Norristown Farm Park

Cycle Philadelphia, Sightseeing & Kids Ride, Norristown Farm Park

There are eight miles of jumbled trails traversing Norristown Farm Park’s 690 acres, a stunning backdrop for getting turned about in a hodgepodge of trails. The bridges and rolling hills make for an interesting bike ride through the farm park, as does the unusual setting – it is a working farm (450 acres are still tilled every year) next to a mental health facility, Norristown State Hospital, in the middle of a fairly urban area. Until 1975, patients at the hospital worked on the farm as it was believed to improve recovery.

There are old railroad tracks, a cemetery, boarded historical buildings (that look less inviting than even Norristown State) next to creeks, ponds and a trout nursery, 263 species of wildflowers and 73 species of birds. You’ll start out at the Whitehall Road parking lot, simply because it is the easiest to find. You’ll arrive at intersection after intersection of trails, some with decent signage (the first turn towards the dairy barn, for example, is well marked), and some where there’s no way to tell whether you are on a path, a trail, or a road. There are also a lot of surprising dead ends!

The park office is near the dairy barn, as is an additional parking lot. If you start out here, then simply pick up the ride log at mile 1.2. You can acquire a fairly confusing map of the farm park, published by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, at the park office or at the Whitehall trail head. The Doctors House at mile 2.3 and the Happy Hollow Cottage a mile 3.9 would play perfect host as spooky haunted houses. There is an on-road connector to the Schuylkill River Trail at Stainbridge Road that connects to Haws Avenue and takes you through Norristown. 

Terrain

You’ll be riding on a paved path that goes up and down, and up, and up and down again. Some portions might benefit from a bit of resurfacing.

Traffic

The usual bike/ped crowd will accompany you through the farm park, though it is less traveled than some of the other bike paths in the area. I also think there are a lot of ghosts roaming the land.

Access

From the Norristown Transportation Center, take Farm Park Route A (Haws Avenue/Stanbridge Street) just off of the Schuylkill River Trail. If you’re not keen on riding through Norristown, then your best bet is to drive and park at the Whitehall Road parking lot.

Food and Drink

BYOP - Bring Your Own Picnic!

Side Trip

Did you know there was a zoo in Norristown? Me neither! The Elmwood Zoo, located nearby at 1661 Harding Boulevard, has sat on this corner since 1924. There are exhibits on wetlands, woodlands, and bayou, among others. They also offer the popular Zoosnooze (a terrifically named sleepover!) in the summer.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start out at the Whitehall Rd parking lot and make a left on the path.
  • 0.6 When you reach the bottom of the hill, make a left at the stop sign. Follow arrows towards the dairy barn.
  • 0.7 After the bridge, bear left to pick up the small path that runs alongside Upper Farm Rd. Take the path into the woods. Lots of inviting picnic areas here!
  • 1.0 Follow the path as it winds to the right.
  • 1.2 Pass the dairy barn to your right and continue straight.
  • 1.4 Follow the trail down the hill and make a hairpin turn. Cross Upper Farm Rd and enter the path that is closed to motor vehicles (you’ll know by the many Do Not Enter signs!).
  • 1.6 Cross the Meadow Bridge over Stony Creek (yes, those are the actual names). Follow the path to the right.
  • 1.8 Make a left over the railroad tracks and another quick left. Make a right to head up the hill on the path.
  • 2.1 Pass the Norris City Cemetery to the left, zoom down the hill.
  • 2.2 Make a sharp right at the T in the path.
  • 2.4 Make another right at the fork (if you hit a creek you’ve gone too far).
  • 2.7 Come to a bridge that, at the time of writing, lies in wait to be repaired. Make one more right!
  • 3.0 Cross the railroad tracks again, then make a left back onto the path. Follow this path for ways.
  • 3.5 Cross the Stanbridge St Bridge (connector to the Schuylkill River Trail is to your left, if interested). Make a right on Stony Creek Rd.
  • 3.7 Pedal through the foot/bicycle traffic entrance. Continue straight.
  • 4.0 Come to this familiar junction and make a left back on Upper Farm Rd. 4.3 At the top of the hill, make a right to go around the old barn. Follow the path with an immediate left. Cruise down the hill ahead.
  • 4.9 Follow the path to the right. You’ll be perched on the corner of Sterigere St and Whitehall Rd.
  • 5.4 Back at the start!
  • Trail map

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    8.667 km / 5.385 mi

    Total Distance

    132 m / 432 ft

    Total Ascent

    131 m / 431 ft

    Total Descent

    78 m / 255 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    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: Poor
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 5.4
    Elevation Gain: 265
    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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