The beautiful scenery of the Brandywine Valley region lends itself to hiking and other outdoor activities. Wilmington’s numerous public parks are a testament to the lush nature of the area, as are the city’s nearby hiking trails. The Northern Delaware Greenway Trail, the Swamp Forest Trail, and the Jack A. Marckell Trail are all nearby trails that anyone—from casual visitors to hiking enthusiasts—will enjoy.
The Northern Delaware Greenway Trail is the longest off-road trail in the state, with a length of 10.4 miles. It was created in the early 1990s as part of a conservation effort in northern Wilmington; now, it connects many of the city’s parks. The trail runs from east to west, and begins at Bellevue State Park, a 328-acre former du Pont family estate, then winds to Alapocas Run State Park, a wooded green area in the middle of Wilmington. In Alapocas, visitors can find additional trails, as well as opportunities to rock climb and to visit Blue Ball Barn, home to the Delaware Folk Art Collection.
A little further along, the trail runs by Brandywine Creek, Wilmington’s lifeblood. It also takes visitors past the Brandywine Zoo. Other parks along the Greenway Trail include Rockwood County Park and Bringhurst Woods Park, each with their own history and unique atmosphere. At the western end of the trail, it turns into the Brandywine Creek Path, which goes all the way to the heart of Wilmington. Hiking the 10.4 miles of the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail is a great way to explore the natural beauty of the Brandywine Valley region, and to get a taste of Wilmington’s urban environment.
A little further from Wilmington is the Swamp Forest Trail, which is accessible through Lums Pond State Park. The park, about a 20 minute drive from downtown Wilmington, totals 1,790 acres, and is built around the largest pond in the state. As the name suggests, the trail takes hikers through the wetland forests in the park, with many bridge and boardwalk sections. Most of the rest of the trail is made of packed dirt and gravel, and it is also suitable for biking. The entire trail measures about 6.4 miles, with gorgeous views of the freshwater pond and the park’s woodlands.
Last but not least is the Jack A. Marckell Trail, which is the most urban of these three trails. This trail spans about 5.5 miles, and connects the famous Wilmington Riverwalk to the Battery Park Trail in the south. The Marckell Trail begins at the Du Pont Environmental Education Center, a wildlife preserve and educational institution along the Christina River. It then winds through the wildlife refuge next to the Environmental Education Center on an elevated boardwalk.
The trail then winds south through Young Street Park to the Battery Park Trail, a paved walkway along the Delaware River. The city is also currently building new connections off of the Marckell Trail, which will further connect it to the East Coast Greenway, an ambitious series of trails that span from Maine to Florida. Currently, though, the Marckell Trail offers incredible views of the riverfront and of the city center, making it perfect for more casual hikers.