Whether you're looking for a new route or tempted to try something more challenging than your normal weekend ride, Philadelphia has a lot to offer for bicyclists who are looking for an adventure. We reached out to folks in the Philly bike community to find out what they recommend for new and experienced riders in the region.
This day trip takes riders from downtown Philadelphia to Ambler on a series of protected trails, for a delicious lunch at the Weaver’s Way Co-op and a stopover at Morris Arboretum, where bicyclists get half-off regular admission price.
Follow the Schuylkill River Trail to Forbidden Drive, and spend the morning at the arboretum. After soaking in as much nature as you can, head for the Green Ribbon Trail to Fort Washington, a state park. There’s short stint of road riding, after which you’ll end up in Ambler, where you can hit up Weaver's or one of the other many food options in town. Take the same route home.
“I love it because it’s almost entirely off-road and 40 miles round-trip, so it’s pretty easy for folks to do,” said Zack Rachell, worker-owner at Keystone Bikes.
Not French Creek
In the Philly bike community, you’re bound to hear about French Creek State Park as a popular overnight camping destination.
With about 100 miles of riding roundtrip, and an almost luxurious camping experience (try the modern cabins, complete with living room, bunk beds and a full kitchen), it’s one of our favorites, too.
But we wanted to see what else was out there.
Only 17 miles outside of Philly, just northwest of Media, Ridley Creek makes for a quick reprieve from the city.
“It was just our group in a wide open, peaceful field and we were technically so close to Philly, but in a totally different space,” Forrester said.
Depending on the pace, this overnight or multi-day trip gives riders a broad look at New Jersey and Delaware with a relaxing and scenic ferry ride across the river that separates them.
Following backroads in South Jersey, a rider can connect to Cape May through the Pine Barrens, before grabbing the $8 Cape May Lewes Ferry that crosses the Delaware River to Lewes (fun fact: an older boat on the ferry fleet was sunk in 2018 to expand an artificial reef in the river, WHYY reports). Bike transport is included at no extra cost.
It’s about 90 miles to Cape May and 120 miles from Lewes back to Philadelphia, for a total trip length of 210 miles. Some riders can do it with one overnight stay, but for many, a leisurely pace will be preferred. It’s possible to break up the trip into a short 3-day trip with the multitude of camping options in New Jersey, including Goshen Pond and Belleplain State Forest. Once you’ve crossed into Delaware, stay at a state park like Cape Henlopen or Lums Pond, depending on how far you want to ride each day.
Dusk and endurance
For more advanced rider, or those that don’t like to camp, take this idea from randonneur rider CJ Arayata. For the unfamiliar, randonneuring is the ultra marathon of biking: long-distance to the tune of 100+ miles in one sitting.
“I really do hate camping,” Arayata said, when we asked him for his favorite overnight trip. Instead, he recommends the Cape May Dyno, a four-year-old, semi-annual overnight ride that’s seriously overnight.
Organized by the Philadelphia Dynamo Headlight Society—a group of bicyclists that affix pedal-powered lights to their bikes—the ride starts at dusk, following the same path as Cape May ferry route, but at sunrise, it diverts to Atlantic City where riders pick-up NJ Transit back to Philadelphia in the morning.
“The only barrier to entry is that participants must have dynamo-powered or battery-powered lights with tons of spare batteries, and reflective gear to participate,” Arayata said. “Society members have multiple dyno set-ups and would be willing to lend out for the ride.” You can learn more about riding the Cape May Dyno by emailing Arayata.