Happy Labor Day! Matt and I have been enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend at home. We raced The Pickle Run on Thursday, hiked on Friday, went to TWO barbecues on Saturday and did lots of yard work on Sunday. At the moment we have nothing planned for today… that’s my favorite kind of day off! :-)
We also hosted a new 4-legged house guest at our home this weekend, my step-brother’s pup, Ganon. Friday was our first full day with Ganon so we took him hiking at Valley Forge National Park. Matt and I have done the 5 mile paved Plumb Martin loop at Valley Forge several times but since we had Ganon along we wanted to try some hiking trails instead. Every time we’ve done the paved loop we’ve seen a sign marking the turnoff for a pedestrian crossing over the (very wide) Schuylkill River. I’ve always been intrigued by the river crossing so on Friday we decided to give it a try.
We parked at the Visitor’s Center and followed the paved loop north for a short while before turning off the trail towards the Schuylkill River. From there we followed a road that dead-ended at what had been the old Betzwood Bridge (now just a precarious drop-off to the river!) before turning up a steep path to Highway 422. The “pedestrian crossing” was a rickety 3 foot wide cantilevered walkway that was tacked onto the side of a major highway bridge several stories about the river. Eek! Not quite the peaceful hike I was expecting, but still very exhilarating (or terrifying, depending on your perspective).
Despite some wobbly boards and lots of traffic whizzing by, we survived the bridge crossing and thankfully returned to ground level in the quieter, less tourist-y “north side” of Valley Forge. (Where, for the record, there’s a perfectly good parking lot… We’ll probably drive over the 422 bridge and park there next time!) I later read that ground has been broken for a brand new pedestrian/bike bridge that will be located at the site of the old Betzwood Bridge. We’ll try the crossing again in May 2016 when the new bridge is supposed to be completed!
Once we arrived on the northern bank of the Schuylkill, we walked along the paved Schuylkill River Trail for a few minutes before transitioning down to the less-traveled gravel River Trail. The River Trail hugged the river and offered gorgeous views of the water and woods. We hiked for about 3 miles before turning around to make the trek back, but the trails kept going and we could have extended the hike quite a bit if we had wanted to. There were a few spots where the path led right to the river which Ganon really liked. :-)
The north side of Valley Forge was really beautiful and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get away from the big crowds, tours, and reenactments that you’ll find on the more popular south side of the park. I think Ganon would recommend it too… he had fun and was completely exhausted afterwards!
Here’s a map of our 6.2 mile hike shown in red on the VFNP North Side trails map. You can view the official Park map on the NPS web site here: http://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/upload/northside-2012.pdf
Have a great Labor Day!