We love our hometown! We love the vibrancy of a city that never seems to sleep (for better or for worse.) But we often find ourselves craving fresh air and greenery. And on these steamy dog days of Summer, we often target spots that also provide water access for our pooch to cool off. (Our dog, Jax, doesn't actually SWIM unless we are physically in the water with him. He's a social splasher! But he loves to get his paws wet and explore the shallows.) Fortunately, within an hour's drive of Philly, you'll find awesome dog-friendly hikes that lead to swim spots for your dog. So pack your backpack, leash up your furry friend, slather on some sunblock, and get ready for an adventure to remember!
Wissahickon Valley Park - Multiple Trails:
Located just 20 minutes from Center City (OK, 30 if you get stuck in traffic), Wissahickon Valley Park offers a picturesque escape for both humans and dogs alike. Forbidden Drive Trail (aptly named because cars are not allowed) follows the winding Wissahickon Creek. Various easy-to-moderate trails meander through the forest, past towering cliff edges (careful some can get very slippery), along the shallow creek where your pooch can splash and cool off.
Pro Tip: These trails tend to be heavily used and it’s important to obey Philadelphia's leash laws while in the Wissahickon. With so many people using the park, we have to be extra gentle with the ecosystem and respectful of other users. Friends of the Wissahickon has information on the various trails and access options. (Though normally when we go we just wind our way through the park!)
Timber Creek Dog Park
This entire Camden County park is dedicated to the dogs! (And we mean that.) Located about 30 minutes east of Philly in New Jersey, this is a dog heaven! With a NINE acre, fenced-in enclosure in the woods, pups can safely play off-leash, even if their recall isn’t the best. (Imagine a fenced dog park, in the middle of the woods.) Outside of the enclosure, trails criss-cross the park, with one leading to an epic “dog pond” where you will find numerous canines splashing and fetching in the shallow water.
Pro Tip: In June 2023 there was a dangerous algae bloom in the dog pond at Timber Creek. Signs were posted to keep dogs out of the water until further notice and the park is working to deal with the algae for future seasons. Even if you don’t go into the pond, the park is WONDERFUL for safe, off-leash socialization. (The pond is outside of the enclosure, so your pup can't accidentally enter the pond if you are romping in the enclosure.) Every time we visit there are DOGS EVERYWHERE. If your pup is dog reactive, this probably won’t be a relaxing adventure for you. But if your dog is social, it’s a party! We wrote another post on this park specifically!
French Creek State Park - Hopewell Lake Trail:
An hour's drive northwest of Philadelphia, French Creek State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and their canine pals. The Hopewell Lake Trail is a easy 5.3-mile loop around Hopewell Lake. This trail provides a mix of shaded woodland paths and open lake views, where your dog can stop for a swim or a quick splash.
Pro Tip: French Creek is also a wonderful place to camp with pups. Two of the loops are dog-friendly if you want to make a weekend of it! There are plenty of trails in this park to explore with your pup, with a full weekend's worth of park to explore. We camp here almost every year. (We actually got engaged on one of these trails many years ago. My engagement ring was sneakily tied to our dog's collar.)
Ridley Creek State Park - Orange Trail:
Ridley Creek State Park is a go-to for many urban hikers. Approximately 30 minutes west of Philadelphia, Ridley has easy access to nature when you only have a few hours to spare. The Orange Trail takes hikers along the trickling Ridley Creek. There are numerous spots along this trail that your pup can take a dip or cool off those paws. Be on the lookout for friendly snakes (they won't hurt you if you leave them alone!)
Pro Tip: We have hiked the Orange Trail COUNTLESS times, in all seasons. It’s our favorite trail in the park and you’ll spend most of your time along the creek. There is also a small picnic table after you go down the first hill, so pack a lunch and make a day of it.
White Clay Creek State Park - Pomeroy Rail-Trail:
Crossing the state border into Delaware, White Clay Creek State Park is less than an hour from Philadelphia and offers the dog-friendly Pomeroy Rail-Trail (and quite a few others!) The 7.6-mile trail leads to White Clay Creek, where your pup can cool off in the crystal-clear waters. This easy-access trail is just one trail of many in this park!
Pro Tip: There is an 18-hole disc golf course in at White Clay Creek if you want to bring discs with you. Again, this is a fragile ecosystem and loved by birders and anglers so please keep your pups under control and on-leash.
Always remember to follow the specific park rules, keep your dog leashed when required, and leave no trace (bring bags for the poop!) to ensure these beautiful trails remain accessible and pristine for future generations of Philadelphia hikers and their furry friends. We also like to bring a spare bag to pick up any litter along the way. Leave it better than you found it right?