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Beginners Guide: Hiking Fairmount Park
Philly

Beginners Guide: Hiking Fairmount Park

What’s a great way to kick off another year of getting older?

For this gal, it’s exploring the outdoors in your own city.

When I was younger, I loved nothing more than drinking and dining with loved ones to celebrate my birthday. But as I’ve gotten older, I enjoy drinking bourbon & dining with loved ones… and throwing in personal challenges to stay active throughout a celebratory weekend.

So how could I resist a group hike in Fairmount Park early on Saturday morning to counterbalance a few extra calories?

Hiking with Fairmount Park conservancy

Fairmount Park Conservancy encourages residents to explore the lesser-known paths of Fairmount Park for hikers, runners and bikers. This past fall, they hosted a series of hikes lead by various local experts.

This past Saturday’s hike was lead by local Bob Thomas, who has quite the impressive sustainable background working with SEPTA, Bicycle Coalition, Fairmount Park Commission, various trails and more. Thomas guided us through the “hidden” Belmont Plateau Trails and landmarks like the Belmont Plateau Cross Country Trail, the historic Fairmount Park trolley bed, and historic mansions including Chamounix and Lilacs House.

We walked away (pun intended) with the little-known history of Philadelphia. For example, Philadelphia had an agreement with Greenland due to an exotic mineral, which explains the namesake of Greenland Drive.  What else did we discover?

Fairmount Park Trolleys

Did you know the Fairmount Park operated trolleys to take the urban dwellers into nature? Although they were cut off before the Schuylkill expressway was built, you can sneak a peak of a ride from this shaky YouTube video.

Yet there’s many remnants of the Trolley throughout the park. For example, we hiked by these remains of former trolley bridges in a wooded area that has since adapted.

fairmount park trolley station

Thomas stopped at various landmarks to explain how the park was shaped throughout the years. As you can see, our group was fascinated to hear about these tales.

Fairmount Park December Hike

As we wrapped around the trails unbeknownst to me, we passed the area of woods next to I-76. Although I recognized the area from the highway and roadsigns, it was one of the first times I noticed how the noise disrupted the otherwise peaceful trail.

We continued the hike uphill to approach baseball fields and Chamounix Stables.

Fairmount Park Conservancy 2014 Dec Hike

Belmont Plateau, Fairmount Park

Beyond the beauty of our local park, the hikes are a great way to meet others connected to the Conservancy. I chatted with a West Philly Yoga instructor, hikers who worked on a regional planning commission and financial planning, and another woman sharing the birthday weekend.

The trail ended as we took in this view from Belmont Plateau, admiring our city from another viewpoint.

Fairmount Park Belmont Plateau & Philly SKyline

And how could we leave out a group shot after 3 hours of bonding?

fairmount park group hike
Photo: Fairmount Park Conservancy Facebook

Want to join the fun? The Fairmount Park Conservancy plans to continue the hikes throughout the year, so stay tuned for future adventures.

After this experience, I’m going to continue exploring more of these trails. Readers, do you hike Fairmount Park? What little known trails do you recommend? Tell us in the comments.

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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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