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Biking Philly

Story and photos by Steve Giordano

Scene on the ride to Valley Forge along the Manayunki Canal. Photo by Steve Giordano

The Liberty Bell, an international icon for freedom, hangs in its own pavilion within eyesight of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

In 1976, when the Academy Award-winning film Rocky debuted, Philadelphia's skyline was nearly non-existent. Today, the city skyline (pictured here) is filled, thanks to a building boom that occurred after 1987, when a height restriction for Philadelphia buildings was lifted. Prior to that time, architects agreed that no Center City structure would climb higher than the statue of William Penn atop City Hall.
Liberty Bell Center Photo by K. Ciappa for GPTMC
Photo by C. Barrington for GPTMC



It's hard - but fun - to get lost in Philadelphia. Center City is a grid that was laid out in 1682 between two rivers - the Delaware and the Schuylkill.

A young visitor to Philadelphia imitates film legend Rocky Balboa after successfully running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just as the struggling boxer did in the Academy Award-winning film.
Photo by T. Leonardi for GPTMC

Philadelphia (www.gophila.com) is full of personality, visible through 2,500 murals, street vendors, elaborate architecture, quaint alleys and popular residential neighborhoods. Bike lanes throughout much of the city let you explore all the distinct neighborhoods on a mural tour, while Kelly Drive and Fairmount Park are a good entrée into scenic biking the surrounding countryside, including Montgomery County's Perkiomen Trail. For mountain bikers, there is a wealth of trails, including Wissahickon Gorge, right in the city.

Getting started on the 22-mile trail to Valley Forge from Philadelphia. Photo by Steve Giordano

As the "Cradle of Liberty" and a hub for early American innovation, Philadelphia has a lot of bragging rights. The first Continental Congress was held here, and Valley Forge is just half an hour's drive from downtown.

Photo by Steve Giordano

But we're biking it, 22 miles along the basically flat Schuylkill River Trail to 3,600-acre Valley Forge National Park. It's an easy, flat ride from the Philadelphia Art Museum and Boat House Row, through Manayunk, along the Schuylkill River, and on out to Valley Forge National Historical Park.


Bike and Moped tours of Philadelphia (http://www.philadelphiabiketour.com/) is the only company in Philadelphia with guided bicycle and moped tours. Their motto is "We are Pedaling History." Custom tours (minimum 4 persons per group) include Eastern State Penitentiary, Fairmount Park Zoo, Independence Seaport Museum, Battleship New Jersey, Fairmount Park and Valley Forge.

The Philadelphia Art Museum with Boat House Row behind. Photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC


Riders head toward Valley Forge along the Manayunk Canal, part of the Schuylkill River. Photo by Steve Giordano
The Manayunk Canal Towpath is an important link for the Schuylkill RiverTrail, which connects Center City Philadelphia to Valley Forge NationalHistorical Park. Photo by Steve Giordano

Within Valley Forge Park itself, there are six miles of paved trails. You can also continue cycling out the 22-mile Perkiomen Trail to Green Lane Park.

TheNational Memorial Arch at Valley Forge National Historical Park honors the Revolutionary War soldiers who endured the brutal winter of 1777,when General George Washington and his troops made the area itsheadquarters. In addition to its significance as a Revolutionary War site, the3,600-acre Valley Forge National Historical Park offers a great spot for biking and other outdoor activities.
Valley Forge National Historical Park Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC

On weekends, bike rentals are available at several locations. On the Perkiomen Trail, at Bikesport Bike & Fitness, 325 West Main Street, Collegeville, PA 215-256-6613. On Boat House Row, at Drive Sports, 1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA, 215-232-7368.

Maps and a printable brochure of the Perkiomen and Schuylkill River Trails are available at www.montcopa.org/parks.

The focal point of Valley Forge attractions is the 3,600-acre Valley Forge National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/vafo and www.valleyforge.org). It was here that General George Washington forged his Continental Army into a fighting force, during the difficult winter encampment of 1777-78.


Of all places associated with America's War for Independence, none conveys the suffering, sacrifice and ultimate triumph more than Valley Forge. No battles were fought, no bayonet charges or artillery bombardments took place.

Nonetheless, some 2,000 soldiers died - more Americans than were killed at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined. Valley Forge is the story of an army's epic struggle to survive against terrible odds, hunger, disease and the unrelenting forces of nature.

Valley Forge National Historical Park Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC

Today, the park is a lush, 3,600-acre expanse of rolling hillsides dotted with flowering dogwood trees. Washington's original stone headquarters has been restored and furnished; log huts have been reconstructed; and statues and monuments throughout the park remind visitors of our national heritage.

Philadelphia is located 90-minutes from New York City, 2½ hours from Washington D.C. and 45 minutes from Atlantic City. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-76, I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike allow convenient access nationwide. Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is a major hub for Amtrak as well.

Well, if biking seems too tough, there is an alternative...photo by G.Widman for GPTMC

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