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An 8-mile multi-use path is all that separates the potholed streets and tired row houses that surround Center City Philadelphia and the front step of the Wissahickon valley. Within minutes of dodging bumpers and gutters belching steam a rider can be bombing meticulously maintained singletrack in the nation’s oldest municipal park. Situated northwest of downtown, the Wissahickon valley was acquired by the city of Philadelphia in 1868 for use as a public space. The fast moving waters of the creek had sustained mills and industry prompting the city to take control of the creek in order to preserve quality of the water as it flowed into the city below.

Soon after the acquisition the buildings were demolished, the taverns taken down and 140 years later those efforts have left undeveloped woodlands within the major metropolitan city. Artists have long reflected on the gorge’s beauty, including a group of self proclaimed mystics who settled into the valley walls in preparation for the expected end of the world in 1694. The end never came. Today, some foundations remain, bridges and dams too, but all have faded softly into the landscape as if there were built generations before solely for the purpose of making the valley more conducive to mountain biking.

A road running creek side was converted to a crushed gravel path after motor traffic was forbidden sometime in the 1920’s. “Forbidden Road” serves as the main artery for the 15 mile singletrack loop that tucks high on the valley walls. The path provides multiple access points to the loop and is a fast and rolling stomp for cyclocross riders. It crosses the creek several times as it rolls up the gorge from the confluence with the Schuylkill River.

On the first official day of Fall I went to rediscover the park and it’s after summer beauty. The entire Northeast had sweltered through an epic summer but the end was in

Princeton Tec