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Unveiling Chester County’s Nature Treasures and Trails

September 5, 2023

There are so many things to love about being outdoors – natural vitamin D, stress reduction, and ease of exercise. Fresh air helps regulate sleep and boosts immunity. As we embrace the numerous advantages of spending time in the great outdoors, it’s clear that nature holds the key to well-being. Luckily, our Chester County landscape offers no shortage of possibilities for outdoor exploration and wellness for young and old. So many nature preserves and trails are no more than a hop, skip, and jump away from West Chester’s town center that getting outdoors and appreciating nature has never been easier! No matter how near or far you wander, our area abounds with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Which one is calling your name?

Natural Lands

Natural Lands is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving open space, caring for its plant and animal inhabitants, and connecting people to nature. Approximately five million individuals reside within a five-mile radius of one of their twenty preserved lands. West Chester residents are fortunate to be among those five million!

Sprawling over 500 acres on the outskirts of West Chester, Natural Lands’ Stroud Preserve offers natural trails to fit a wide range of abilities. You won’t have to walk far from the parking lot to pick up the Purple Loop. This is easy and relatively flat. The .8-mile loop meanders through open grassland and offers views of the Brandywine River. Take a moment to appreciate the ecological significance of the land; in his will, Dr. Morris Stroud stipulated that the preserve be permanently available for scientists at the Stroud Water Research Center to study ways to protect rivers and streams naturally.

Chester Valley Trail

With trailheads in a number of locations throughout the county, Chester Valley Trail doesn’t get any more convenient. This paved trail sits where a railroad once was, meaning—you guessed it—it’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible, straight, and flat. Here, you’ll find other walkers, joggers, cyclists, and motorized wheelchair users. The trail is also patrolled by Chester County Park rangers, offering a sense of security to those walking solo. You might want to park at the East Whiteland Township building for a shaded section of the trail and a chance to delve into history. Numerous spots along the trail intersect with the movements of General Washington’s Continental Army and the troops of British General Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. The Exton Park trailhead has significantly more sun but is closer to West Chester and conveniently offers public restrooms at its trail entrance.

WalkWorks

Within just a block or two from The Hickman’s front door, you can enjoy West Chester’s very own downtown walking trail, part of an initiative between the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center called WalkWorks. This 2.4-mile route takes you through downtown West Chester, stopping at various points of historical and cultural interest along the way. You can go on this urban walking route at your own pace, perhaps even make an afternoon of it by stopping for a coffee or browsing a boutique. You’ll also find WalkWorks trails in Coatesville, Kennett Square, and Phoenixville—collectively part of Chester County’s commitment to providing widespread access to physical activity and improving the health of its residents.

With more comfortable temperatures on the horizon, now is the perfect time to lace up those sneakers and reap the benefits of being outdoors. West Chester is brimming with walking trails that suit various preferences and abilities—which one will you explore first?