Cycle Philadelphia, Sightseeing & Road Ride, Fairmount Mansions Ride

Never ventured into West Fairmount Park? Give this 12 mile bike ride a go! It provides an excellent introduction to the area, brings you over the Falls Bridge, and then takes you back to Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River Trail. You’ll pass four beautiful historic mansions nestled in the park, including Cedar Grove, Sweetbriar, Belmont, and Chamounix. Belmont Mansion sits on the Belmont Plateau, an awesome stop that offers one of the best views of the Philadelphia skyline.

Terrain

A mix of on-road cycling and bike paths through West Fairmount Park, this loop has a couple of spiky hills and one long, luxurious downhill at mile six.

Traffic

The bike paths around West Fairmount Park are far less utilized than the Schuylkill River Trail, which is on the east side of the river. Car traffic is generally low during the on road portions, but there are a few hairy intersections to watch (specifically Belmont Mansion Drive and Montgomery Avenue).

Access

The ride starts at the corner of 22nd and Spring Garden. Buses 7, 43, and 48 will get you close to 22nd and Spring Garden, which is near the Art Museum. There is also ample street parking in the Fairmount neighbourhood.

Food and Drink

Grab a snack at the shop on 22nd and Spring Garden, because you won’t have many opportunities for a bite until you reach The Chief at Boathouse Row!

Side Trip

Check out all the mansions along the way! You can also take a tour of the Underground Railroad Museum at Belmont Mansion.

 

More Details

Start out on 22nd and Spring Garden and head towards the Art Museum. You’ll bike ride in front of the museum steps on Ben Franklin Parkway on your way to Martin Luther King Drive, which is on the west side of the river (you’ll see a street sign for “Schuylkill Trail Connector”).

This bike ride shares its starting point with the Spring Garden to The Italian Market ride – combine the two for a decent 20 mile loop that runs from Falls Bridge to The Italian Market. Not bad! After you pick up MLK Drive, you’ll head north along the river and, after about a mile, you’ll make a left at Sweet Briar to head into the park – this will be your first uphill. You’ll pick up the bike lanes as you pass Cedar Grove and Sweetbriar mansions.

Both offer daily tours. Sweetbriar was built by Samuel Breck in the mid 19th century, and Cedar Grove was built in 1748 by Elizabeth Coates Pascall. The home was moved one brick at a time from its original location in Frankford to its current perch in the early part of the 20th century! As you continue, you’ll pass the back of the Please Touch Museum, and then the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden and the Horticulture Center. Soon you’ll come to the intersection of Belmont Drive and Montgomery Avenue – depending on the time of day, it may take a few minutes to find a space in traffic long enough to cross the street.

Take your time here at this intersection. Once safely across, you’ll hit another hill on your way up to the Belmont Plateau. This particular hill can be miserable on a hot afternoon with a single speed, but once you get there, the view is so amazing. Take a look at that beautiful city! The Belmont Mansion, which stoically sits behind you, was built in the 1700s. According to Fairmount Park Commission, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, and Madison all hung out up here. The last mansion you’ll visit is the Chamounix Mansion, a country retreat built in 1802 by George Plumstead.

It is currently a guesthouse – you can spend the night in Fairmount Park for less than $20 per person. After Chamounix, you’ll take the long downhill on Ford Road back towards the river. Cross either at Strawberry Mansion or Falls Bridge (the ride log takes you over Falls) to ride home along the Schuylkill River Trail on the east side of the river.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start off at 22nd and Spring Garden. Make a left on Spring Garden and circle in front of the Art Museum to pick up Ben Franklin Pkwy. Cross the river on the Ben Franklin Pkwy and head towards MLK Dr. Right on MLK Dr to bike along the west side of the river.
  • 1.8 Left on Sweet Briar (at the light).
  • 1.9 Right onto bike path at Landsdown Dr.
  • 2.2 Follow the curve in the bike path.
  • 2.4 Make a right on Sweetbriar Dr to visit the Sweetbriar Mansion. Afterwards, continue along the bike path.
  • 2.7 Pass the Cedar Grove Mansion.
  • 3.0 Follow signs for the Please Touch Museum.
  • 3.2 Pass the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden.
  • 3.3 Right on Horticultural Dr and wrap around the Horticulture Center.
  • 3.8 Right on Belmont Mansion Dr. Caution as you cross Montgomery, and up the hill you go!
  • 4.3 Pass the Belmont Mansion atop the Belmont Plateau – awesome view!
  • 4.5 Right on Chamounix Dr.
  • 5.7 Pass the Chamounix Equestrian Center.
  • 5.8 Chamounix Mansion! Double Back along Chamounix Dr.
  • 6.5 Left on Ford Rd. There is a fantastic downhill here.
  • 7.0 Left on MLK Jr Dr. (If you want to cut the trip short, hop over the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and pick up the SRT towards Boathouse Row).
  • 8.0 Make a right at Falls Bridge to cross the river.
  • 8.1 Make another right after the bridge to pick up the SRT. Bike along the river for a final stretch until you reach Boathouse Row.
  • 12.1 Pick up Pennsylvania Ave near the Art Museum by making a left and then a quick right.
  • 12.4 Merge onto Spring Garden.
  • 12.5 Back at 22nd and Spring Garden.
  • Trail map

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    19.887 km / 12.357 mi

    Total Distance

    279 m / 914 ft

    Total Ascent

    278 m / 913 ft

    Total Descent

    74 m / 242 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Intermediate (Red)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: Medium
    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: 12.5
    Elevation Gain: 281
    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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