The Colorful Canopy: Fall In The Wissahickon


People been leaf peepers since the days of Lenni-Lenape | Photo: Bradley Maule

People been leaf peepers since the days of Lenni-Lenape | Photo: Bradley Maule

When I lived out west, what I missed most about living in Pennsylvania, without question, was the Northeast’s four seasons in excess—the oppressive heat and humidity of summer, the glut of winter snow, the pollenated rebirth of spring, and especially, the hillside hues of fall. After moving to Mt Airy, I’ve spent the past year wandering the many corners of Wissahickon Valley Park, (re)discovering its magic as so many have. But nothing comes close to the fall.

My obsession with the woods dates to my childhood in Tyrone, PA, but my most vivid woodland memories are sensory and unquestionably autumnal: riding with my mom to Indian Lookout to the serenade of Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home;” tasting the fresh pressed apple cider at Camp Blue Diamond with my grandparents; the cool, crisp smell of damp dead leaves everywhere.

My obsession with the Wissahickon dates back to July 2000, when on a weeklong visit to Philly from Tyrone, my friends Susan and Bekka took me on a hike to Devil’s Pool, where we watched kids jump from the rocks. I had to ask them a couple times if they were sure this was really the city of Philadelphia.

A postcard at every turn: Wissahickon Creek passing under the Bike Trail and Henry Avenue Bridges | Photo: Bradley Maule

A postcard at every turn: Wissahickon Creek passing under the Bike Trail and Henry Avenue Bridges | Photo: Bradley Maule

Nearly 15 years later, I sometimes still have to ask myself the same question. And sure enough, Friends of the Wissahickon’s estimate of 1.1 million annual visitors confirms that, yes, this is the fifth largest city in the country. And with that comes a need for constant care and maintenance—organized cleanups and work parties to plant trees and build and maintain trails. All of the above will take place tomorrow for the Love Your Park fall service day. Volunteers are welcome at parks all across the city—check the map for your local outlet and lend a hand.

And when you’re done, make sure to take a deep breath of that cool, November air and soak in what’s left of Pennsylvania’s exquisite autumn display.

* * *

Wissahickon Creek begins its 23-mile journey to the Schuylkill River unceremoniously as an outfall near the Montgomery Mall parking lot. From North Wales Township, it passes through places like Gwynedd Preserve, the borough of Ambler, Fort Washington State Park, and the Whitemarsh Country Club, where it reaches Philadelphia at Northwestern Avenue.

The photos below, taken through October and early November, begin here and follow the Wissahickon’s final seven miles through the city of Philadelphia. They’re arranged geographically from north to south—from Morris Arboretum and Chestnut Hill College to Lincoln Drive and the Schuylkill River. Use your right and left arrow keys to move forward and back.

* * *

As we arrive at Devil’s Pool, the most popular and geologically significant place in the entire park, let’s veer off of the main stem of Wissahickon Creek and follow Cresheim Creek—the Wissahickon’s biggest tributary—upstream. Thanks to the efforts and advocacy of the Friends of the Cresheim Trail, the Wissahickon’s trail network has added a brand new segment, extending the two-year-old Cresheim Trail to Germantown Avenue. Eventually, it will continue along the former right-of-way of the Fort Washington Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Chestnut Hill (West) line all the way to Fort Washington State Park and Arcadia University.

* * *

Now we’re back at Devil’s Pool—the mouth of the Cresheim Creek—to ride the Wissahickon Creek all the way to its conclusion, the confluence of the Schuylkill River.


If you like what you see in the video, click HERE to donate to Hidden City’s fall campaign.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.


  1. Beautiful pictures…..thank you very much.

  2. Brad, amazing work. I don’t often get to wander through the Wissahickon, so these beautiful photos are certainly a great reminder of Philly’s amazing natural beauty and resources. There’s nothing quite like Philly in the fall.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Mr Maule, these are photographs of astonishing beauty. Thank you.

  4. Thanks all – most appreciated!

  5. Great pics!

    When do you think is the best time to visit the park for fall foliage? Late october or early November?

    • I’d say you can’t go wrong in that whole timeframe, but to narrow it down a bit, in this part of the country, I’d say the last week of October/first week of November is usually best. That was definitely the case this year.

  6. Nice tour. Thanks.

    Several years ago, over a 2-3 week period, I hiked the full length, both sides from Northwestern to the Schuylkill. It is a Philly treasure.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Behind The Publicity Stunt At Benjamin Franklin's Grave

Behind The Publicity Stunt At Benjamin Franklin’s Grave

April 19, 2017  |  Vantage

Nearly 70 years after Benjamin Franklin’s death, public outcry demanding honor for the Founding Father transformed a battered, overgrown gravesite into a popular tourist destination. But the real story isn't at all what we've been told. Join Mark Dixon as he uncovers truth and public deception behind the hole in the wall at Benjamin Franklin's grave > more

A Powerhouse Of Footwork And Fitness On Delaware Ave

A Powerhouse Of Footwork And Fitness On Delaware Ave

April 18, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

On the outskirts of Fishtown, a dance club and rock climbing gym keep spirits high inside an old 19th century trolley car power station > more

Engineering & Architecture Ride The Rails At Athenaeum

Engineering & Architecture Ride The Rails At Athenaeum

April 15, 2017  |  Vantage

An exhibition at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia illuminates the history of railroad architecture through drawings, photographs, and more. Michael Bixler has the review > more

Ghost Station At Art Museum Rises From The Dead

Ghost Station At Art Museum Rises From The Dead

April 13, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. walks us through the origins of the mothballed "Art Museum Station," now being renovated at the PMA, and one man's visionary plan for mass transit in Philly that never came to be > more

North Broad Rising

North Broad Rising

April 11, 2017  |  Vantage

Lights on, graffiti gone. The revamped Lorraine is once again looking divine. Will the rest of North Broad follow her lead? Bradley Maule takes a look > more

La Salle University Preps Victorian Home For Wrecking Ball

La Salle University Preps Victorian Home For Wrecking Ball

April 5, 2017  |  News

More demolition for campus expansion in the works at La Salle University. Contributor Arielle Harris has the story > more