Planning Commission

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Jul 23

Great Places to Run in Montgomery County

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 6:08 PM by Michael Stokes

Schuylkill Canal Day 6_29_14 II.JPG

A few weeks ago, my lawn mower stopped running, and with the lack of rain, the grass decided to take some time off as well.  With all of this new time on my hands, I decided to rediscover some really great running routes in our county.  Now this blog is not meant as an exhaustive list of all those running routes, there are many more.  But, here are few to try out:

 The Schuylkill River Trail in Valley Forge National Historical Park accessed from either Pawlings Road or the Betzwood area provides many great running routes and some absolutely scenic glimpses of the Schuylkill River.  Depending upon your ambition level, you can put together a 2-mile loop, run out and back on the full trail- about 5 miles or assemble a longer run using the Montgomery County Schuylkill River Trail.   Any time is a great time for this trail, but it is over the top in the spring when the Virginia bluebells are blooming and the spring peepers take it up a notch in their nearby wetland communities. 

The classic running route is the nearly 5 mile paved trail loop in the Valley Forge National Historical Park encircling the Revolutionary War encampment area.  This immensely popular route passes historic huts, the memorial arch, Valley Forge Chapel, and plenty of cannons.  There are spectacular views throughout this moderately hilly route, plenty of places to park and even bathrooms along the way.  This is where you take your out-of-town visitors who like to run.  Early in the morning, particularly on a foggy day, or at sunset, this running experience only gets better.

Mondauk Mile is what it says it is.  It is one of many fine circular gravel trails located in our local parks.  This mile route around a very active park attracts walkers and runners at any hour.  With plenty of parking and an interesting but flat trail route you will be able to put on the miles one loop at a time.

For something a bit different, try out the 5-mile or so Skippack Creek Loop in Evansburg State Park.  This dirt pathway follows both the east and west banks of the Skippack Creek from the Mill Road pedestrian bridge to the Kratz Road bridge.  This is not a fast running route; there are roots, uneven terrain, and at times lots of mud to contend with.  Overall it is a great cross country running experience which gets even better during the latter part of October with the colorful foliage.

The Cynwyd Heritage Trail is a great addition to the running options in Lower Merion.  This nearly two mile trail stretches from the Cynwyd Train Station to Belmont Avenue.  The running experience along the Cynwyd Heritage Trail will get even better with the development of the dynamic trail over the Manayunk Bridge which will be opened in a little more than a year.

The Pennypack Trail, a flat gravel trail covering two miles of the former Newtown Branch Railroad Line in Abington, is now a great running route and will grow even better with the bridge connection to Rockledge and trail extension north into Bryn Athyn.  Right now, all of the parking and trail access is at Lorimer Park

The Perkiomen Trail (all 20 miles of it) is a runner’s paradise.  Mainly flat with a gravel surface, this trail stretches along the Perkiomen Creek from Oaks to Green Lane.  Though there are many good sections to run, my choice is the Spring Mount to Crusher Road stretch, about 8 miles out and back.  Even though it is an out and back run, the trail seems to take on a different character depending upon which direction that you choose to run.  Do this run during the Philadelphia Folk Festival since the trail passes very near three music stages.

Runners have plenty of choice at the Norristown Farm Park.  The 8 mile paved trail system in the park offers different loops that can be run separately or combined into longer runs.  Expect to have lots of company as this park is becoming more popular with county residents seeking a healthier lifestyle.

Camelot Farm Park in Upper Hanover offers a unique running route.  When the township built a park on the former horse farm at this site, they retained the ¼ mile horse track and converted it into a gravel fitness trail.  It was a great idea and it has turned out to be a beautiful setting for trotting a few laps. 

The Schuylkill Canal Tow Path is one of the newly discovered running gems in the county. The tow path runs along the 2.5-mile historic canal and Schuylkill River from near Longford Road in Port Providence to the Black Rock Dam up-river from Mont Clare.  The tow path is now an informal dirt trail that will soon be improved with a more stable dirt and gravel surface.  Runners can park at the Longford Road parking lot and head west all the way up to the Upper Schuylkill Valley Park if they have the energy.  In the future months, please observe all of the construction signs at the tow path.

If you need a big challenge and don’t mind some rougher running terrain, then you need to try a loop around the Green Lane Reservoir along the Red, Blue and Perkiomen Trails.  By piecing these three trails together, you can make an 11 /-mile loop around the reservoir in some beautiful woods.  This is primarily an equestrian and mountain bike trail system, but very runnable.  Be aware that there are some hills along the way, and your feet will most likely be very sore when you finish- but the run will be well worth it.

The point to all of this is just Get Out and Go Montco!  You choose how to go- run, walk, bike or whatever.  Just Get Out and Go!


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