John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA
Hours:Grounds open sunrise to sunset daily; visitor center open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fee: Free
Contact:, 215-365-3118

Bathrooms: In visitor center (when open)
Water/Snacks: Water fountain in visitor center (when open)
Map: (click on About the Refuge)

Walk or bike, fish or paddle, and follow easy trails surrounded by peaceful tidal marsh.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
Photo by: Courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife

The refuge is a great place to walk, bike, or fish. Start at the education center, which features fascinating exhibits, including one on tidal marsh wildlife: a life-size, eye-level cross-section diorama that reveals what’s under all that mud and water. The refuge contains 200 acres of freshwater tidal marsh, the largest remaining in Pennsylvania. It is an important habitat for many species of birds, amphibians, fish, and other wildlife.

Trails lead from the visitor center out to the impoundment—a huge freshwater pond. The long pedestrian bridge over the pond provides great views of the pond and the many ducks, herons, and other birds that are attracted to it; there are often expert birders hanging out on the bridge who are only too happy to share with kids the fun of looking at birds through binoculars. You can follow the trail all the way around the pond (about 3 miles), turn back to head into the woods, or go past the observation deck to follow the paths out across the tidal marsh. Ten miles of trails are on the property, and they’re all level. Bikes are permitted on most trails. The pedestrian bridge and Impoundment Trail are stroller-friendly, and a 0.6-mile, wheelchair- and stroller-accessible Nature Trail begins at the visitor center and leads to an accessible fishing pier.

Kids can fish in designated areas in the refuge, and a handicap-accessible fishing dock is just across the bridge. Visit for fishing information and regulations. Paddling is also permitted in designated areas, including a launch on Darby Creek just north of the visitor center. The creek flows through the marsh. Don’t attempt to paddle without checking the tide tables though. The creek is navigable only within two hours before and after high tide. See the refuge’s website for more information.

The refuge sponsors many walks and programs for families, such as wildflower walks and nature story times. Call ahead for details.

Remember: Bikes are not allowed on woodland trails or the boardwalk north of the impoundment. Dogs must be leashed.

Plan B:

Watch the planes take off and land. Or, if you are in a car, head to Ridley Creek State Park for more hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities, along with a playground and picnicking.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It’s best to bring snacks.


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