Cycling commutes during rush hour are like eating plain yogurt every day for the probiotics: not terribly awful, not terribly pleasant, just plain ol’ necessary. Breezy, sun-drenched bike rides on a weekend morning, on the other hand, are like ice cream drizzled in hot fudge: delicious, enjoyable, and even a little bit indulgent.
I love nothing more than cruising along a bike path without worrying about red lights or what time it is or whether or not the driver behind me has road rage. And, as a bonus, a nice long bike ride makes for great exercise. So, if you’re looking for an easy, breezy, beautiful bike ride to get your endorphins pumping, below are five Philly-area bike paths worth tackling this summer.
For an Open Streets feel: MLK Drive
Photo courtesy of Schuylkill River Greenways
Sure, there’s a bumpy, rickety, barely enjoyable bike path open year-round along MLK. But trust: That is not that path you want to take. On weekends from April through October, the City gives us all a much more enticing option by closing MLK Drive to cars, leaving the wide, pot-hole-free lanes open for cyclists (and runners, too!). Get ready for the roomiest ride of your life, folks. You can access the closed-to-cars portion a few ways: from where the Schuylkill River Trail meets the Art Museum; via Fairmount Park; or by crossing Falls Bridge from the SRT.
For a long, flat, uninterrupted ride: Schuylkill River Trail
Photo Courtesy of Walt Hug
When it comes to distance, the Schuylkill River Trail is basically unbeatable: There are 60 completed miles of trail, which means that on any given day, you can hop on your bike for a flat, no-directions-necessary ride to far-off spots. Some awesome options: Connect to Valley Forge National Historical Park for some green-filled exploration or ride to Conshohocken Brewing Company’s trailside outpost for a well-earned brew.
For easy access to mountain-biking offshoots: Forbidden Drive
Photo Courtesy of Pioneer Cycling
This 5.3-mile gravel path along the Wissahickon Creek tends be the busiest of the park’s trails: It’s a flat straightaway, making it accessible to families with strollers and kids, runners looking for little resistance, and cyclists alike. That said, it also gives you access to plenty of steep and winding mountain-biking trails, with the Wissahickon boasting over 50 miles of trails total. The best of both worlds, eh?
For the views: Ben Franklin Bridge Walkway
Photo Courtesy of Danny Gevirtz
The views alone make this path worth biking across, and the fact that it’s right in the city doesn’t hurt, either. The 3-mile walkway admittedly involves a bit of a climb each way, but I repeat: those views! Right now, the South walkway is closed for construction, but you can still soak in the sights by way of the North walkway.
For traffic-free smooth sailing: Pennypack Park
Think of this 9-mile trail running alongside the Pennypack Creek in Montgomery County as the SRT lite. Like the SRT, it boasts a wide paved path perfect for cycling, but unlike the SRT, you won’t get cut off by hordes of pedestrians, runners, unicyclists, dogs, and, well, you get the picture. Long story short: If you’re looking for a bit of solitude, it’s worth the trek.
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