Hiking Tips and Recommendations Around Philadelphia, PA

Hawk_Mountain_Sanctuary,_PA_-_North_Lookout

Hiking is a great way to get exercise while enjoying the great weather and feeling very accomplished by the end! Here are some tips for better body mechanics during hiking, how to more efficiently carry a pack, and some of our favorite hiking spots all within 2 hours of Center City, Philadelphia.

Proper body mechanics:

– Find your neutral spine standing posture

            • Sternum (breast bone) is stacked directly over pubic bone
            • Pelvis with slight curve in low back—not flat, but not over arched either
            • Feet are facing forward as best you can
            • Weight is in your midfoot—not all shifted onto heel or ball of the foot
            • Grow tall through the crown of your head—as if someone is pulling you up from a ponytail

– Work on maintaining your neutral spine standing posture while rocking forward on toes and back on heels as an exercise

– As you are hiking, attempt to keep this neutral position the whole time

            • When moving uphill, your weight will pitch forward. Pitch your bodyweight forward from the ankle, not bent over at the waist
            • When moving downhill, your weight will want to pitch backward. However, you want to keep your bodyweight over the feet with very little pitch. Do not lean backwards with hips forward. Keep the knees soft and use a smaller step length with very steep terrain.

How to more efficiently carry a hiking backpack:

  • Keep the pack weight close to your back—anything heavy, such as water, should be closest to your back.
  • Lift by bending your knees, not your back
  • When lifting your pack, keep it close to your body
  • Engage your core—bring your belly button toward your spine to support your low back
  • Keep your pack higher on your back instead of wearing it low around the waist
  • Keep things loose—remember to bring your shoulders down, stretch your calves, and do shoulder rolls at stops. Keep your knees soft and not locked.
  • Don’t hunch forward – try to find a sweet spot where your pack isn’t pulling you backwards and you don’t have to hunch forward to carry it.

Great hiking spots within 2 hours of Philadelphia:

– Tammany – Delaware Water Gap (Knowlton Township, NJ)

  • Beautiful summit views of the Delaware Water Gap and Delaware River

– Minsi – Delaware Water Gap (Delaware Water Gap, PA)

  • PA side of the gap with views of Mt. Tammany

– Glen Onoko Falls (Jim Thorpe, PA)

  • Waterfalls galore, a difficult hike

– Hawk Mountain (Kempton, PA) 

  • Lookout trail is most popular with a rocky overlook (pictured in the blog image)

– The Pinnacle (Windsor, PA)

  • Seen from Hawk Mountain and sits along Appalachian trail, very rocky

– High Rocks Trail in Ralph Stover State Park (Pipersville, PA)

  • High Rocks Vista with cliffs over Tohickon Creek

– Valley Forge National Historical Park (King of Prussia, PA)

  • 20 miles of hiking trails with historical sites, an easier hike

– Wissahickon Valley Park (Philadelphia, PA)

  • 50 trails with tranquil trees, an easier hike

– Ridley Creek State Park (Media, PA)

  • 13 miles of hiking trails, similar to Wissahickon, an easier hike

– John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (Philadelphia, PA)

  • 10 miles of flat trails around the marshes of the Delaware River, an easier hike

– Wharton State Forest (Hammonton, NJ)

  • Home to famous 50-mile Batona Trail, part of NJ Pine Barrens

If you have any questions or concerns about your hiking this season, please contact the experienced physical therapists at Rebalance Physical Therapy! We can assess and help you improve your hiking body mechanics and optimize a training program to better prepare you for hiking.

Written by Elayne Geba, PT, DPT, WCS

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