Celebrate Trails Day (formerly Opening Day for Trails) is an annual spring celebration of America’s trails hosted on the fourth Saturday of April each year. The celebration encourages people of all ages and places to get outside and enjoy our nation’s great trails and trail systems. In fact, Chester County has an exceptional list of trail options – and while some of these trails are known to many, we’ve compiled a list of “Top 5 Best Kept Secrets” in Chester County for you to check out this Celebrate Trails Day!
#5 – Tree Trail- Gordon Natural Area
Established in 1971, this 126-acre wooded preserve is a haven for local wildlife and native plants, and serves as a multi-use setting for researchers, nature lovers, runners, dog walkers, and people looking to reconnect with the natural world in the heart of West Chester. “The Gordon” has a number of hiking trails on either side of a steep, paved trail (a closed road) that bisects the property. Test your tree identification skills on the Tree Trail, the first trail on the left off of the main path.
#4 – Buck Trail- Nottingham County Park
Dedicated in 1963, Nottingham County Park was Chester County’s first park and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. At its heart lies a vast Serpentine Barren of sprawling grasslands whose geology gives it a unique character rarely found on Earth. From Native American encampments, to industrial mining operations, to hideouts for infamous gangsters these gently-rolling hills have lifetimes of stories to tell. Buck Trail will give you the best vantage points of this amazing landscape and a great workout to boot. The longest in the park, the Buck Trail will provide you a window to all the ecological diversity to be found in Nottingham County Park.
#3 – Uplands Loop Trail- Great Marsh Preserve
3 mile loop
French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust’s Great Marsh Preserve opened within the last year and is still a bit of a secret. This 500+ acre preserve of interior woodland is situated uphill of the Great Marsh and is important for providing clean water to the marsh ecosystem. The loop trail is the only trail in the preserve, so if you follow the white blazes you can’t get lost! This wide trail is steep and rocky in places, but scenic and peaceful. Keep an eye out for spring ephemerals and a wide variety of bird species.
#2 – Wolf’s Hollow Drive Trail – Wolf’s Hollow Park
Chester County’s newest park, Wolf’s Hollow County Park, is also its best kept secret. Over 560-acres of meadows and deciduous forest await you as you begin your journey above the old damn ruins. Many visitors choose the beautiful, paved Wolf’s Hollow Drive trail winding leisurely beneath the sugar maples. On this route you will experience some of the most breath-taking vistas the park has to offer. The most dedicated individuals may even make it to the Charcoal Trail and get a glimpse of centuries past at the stone ruins and charcoal hearths scattered about the northern slopes.
#1 – South Loop Trail- Bondsville Mill
Bondsville Mill Park is a gem of central Chester County for nature lovers and history buffs alike. This 19th century mill property is being restored to offer interpretation of the evolution of manufacturing technology in the area. The park and trails are planted with native plants, and the trails offer interesting features around every corner. The South Loop Trail is especially scenic this time of year with stands of lush skunk cabbage lining the banks of the Beaver Creek. Keep an eye out for spring ephemerals like trout lily and spring beauty. The trail is rocky and steep in places but overall relatively easy.
Thanks to Chester County Park Ranger, Emmett Henry for his photos and descriptions of Wolf’s Hollow and Nottingham County Park.