The Loop

Cyle Philadelphia, Sightseeing & Kids Friendly Ride, The Loop

The Loop, referred to as such because it is by far the most popular spot for cycling in Philadelphia, needs little introduction. The path that winds along the Schuylkill River includes stunning views of Boathouse Row, the old waterworks, and bridge after bridge over the water. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive) is closed to traffic most weekends April – October, giving folks plenty of extra room to pedal in the summer.

Terrain

The Loop is a paved mixed-use recreation path that loops around the Schuylkill River.

Traffic

The Loop is one of the most popular destinations for outdoor activities in Philadelphia, and it attracts the lion’s share of city cyclists and runners. The stretch near boathouse row always has the heaviest traffic – best to take it slow until you pass the Viking statue.

Access

The log begins at Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive. If driving, you’ll find ample parking behind the Art Museum and Boathouse Row.

Food and Drink

From noon to dusk you’ll pass Chief, the nice old guy who stocks soft pretzels, pinwheels, and cold drinks at the stand across from The University Barge Club on Boathouse Row. The bench across from the stand is dedicated to Chief – he’s been in this spot since 1946!

 

More Details

The bike ride starts behind the Art Museum where the Schuylkill River Trail meets the Schuylkill Banks Park, but you can pick up the path at nearly any point along the way.

The stretch between the Art Museum and Boathouse Row will be the most congested. After passing the Girard Bridge, traffic will thin a bit. After crossing the Falls Bridge, you’ll pick up a narrow path that runs alongside Martin Luther King Drive and heads back towards the Art Museum. Most of MLK Drive is closed to traffic on weekends during the summer, offering a wide stretch of road for runners and cyclists adorned with lush greenery. Hooray! On this side of the river, you are treated to the best views of Boathouse Row, the waterworks, and the Art Museum. As you continue towards the museum, the path narrows still. After crossing the river again, you’ll have to cross Benjamin Franklin Parkway to reach the entrance to Schuylkill Banks Park.

If uncomfortable with the traffic, wait to cross at the stop light. You’ll see the entrance to Schuylkill Banks Park just after the light – make a left if you wish to ride along the banks towards Locust Street, or a right if you want to head back towards Boathouse Row. Want more.... The Fairmount Park Art Association recently released Museum Without Walls, an audio interpretation of the public art and sculpture along the Loop. The apps, maps, and audio downloads are available for 35 works of public art. If you plan to spend an afternoon on the river, they are definitely worth a listen! 

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at entrance to Schuylkill Banks Park, and head north. You’ll immediately pedal down a short hill and under a small overhang.
  • 0.2 Pass the waterworks to the left, and make a left to cross the little road. Pick up the path along the river, and make a right.
  • 0.4 Make a left at Lloyd Hall to enter Boathouse Row.
  • 0.7 The path splits after the Viking statue at the end of Boathouse Row. Follow the path street side (unless you want to tackle the river-side stairs!).
  • 1.1 Pedal under Girard Bridge. This is a good spot to ring your bell.
  • 1.6 You’ll see the Playing Angels statue (best viewed at dusk) close to the river.
  • 2.0 Pedal under the Columbia Bridge, past the Grandstand and John B. Kelly (The Rower) statue.
  • 2.9 Pedal under Strawberry Mansion Bridge.
  • 3.6 Pass Laurel Hill Cemetery to the right of Kelly Dr.
  • 4.1 You’ll see a series of bridges ahead. Make a left over the Falls Bridge, (the boxy, mint green number). Make another, immediate left after the bridge to pick up MLK Dr path.
  • 4.2 Follow the path back towards the city. Bonus! MLK Dr is closed to traffic weekends in the summer.
  • 5.2 Enjoy the path. Pass Belmont Stables to the right.
  • 7.2 Pedal again under the Girard Bridge, and you’ll notice that the path narrows considerably.
  • 8.1 Follow the path alongside Ben Franklin Pkwy. This section feels like a sidewalk.
  • 8.2 Cross Ben Franklin Pkwy at the stoplight to reenter Schuylkill Banks Park.
  • Trail map

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    13.226 km / 8.218 mi

    Total Distance

    168 m / 551 ft

    Total Ascent

    170 m / 559 ft

    Total Descent

    20 m / 64 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    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
    Trail Signage: Non Existant
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 8.2
    Elevation Gain: 56
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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