National Parks Near Philadelphia. There’s so much more to the City of Brotherly Love than the Liberty Bell.
As one who has traveled this country in search of amazing places, I’m quite familiar with the “Cradle of Liberty.” In this article, I’ll familiarize you with the incredible national parks that are within a day’s drive of downtown Philadelphia.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks. (More on that below)
Before you travel to Philadelphia, you might want to pick up Fodor’s Guide.
Now let’s go ahead with 7 reasons why you’ll want to hop in your car and make a day’s drive from Philadelphia to one of these truly amazing places.
Best National Parks Near Philadelphia
1. Appalachian National Historic Trail
Distance From Philadelphia: The distance between Philadelphia and the Appalachian Mountains is 173.1 miles.
Need a good stretch of the legs? Check out the longest hiking trail in the world. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a marked hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Just how long a hike is that? Approximately 2,200 miles. You don’t have to do it all however.
The trail was built by private citizens and completed in 1937. It is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.
It’s a truly magnificent hiking trail traversing the scenic, wooded, pastoral and wild lands of the Appalachian Mountains.
The original concept for the Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye. MacKaye was a forester, planner and social reformer who wrote a 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects first proposing it. In MacKaye’s original vision, the Appalachian Trail would put back together the various parts of American life that were rapidly coming undone in the early 20th century.
You’re Never Too Old Or Young To Hike The Appalachian Trail
Think you’re too old for the Appalachian Trail? Think again! M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart strode into the record books as the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. Eberhart is an 83 year old from Alabama who is best known for by his trail name Nimblewill Nomad.
At the other end of the age spectrum, we have five-year old Harvey Sutton who completed the Appalachian Trail over the summer. Nimblewill and Harvey prove that you’re never too old or young to complete this amazing trek.
2. Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site
Distance From Philadelphia: Nine minutes (1.6 miles) via N. Broad Street.
Located about a mile from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site celebrates the life and legacy of one of America’s most gifted authors.
Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy is one of the most famous writers and literary critics the world has ever seen. He penned eternal classics like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and The Telltale Heart. And he is credited as the “architect of the modern short story.”
Visitors can tour his home which includes images and exhibits that give you a sense of who he was and how he transformed the literary world.
3. Eisenhower National Historic Site
Distance From Philadelphia: Two hours 32 minutes (146 miles) via I-76 W.
The grounds of the Eisenhower National Historic Site are open for self-guided tours. Visitors can enjoy the same landscape and scenic views which led Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower to purchase their Gettysburg farm.
As the Commanding General of the victorious Allied Powers in World War Two, Dwight D. Eisenhower led the largest amphibious assault in history which is credited with helping to defeat Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
As President of the United States, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and sent Army troops to enforce federal court orders which integrated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. His largest program was the Interstate Highway System.
He promoted the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act .
You can tour Eisehnhower’s farm and surrounding area.
4. Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Distance From Philadelphia: Four hours 50 minutes (291 miles) via I-95 S & I-70 W.
At the Fort Necessity/National Road Interpretive and Education Center visitors learn about in the diverse cultures and customs of mid-eighteenth century Pennsylvania.
First a little historical background. The Battle at Fort Necessity in the summer of 1754 was the opening action of the French and Indian War. This war was a clash of British, French and American Indian cultures. It ended with the removal of French power from North America.
With the British victory over the French, the stage was set for the American Revolution.
While you’re there you should check out the wonderful bookstore & gift-shop which provides a selection of theme related souvenirs and in-depth material for those who want to learn more after visiting the park.
Exhibits cover the National Road, the first federally funded highway, that linked the east and west of the young United States. Visitors can also see the grave of British General Edward Braddock who died from a mortal wound he received there.
5. Gettysburg National Military Park
Distance From Philadelphia: Two hours 26 minutes (142 miles) via I-76 W.
As a retired history teacher, I can tell you that the Battle of Gettysburg is arguably the most important battle fought during the American Civil War. Coupled with the Union’s simultaneous victory at Vicksburg, it would prove to be the turning point of this tumultuous conflict.
The battle was part of Robert E. Lee’s plan to invade the North and win European recognition for the Confederate States of America. Had the plan succeeded to its greatest extent, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia might have surrounded, or even conquered, the nation’s capital. The federal government could have been disabled, and high government officials, including even President Abraham Lincoln might have been captured.
The collision of two great armies at Gettysburg put an end to Lee’s audacious plan. After three days of intense fighting, he was forced to withdraw and lead his badly battered army back through western Maryland and into Virginia.
Things To Do At Gettysburg
I would recommend beginning your tour at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center. Here you will learn how to visit the park and what to see around Gettysburg.
There is so much to see and do including the following:
- Battlewalk & Campfire Programs: These are led by park rangers who provide visitors with an in-depth program on the people and places that shaped this historic battle.
- Living History Programs: Every weekend from April to October, Civil War living historians will be encamped on the Gettysburg battlefield. Visitors can explore their camps, interact with these knowledgeable historians, and witness as they demonstrate the tools, tactics, and firepower of the two armies that waged war across these now hallowed fields.
- Dedication Day Special Events: These events take place on November 19th. This date marks the dedication of the National Military Cemetery at Gettysburg.
- See The Cyclorama: The “Battle of Gettysburg” Cyclorama at Gettysburg National Military Park is one that has survived. This fantastic painting brings the fury of the final Confederate assault on July 3, 1863 to life, providing the viewer with a sense of what occurred at the battle long touted as the turning point of the Civil War. (Source: NPS)
6. Independence National Historical Par
Distance From Philadelphia: Seventeen minutes (12 miles) via I-95 N.
I just got goose bumps thinking about the momentous history that happened here. As the National Park Service notes, Independence Hall National Historical Park represents the founding ideals of the nation, and preserves national and international symbols of freedom and democracy, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Entrance is by tour only. Admission is first-come, first-served for the remainder of February. Timed entry tickets required from March through December. There is a 1.00 per ticket handling fee for reserved tickets.
For Anyone Who Loves History There’s No Place Quite Like It
For anyone who loves history (and even for those folks who don’t) this is one of the most exciting historical tours. At Independence Hall, visitors learn the stories about the people and events which shaped America.
There’s an old saying that goes, “If this place could only talk.” Well, at Independence Hall, it can talk as the stories come to life about the unique history of a very special place which brought together an amazing group of men who produced not one, but two of the most important documents in the history of the world.
7. Valley Forge National Historical Park
Distance From Philadelphia: Thirty eight minutes (32 miles) via I-476 N.
On December 19th, 1777, 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children marched into Valley Forge and began to build what essentially became the fourth largest city in the colonies at the time, with 1,500 log huts and two miles of fortifications.
It was where the American Continental Army made camp during the winter of 1777-1778. It was here that the American forces became a true fighting unit. Valley Forge is often called the birthplace of the American Army.
I recommend beginning your adventure at the Valley Forge Visitor Center. There’s a wonderful museum exhibit where you’ll learn about how men, women, and children from many different walks of life all struggled together during the winter of 1777-78, and how they ultimately overcame so many hardships in order to march away from Valley Forge a stronger, more unified fighting force.
You can also tour the Encampment Route. It’s a 10-mile driving loop comprised of 9 major tour stops plus additional opportunities to stop and explore Valley Forge. The route features some of the most scenic views of the park as well as many of the historic sites and monuments.
Map Of National Park Sites Near Philadelphia
List Of National Parks Near Philadelphia
- Appalachian National Historic Trail
- Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site
- Eisenhower National Historic Site
- Fort Necessity National Battlefield
- Gettysburg National Military Park
- Independence National Historical Park
- Valley Forge National Historical Park
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century.
Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues.
Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
Helpful Related Articles
To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
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Civil War Sites: 10 Important Civil War Sites in America