Philly spring trail preview: 8 new, improved, and upcoming trails to explore around the city

From the long-awaited Delaware River Trail to 24/7 access at the Manayunk Bridge.

The connected 5.5-mile path along the Delaware waterfront from Allegheny to Oregon has a ribbon cutting on April 29

The connected 5.5-mile path along the Delaware waterfront from Allegheny to Oregon has a ribbon cutting on April 29

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital
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Philadelphians in search of scenic places to walk, run, or bike around the great outdoors are in luck: warm weather is about to be here (no jinx) and the city has several new or renovated trails to explore.

In addition to the paths opened or improved over the past year, there are a few more that are close to completion, or have construction plans moving through the pipeline.

Whether you’re looking to stroll through Fairmount Park or bike along one of the rivers, here’s an overview of fresh developments on the Philly trail scene.

MLK Drive Trail on the Schuylkill saw $1.4M in improvements

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has repaved and restored the MLK Drive Trail in West Fairmount Park, which snakes along the west side of the Schuylkill from around the Fairmount Fish Ladder to the East Falls Bridge.

The project set out to widen the 4-mile, 50-plus-year-old trail, as well as clear dead trees and add new signage and pavement markings. There’s also new lighting and ADA-accessible ramps.

Timeline: Construction started in January 2021, and wrapped up last summer, according to Parks & Rec spokesperson Maita Soukup.

The trail next to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Fairmount Park got repaved and repainted

The trail next to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Fairmount Park got repaved and repainted

Ellen C Miller for Parks & Rec

Schuylkill Banks has a new trail/greenway segment from Bartram’s Garden to 61st Street

A $4.8 million project extended the Schuylkill Banks on the west side of the river from the 56th Street Plaza to around 61st Street.

It wrapped up last fall, and includes 1.6 acres of greenway, an overlook with city and river views, a riverfront platform, lighting for nighttime use, and 125 newly planted trees.

The project is part of a larger project by the Schuylkill River Development Corporation that will extend the trail all the way to Passyunk Avenue. The plan is to eventually create a riverfront park near the Passyunk Avenue Bridge.

Timeline: The Bartram’s Garden to 61st trail segment opened in November 2021, so it’s right there waiting for you when warm weather hits. A feasibility study for the segment from 61st to Passyunk is still underway, according to the SRDC website.

The ribbon cutting for the 61st Street Mile in November 2021

The ribbon cutting for the 61st Street segment in November 2021

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

The Delaware River Trail is so close to done

The Delaware River Trail, a 5.5-mile path running along the waterfront from Allegheny Avenue in the north to Oregon Avenue in the south, includes a bi-directional protected bike lane and a separate sidewalk for runners and walkers in some spots.

Part of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s Master Plan for the Central Delaware, the trail has been in the works for over a decade and will finally celebrate its completion this spring.

The trail was designed to follow the riverbank, which means in some places it follows the street, and in some places it departs from the roadway to hug the water. It has some picnic tables and benches along it, and it’s also got solar panels that help power the path’s 120 lamp posts.

Timeline: Work on the full trail is “just about complete,” according to DWRC spokesperson Nicole Paloux, and a grand opening and dedication are planned for April 29. 

The north and south segments of the trail have been completed since 2019. The central portion — from Spring Garden to Washington Avenue — was supposed to be done in late 2021, but officials told Billy Penn in October unexpected structural and utility issues popped up and delayed things.

Benches with solar panels power lights along some portions of the new Delaware River Trail

Benches with solar panels power lights along some portions of the new Delaware River Trail

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

4.5-mile ‘Trolley Trail’ in Fairmount Park is pretty much finished

Looping between Belmont Plateau and Chamounix Creek, the soft-surface, multi-use Trolley Trail follows the former path of the Fairmount Park Trolley, which operated during the first half of the 20th century.

The trolley route vanished in the 1940s, and its tracks, bridges, and cables were auctioned off. The Fairmount Parks Conservancy has been working on “reimagin[ing] the site as a scenic interpretive trail” in the western part of the park, where 14 of the 16 trolley stops were. The project is one piece of a 2014 master plan for adding more amenities to Fairmount Park.

The Trolley Trail is designed for use by bicyclists, pedestrians, runners, and equestrians.

Timeline: The loop is completed and ready for use, according to conservancy spokesperson Cari Feiler Bender. Some tweaks are still being made to trail width, surfaces, and stormwater drainage. Signage still needs to go in too, and some trailheads are still in development. There’s formal ribbon cutting planned for mid-September.

The Chamounix trolley trail

The Chamounix trolley trail

Albert Yee for Fairmount Park Conservancy

Manayunk Bridge trail will allow 24/7 access

The Manayunk Bridge trail, which connects Philadelphia and Lower Merion Township, will have longer hours once a Parks & Rec-led lighting project wraps up.

A $1.5-million improvement project, paid for by the city and PennDOT, has been adding new pedestrian lighting and security cameras since October. The bridge is gated off at night right now, but once the project is finished, there’ll be public access 24/7, all year round.

Timeline: Parks & Rec expects to complete the project in late spring or early summer, according to department spox Soukup. Until then, the bridge is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Flickr Creative Commons / Michael Stokes

Old Wissahickon Valley Park trail bridges are getting a facelift

Wissahickon Valley Park’s four bike bridges temporarily closed in March 2021, but they’ll be back in operation in the next few months, looking better than before.

The bridges shut down last spring for “complete restoration and resurfacing” after 40 years of use, according to Parks & Rec. The newly reopened trail bridges — which cost $1.2 million to improve — will have anti-slip surfacing.

Timeline: The restoration is scheduled to wrap up late spring or early summer, per department spokesperson Soukup. The bridges will remain closed until then.

Boxers’ Trail is getting an upgrade to reduce erosion

The Fairmount Parks Conservancy is investing $145,000 in Boxers’ Trail in East Fairmount Park to better preserve it for future use.

Erosion has been impacting “key sections” of the trail — which gets its name because Joe Frazier used it as a jogging route — so the conservancy will be working to improve the grading and drainage. The upgrades will improve the trail’s overall condition, make it less likely to wash out, and allow it to dry out faster after rainstorms, said Conservancy spokesperson Bender.

Timeline: The improvements will happen this summer. No extended shutdown is expected, though work on the trail could lead to occasional closures for “critical maintenance” on weekdays, per Bender. Information about temporary closures should be listed on Fairmount Park Conservancy’s social media accounts.

Boxers Trail hosts a 5k charity run every year

Boxers Trail hosts a 5k charity run every fall

Courtesy Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Construction is starting on the trailhead park coming to the Delaware at  Bridesburg

This one is a bit further out, but good to know: The Delaware River waterfront is slated to get a new, 10-acre trailhead at the site of a former concrete factory in Bridesburg.

The $10 million park is designed to connect with the existing Port Richmond Trail/Delaware Ave extension to the south and eventually the existing K&T Trail to the north (which is slated for a future extension of its own). It’s part of a larger effort to create an 11-mile stretch of parks and trails along the Delaware in Northeast Philly.

Phase 1 of the project, which the Riverfront North Partnership said it completed fundraising for in 2020, includes constructing pathways, a big lawn, a native meadow, restrooms, and parking.

Timeline: Groundbreaking on Phase 1 is expected to happen this year. The public opening is anticipated for 2023.

A rendering of the new trailhead park

A rendering of the new trailhead park

Courtesy Riverfront North Partnership