Cycle Philadelphia, Sightseeing Ride & Kids Ride, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

There are few places in Philadelphia where one can be surrounded by nature long enough to dismiss the stresses of the city. The John Heinz Refuge, which circles Tinicum Marsh, offers visitors this opportunity. Nature enthusiasts and birders will love the refuge – over 280 species have been recorded here. You may want to bring a pair of more rugged tires for this outing; the gravel trails referee an epic game of hide and seek between old tree roots and big rocks.

Terrain

John Heinz is a flat packed gravel path through wooded areas and tidal marshes. One section, the nature path, is a tight singletrack.

Traffic

John Heinz is a well kept secret. The trails have their fair share of birds chirping and insects humming, but they are often on the quiet side in terms of humans.

Access

You’ll find parking at the 86th Street and Lindberg Boulevard entrance. The 37 and 108 buses will drop you off at 84th and Lindberg Avenue. You can also take regional rail to Eastwick station – this stop is a couple of blocks south east of the refuge entrance.

Food and Drink

There isn’t much in the way of food and drink here, so best to bring extra fluids and a picnic lunch. There are water fountains at the trail head.

Side Trip

The Cusano Environmental Education Center is located near the trail head. The center’s distinctive mission is to “demonstrate, within an urban setting, the importance of the natural world to the human quality of life and inspire visitors to become responsible stewards of the environment.” They offer loads of trail information and specie checklists. You can also rent fishing rods!

 

More Details

The bike path is mostly packed gravel, winding through a couple of tree covered turns. The foliage is lush in the summer, with lots of animals and birds hiding in the leaves. The boardwalk near the entrance offers a nice spot to watch for fish and turtles. At mile 3.1 there is a little bridge that leads to the nature path. If you are a beginner rider, lock your bikes to the bridge and try taking a romp through the woods for a change of pace. More expert riders will enjoy the singletrack (which has some tree root and foxholes).

The path is quite narrow. You have to watch out for poison ivy and stinging nettle along the way, but this trail is really the place that makes you forget you are in the middle of the city. It hooks up with the packed gravel trail and eventually loops around.

There are few places in Philadelphia where one can be surrounded by nature long enough to dismiss the stresses of the city. The John Heinz Refuge, which circles Tinicum Marsh, offers visitors this opportunity. Nature enthusiasts and birders will love the refuge – over 280 species have been recorded here. You may want to bring a pair of more rugged tires for this outing; the gravel trails referee an epic game of hide and seek between old tree roots and big rocks.

You’ll see an unexpected array of wildlife in the refuge, including turtles, frogs, butterflies, deer, rabbits and gophers. But the big draw to John Heinz is the variety of bird species in the area, including the Bald Eagle and the Great Blue Heron. The refuge posts an updated list of species sightings and relative abundance to their website fairly regularly.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Pick up the trail near the entrance to the refuge on Lindberg Ave. Head southwest on the wide gravel packed road. You’ll see Darby Creek to the right. Pass the boardwalk over the impoundment to the left (a great place to stop and watch wildlife).
  • 1.4 The road forks here, and each path leads to the same trail in roughly the same distance. Make a left and enjoy the shaded path.
  • 1.7 Go right when you hit the packed gravel road alongside I-95. Yes, it is funny to see the highway. Now you’ve experienced an urban wildlife refuge!
  • 2.1 Continue along this trail.
  • 3.1 The red bridge will lead you to the nature path. It is a narrow singletrack perched on a 15ft wide stretch of land splitting the tidal marshes. If you are a confident rider and choose to pedal through, it will drop you off at the 2.1 mile junction. If you just want to check it out on foot, lock your bike to the bridge and walk on in!
  • 4.5 Assuming you pedaled through, you’ll find yourself at the familiar
  • 2.1 mile junction. If you left your bikes, you’ll have to backtrack along either the nature path or the I-95 route to pick them up.
  • 4.6 Continue along funny I-95 trail.
  • 4.9 Continue past this familiar spot (marker 1.7) to make a giant loop, or take a left to head back the way you came.
  • 5.9 Assuming you took the long way, pedal left to follow the bend in the trail.
  • 6.4 This is an excellent bird and wildlife observation area. The boardwalk is nearby as well, in case you want to see more!
  • 6.6 Trail pops out at the entrance to the refuge.
  • Trail map

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    10.594 km / 6.583 mi

    Total Distance

    82 m / 270 ft

    Total Ascent

    82 m / 269 ft

    Total Descent

    9 m / 30 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: All
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 6.6
    Elevation Gain: 24
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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