Doylestown Bike Tour

Doylestown is a great place to take the family out on a bike ride. There are a lot of options and the Doylestown Bike/Hike System, which connects the community with a series of paths and street routes, continues to make the town more and more biker-friendly. There are a few things I like to keep in mind before I chose a route to cruise around town with my kids:

1. Safety - I don't want to be on roads that have too much traffic or bumpy sidewalks.

2. Scenery - One of the most attractive things about Doylestown is the town itself. So when we're going on a leisurely ride, I like to coast down the tree lined streets of the borough more than the paths that lead away from town.

3. Destinations - Don't get me wrong. Meandering through town on a bike is a lot of fun. But it's a good idea to be able to have a few destinations on your route when riding with kids. The destinations break up the tour and give everyone manageable short distance goals to make it to.

4. Loops - Kids seem to love to ride in circles ad nauseum. They find a circular route and just hammer away at it. So I like to include places on a bike ride where our oldest son can motor around without being in any danger.

5. Parking - If you are driving into town you'll want to have an easy place to unload the kids and the bikes. So a parking lot is probably a good starting point as opposed to street side parking.

6. Hills - For the most part, you'll probably want to avoid big hills on the bike ride and stay on level ground. But a bike ride that has a "big" hill to go down is always a thrill for kids. Finding a hill that is safe and manageable for everyone is a big plus.

The bike tour posted here hits on each one of the points listed above. It's a beatiful ride through town that avoids heavy traffic. There are two destinations: Font Hill and Fanny Chapman, there are two loops: Belmont Square and Fanny Chapman Park Path, and there is a nice downhill: Linden Avenue. The bike tour starts and ends at the Doylestown Public Library so there is plenty of free parking and ample space to load and unload. Enjoy the ride!

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Start at Doylestown Library Parking Lot

• Park at Doylestown Library
• Leave parking lot and go up Pine Street
• Right into Garden Alley
• Right on Church Street and quick left onto Belmont Avenue
• Follow Belmont to Cottage Street
• Left onto Cottage Street
• Right onto Court Street
• Cross East Street
• Continue on Court Street, Left at entrance to Font Hill
• Check out the Pond behind the Castle and explore the grounds and wooded trails within Font Hill

Leaving Font Hill

• Exit Font Hill onto Court Street
• Left on Court Street
• Right onto Belmont Court
• Ride a loop (or more) around Belmont Square
• Leave Belmont Square on Rohr Drive
• Cross Maple Street
• Left at Linden Avenue (Big hill!)
• Right at bottom of the hill onto Creek Drive
• Right onto Forest Drive
• Left onto Hickory Drive
• Right onto Orchard Lane
• Right onto Bike/Hike Path on East State Street
• Cross at traffic light to Fanny Chapman Park
• Do a loop (or more) around Fanny Chapman Park, explore area

Leaving Fanny Chapman Park

• Walk bikes up Boro Mill (it’s steep)
• Left onto East State Street
• Slight left onto Ashland Street
• Cross Church Street
• Left onto Pine Street
• Arrive back at Library, get out some books, go home and read


Review: Virginia Forrest State Park

Outdoor Appeal: 6 Setting: Small, scenic, elevated Delaware River bank, Delaware canal as backdrop, Picnic area

Explorable Op's: A few. There is a stairway down to the river which gives you a small landing to access the water. Only 2 or 3 people can easily occupy the area at a time. A good view of the canal is cut off by small saplings that have sprung up since the floods.

Difficulty: Easy. With the exception of the stairs down to the river, the entire area is flat. The canal path frames out the parking lot and grassy picnic area.

Facilities: Civilized. Modern, clean bathrooms complete for family/handicap use. The restrooms are housed in a beautifully designed faux old canal lock house. The restrooms area also has water fountains outside in season. I'm not positive, but I think the restrooms are even air conditioned! There are 7 picnic tables with view to the river and 5 charcoal grills. The parking lot is large for the area of the park and paved. Review: The park gives you a beautiful view of the river and has picnic tables in shaded, grassy areas. The north tip of Eagle Island and Hendrick Island are visible from the banks of the park, but it is only accessible by boat. The islands are in the flood plain, so as you can imagine the vegetation looks ravaged. This is a nice little picnic area for small kids. It doesn't look like much is there, but to a 1 year old and a 2 and 1/2 year old it was totally new and exciting. In fact, many of the places we visit may look unimpressive at first glance but they might as well be Disney World to my kids. New places can really stir up their curiosity. They can find fun in the simplest of places as long as it is perceived as new. Virginia Forrest State Park is just a slice of bank overlooking the Delaware River - a nice place to have lunch. But to my kids it was an adventure. Using the water fountain, checking out the bathrooms and seeing that the lights come on by themselves, riding along the canal and parking lot on a bike, throwing sticks in the river, having lunch with a view on a clear day, finding a "secret" bench on the canal... it really doesn't get much better than that. Recommendations: Bring a picnic, bikes, maybe a fishing pole. An hour here is enough. If you're grilling maybe 2 hours will do it. Check out the canal bridge and lock just south on the canal trail. There is a "secret" spot just north on the canal. It is just a memorial bench and a little open space. But it might be good to know about if you arrive and the area is slightly crowded. If you get rained out, head south on route 32 until you get to Center Bridge. Pull in to Dilly's Corner and treat yourselves to some burgers, hot dogs and some ice-cream and all will be right with the world again.


Review: Buckingham Wetlands

Outdoor Appeal: 6

Setting: Marsh with high reeds tucked between school field and farmland. Buckingham Mountain and the rise on the opposite side of Route 263 frame the view of the valley to the south. Wildlife can be very active depending on the season, weather and time of day.

Explorable Op's: A few. Since it is a swamp, there isn't much active exploring to be done besides look for wildlife from the path and the gazebo.

Difficulty: Easy. Although the mulch on the path was very choppy when we visited and it was tough for small feet to negotiate.

Facilities: Paved parking at the township building and Buckingham Elementary School.

Review: I was surprised at how active this little marsh was with wildlife. With 413 and 263/202 not far off, I was expecting to feel like, well... here we are, looking at a swamp with heavy haulers barreling in from both sides. Thankfully the experience wasn't like that at all. Red-winged black birds we're busy doing they're thing: flying in and out of the catty-nine tails and never far out of our view. A dozen or so Turkey vultures circled riding the thermal winds coming up from the valley. About 20 feet from the gazebo we saw a snake slither through the tall reeds about a foot above the water level. It really felt like the place had a life and rhythm of its own.

Recommendations: It is a short trail. Not much to do but look around. If you're there on the weekend, park at Buckingham Elementary and have the kids play at the playground before you set off for the wetlands. The kids will probably be ready for a change of scenery and a wee adventure after the playground has run out of surprises for them. If you are going on a Saturday morning in spring, summer or fall, the Buckingham Farmers Market pops up in the parking lot of the township building. Make that your final destination after the wetlands tour and buy the kids a treat from one of the vendors. When you rally the troops, head back through the marsh to the playground. It makes for a nice Saturday morning for all.

For more information, check out: http://www.buckinghampa.org/

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Day-Tripper, Nockamixon Waterfall Tour

One of our favorite day trips is a drive up route 611 to check out the waterfalls. There are 3 within a few miles of one another: High Creek Falls in Ringing Rocks Park, the falls on Rapp Creek near the state game land #56 and the falls at the spill-way of Lake Nockamixon. This a half day trip. Below we have the order of the tour we like to take but you may want to mix it up depending on which way you are travelling into the area. Of course, the best time to see each of the falls is after recent rainfall. We hope you like the tour.

High Creek Falls: The falls are located within Ringing Rocks Park. The trail back to the gorge is about 1/2 mile long. The slope down to the falls can be slippery and the area surrounding the falls is filled with boulders so extreme care needs to be taken when you are exploring the gorge. The drop is about 30 feet high and the water truly thunders off the drop into the valley below when at full force. There are picnic tables and a porto-potty at the parking area. The main attraction of the park is a boulder field of rocks that do indeed ring when you hit them with something hard. It would be easy to spend most of the Nockamixon Waterfall Tour at this park alone. See the Ringing Rocks Park post for a full review of the site.

Rapp Creek Falls: This waterfall is visible from Beaver Run Road http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=rapp%20creek&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl You can't get to the falls to explore because they lie on private property, but there is a good view from the road for a quick stop and a photo. This photo is from the Scenic Bucks County website. http://scenicbuckscounty.com/Tinicum/RappCreek.html
Nockamixon Dam Spillway: The spill-way for the Lake Nockamixon Dam can be seen from State Park Road. There is a pull off on the dam side of the road. Be careful getting in and out of your car here. Cars go whizzing by at a good clip. The view of the spill way is most of what you are able to explore here. The park service has fenced off the entire area around the dam and has made it very clear that they don't want anyone getting too close to the dam and the spill-way. It is still worth driving by to check out. It is an impressive sight and if you're a little more adventurous you can follow the fence around to the left of the dam to get a closer look. You'll need to cross over a creek and head up a steep slope to get a view from above the falls. If you continue along the fence you will come to a parking area that is accessible from Mink Road and Interior Park Road. This area is located in the top-center of the photo above where the trees are. It provides a nice view of the lake and the dam breast. It is slightly more than a 1/4 mile hike from the parking pull off on State Park Road.
As we mentioned before, we like to do the tour in this order with the High Falls Creek Waterfall first so that we a fresh for the trek. If you are travelling with small children this is especially important because the afternoon tends to approach nap time and small hikers will get fatigued quickly. We hope you enjoy to the tour as much as we do. If there are more falls in this immediate area please let us know.

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Review: Ringing Rocks Park, Bucks County PA

Outdoor Ambiance: 10

Setting: High Forest, Several acre boulder field, easy hiking trail, impressive waterfall depending on recent rainfall.

Explorable Op's: A ton!

Difficulty: Tough exploring, Easy trail. The hiking trail is wide open and clear of roots and rocks for most of the trail. The trail is about a half mile long. Once you start the descent into the gorge the terrain gets steeper and rocks make a maze of the trail. The ringing rocks boulder field is for people who have some agility. The waterfall and the area surrounding it is also strewn with boulders. If you keep to the trail this is rather easy place to manuever and enjoy. Once you head onto the rocks and waterfall you need to realistic about abilities, especially in wet weather.

Facilities: Rustic. The parking lot is paved and their are plenty of picnic tables. The formal restrooms are closed and there is a port-o-potty in front of them. It's a bit less than comfortable inside.

Review: This is without a doubt one of the most spectacular natural settings to visit in Bucks County. Even if you are trekking with small children that can't get out to the boulder field or scale the side of the waterfall gorge, there is plenty to see. Our most recent trip started out with a picnic at one of the picnic tables. Max, 2 and a half years old, walked the path while Frank, just one year old, rode in the backpack. We made it down to the falls without too much trouble. Max does like to meander and I let explore for long as Frank's patience will allow. The day we went the falls were at about 50%. We took in the view from a boulder on a ledge just below the falls and then climbed back up stream to throw rocks, sticks and leaves in the creek. The whole area near the creek is loaded with small and large boulders so you need to be extremely careful and sure of yourself. After 20 minuteds Frank wanted to explore the creek and boulders more than I would let him and his mood turned quickly so we headed back. Max didn't want to make the climb back up the slope leading back to the boulder field but I was lucky enough to be able to trick him into walking most of the way by pretending to be in awe of every new boulder that came into view. Once we got to the ringing rocks Max had finally had a enough and I was stuck with Frank on my back and Max in my arms. But he really did a fantastic job considering his age. It's amazing how curiosity can spur stamina. We made it back to the car and we had a "treat" which was really just Max's juice. Frank doesn't need treats yet. We were there for about 2 hours and I think that is about normal if you travelling with kids under the age of five. If you are going with older kids you could easily spend and hour or more in the boulder field ringing rocks and another hour or more exploring the falls and the gorge. Max, Frank and I have only begun to explore this area and we're looking forward to making it part of a monthly or semi-monthly trip.

Recommendations: Bring a hammer to tap on the rocks. They really do ring! If you want to see the full force of the waterfall, go while it is raining or shortly after. It shakes the earth! Carry your cell phone on you in case you get hurt. It's not the kind of place you can easily limp out of. Avoid going alone.