The 10 Best Area 1-Hour Hikes To Take With Your Dog This Fall

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The following article was compiled from the new book, THE 55 BEST PLACES TO HIKE WITH YOUR DOG IN THE PHILADELPHIA REGION by Doug Gelbert (Cruden Bay Books, 160 pages, $12.95), available in bookstores throughout the area.

Have you ever considered how far you walk with your dog? If you walk just 15 minutes a day you will have walked far enough in your dogÕs lifetime to cross the United States. And if you are like most dog owners, the cooler autumn months are the time to stretch those walks even longer. The Philadelphia region can be a great place to hike with your dog. Within an hour’s drive you can hike on sand trails, climb hills that leave you and the dog panting, walk on some of the most historic grounds in America, explore the estates of America’s wealthiest families or circle lakes for seven miles and never lose sight of the water. Yes, there are many great places to walk your dog around Philadelphia. But what if you only had one hour to walk one trail with your dog, where would you go? Here are some candidates for the perfect dog walking experience: The Batona Trail (Wharton State Forest, Burlington County). Jump onto the 49-mile wilderness trail through the Pine Barrens at Batsto Village and follow it to the Batona River, stained the color of tea by cedar sap before turning around. The hard-packed sand is a joy under paw and boot and the scenery is one-of-a-kind. The Darlington Trail (Wawa Preserve, Delaware County) This yellow-blazed, sporty trail rolls for 2.75 miles up and around the pretty Chester Creek Valley. To complete the loop you’ll cross old farm fields, meadows, mature woodlands and even a trolley line. The parking lot off Route 1 scarcely holds a half-dozen vehicles so you know there will be plenty of solitude on this trip. The Forbidden Drive (Fairmount Park, Philadelphia County). At seven miles, the Fairmount Park classic is too long to finish in the alloted time but there are several bridges across the Wissahickon Creek to shorten the journey. If you are out for a communal dogwalking experience this is the choice to join the pack. The Lorimer Preserve (Lorimer Preserve, Chester County) trails are an ideal spot for a walk of less than an hour. The short, interconnecting maze of trails offer a pleasing mix of field and wood. The walking is easy throughout with many flat streches, especially in the fields. The paths are almost all paw-pleasing grass and tucked into a hollow in the woods is the best stick-fetching pond in greater Philadelphia. The Nancy Long Trail (McKaig Nature Education Center, Montgomery County). The main trail at this small jewel of a park loops around a wooded hillside beside the Crow Creek, a tumbling, pleasing little brook. This trail is wide and well-maintained and a dogÕs favorite. The Nancy Long Trail is one of the best places to get an arboreal education while the dog is busy sniffing as many of the trees are marked for identification. The Penndel Trail (White Clay Creek Preserve, Chester County). This is a superb linear trail, three miles in length, that follows the east branch of the White Clay Creek, crosses the Middle Branch and continues along the main waterway. Flat for its entire length, you will want to pause often to contemplate the quiet beauty here. The Possum Hollow Trail (Middle Run Valley Natural Area, New Castle County). This pedestrian-only trail is the best choice to sample Middle RunÕs charms, an 850-acre oasis amidst housing subdivisions, shopping centers and busy roadways. You’ll find a rollercoaster walk that leads from towering stands of indigenous hardwoods along the creek bed to dramatic view from ridges above the valley. The River View Trail (Neshaminy State Park, Bucks County). There arenÕt many opportunities to walk the dog along the Delaware River near Philadelphia – this is the best. Still, an estuary environment at this point, freshwater and saltwater habitats mingle. After strolling through the fragrant Pine Plantation, youÕll even find several acres of sand dunes for the dog to romp. The Schuylkill River Trail (Valley Forge National Historic Park, Montgomery County). While the tourists are examining the log huts and statues in the main part of the park, slip across the Schuylkill River to find this 3-mile linear trail connecting the PawlingÕs Parking Area and the Betzwood Picnic Area. The shady dirt is wide and soft and there are plenty of great spots to stop for a doggie dip in the river. The Serpentine Trail (Nottingham County Park, Chester County). Early settlers called the region ÒbarrensÓ because sepentine rock, colored green by the mineral olivine, was so close to the surface that every shovel seemed to clank against it and no crops would grow here. The hiking through rare grasses and stunted pines is more akin to midwestern prairies than Eastern woodlands in this unique habitat. Be careful of that serpentine stone on your dogÕs paws – it sticks out like the serrated edges of a knife in places. This is the best time of year to hike with the dog…grab that leash and hit the trail! ###