First State National Park and Brandywine Creek State Park
Length: 0.4 miles to 2.9 miles, depending on the trail
Great for: Cycling, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding
Straddling the line between Delaware and Pennsylvania, Beaver Valley is known as “the Valley” by locals who walk or bike its trails. “I ride my horse, and my husband often walks or runs through Beaver Valley, behind Hy-Point Dairy, through the national park, and along the Brandywine River,” says Lindsay Lowry of Wilmington. “So many awesome trails.”
In Delaware, Beaver Valley is linked to William Poole Bancroft, founder of Woodlawn Trustees, who in 1906 purchased 1,100 acres to preserve as a getaway spot for Wilmington residents. In 2013, the land was donated to the National Park Service. It’s now part of the First State National Historical Park, which meets Brandywine Creek State Park to create a happy maze of trails. It is also home to some of the state’s most challenging trails. “There are some long ones with some steep uphills, if you choose,” Dennett says.
The 1.8-mile Indian Springs and 2-mile Rocky Run hiking trails feature rocky terrain and challenging ascents. The 2.8-mile Hidden Pond Trail, which winds through the Tulip Tree Woods Nature Preserve, has steep grades. Open fields give way to a forest, making this a pleasant trail on a warm day.
Frequent visitors are familiar with unnamed trails that let them create a variety of loops of varying difficulty. Many of these are shared-use trails, so keep alert for horses and mountain bikers, who can come around sharp turns unannounced. (Horses have the right of way.)
Other national treasures with trails
Delaware might only have one national park, but it has two national wildlife refuges—both world-class destinations for viewing migrations of shorebirds and waterfowl. Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Smyrna has six trails. The 12-mile Wildlife Trail is the only one that accommodates bikes and cars. Walkers can choose from trails that meander by tidal marsh, freshwater marsh, field or forest. Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Milton has six walking trails and a canoe trail. For a challenge, take the 1.4-mile Blue Goose Trail, which is studded with exposed roots and stumps. Stop to admire the fields, forest and freshwater marsh. The 0.5-mile Boardwalk Trail is wheelchair accessible, as is the 0.5-mile Dike Trail, which ends at an observation platform with expansive views of the marsh.