a magical miniature world with model trains on a quarter-mile track, open all summer-long and during the holidays. Morris Arboretum is open 361 days a year.

Pennypack Environmental Center

Wissahickon Environmental Center

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

Schuykill Center Nacre Steps
Photo: Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

The Schuylkill Center was founded in 1965 as the nation’s first urban environmental education center.  Its 340-acres of fields and forests serve as a living laboratory to foster appreciation, deepen understanding, and encourage stewardship of the environment.  Reaching over 36,000 Philadelphia-area residents each year, the Schuylkill Center offers a diverse collection of educational programs, including programs for school, continuing education for teachers, Pennsylvania’s first Nature Preschool, and a full calendar of events for the public.

The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed

Burlington County, New Jersey

Palmyra Cove Nature Park, Palmyra

Rancocas Nature Center, Westhampton

Photo: Rancocas Nature Center

The Rancocas Nature Center is situated on a 210 acre piece of the Rancocas State Park, and features 3 miles of hiking trails through varied habitats including meadows, forest, and wetlands.

The Nature Center has been operating since 1977 and has been providing environmental education for the surrounding community during that time, presenting programs both on and off-site for groups including schools, scouts, libraries, senior citizens, as well as the general public.

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, Medford