East Fairmount Park
Though they are typically considered one park, East and West Fairmount Parks are very distinct park spaces. As it rises from the east bank of the Schuylkill River, East Park climbs in a series of hills - Lemon Hill and Laurel Hill - and offers both road and trail running opportunities.
The easiest way to really think about East Park is in parts - north and south - unfortunately divided by Girard Ave. Laurel Hill Cemetery lies to the park's north and also offers great running. The southern section of East Park is one that many runners are familiar with, since it encompasses the Art Museum. For the purposes of this page, the Art Museum, as well as the Schuylkill River Trail and the well trodden loop will be discussed on their own.
Here we'll consider the southern part of East Park as the Lemon Hill section, or as you'll get to know it, hill workout central. The most obvious trail head to get into the park is the corner of Kelly Drive and Sedgley Drive. Parking is possible in the rear lot of the Art Museum and along Sedgley. You can either stick with roads or hop on a short trail section. In either case, you'll want to make your way onto Lemon Hill Drive, which is the real prize of this southern section. You'll find the trail at the Northeast corner of Kelly/Sedgley (across the street from Lloyd Hall) by heading up the set of stairs that seem to lead to nowhere. This trail will drop you directly onto Lemon Hill Drive and from there heading either right or left will bring you back onto Sedgley Drive. Alternatively, you can run north on Sedgley Drive where you will find a choice of a set of loops within this part of the park. One will take you up onto Poplar Drive where you can loop along Girard to then come back south along Sedgley Drive. Alternatively, as you head up Sedgley, you can simply bear left and continue up along Sedgley itself. Either way you approach it, the real gem of the park lies along Lemon Hill Drive, which runs into Sedgley at both ends and takes you right past the Lemon Hill Mansion.
The northern section of East Park is littered with ball fields, historic mansions, the country's first disc golf course, and the Smith Memorial Playground (ok that's an old mansion, too, but it's got a giant wooden slide). While this all makes for great eye candy (and interesting aromas when going past the Sedgley Woods disc golf course), the Boxer's Trail is where the running is at. Boxer's is a 3.8 mile trail that winds its way around East Park as a paved trail, but then also dips into the woods for a killer trail run. It's garnered its fair share of fans over the years. Fairmount Park Conservancy plans to link the Randolph Creek portion of this trail to Kelly Drive in the future, but for now, the easiest way to get there from Kelly is to come up Fountain Green Dr. You can also get to Boxer's Trail from the southern portion of East Park by crossing Girard Ave and running up 33rd Street or by coming over the Strawberry Mansion Bridge from West Park.
An exciting development coming up in East Park is the conversion of a portion of the giant East Park Reservoir into a nature preserve through a partnership of Outward Bound and Audubon PA. "The West Basin lake at East Park Reservoir is an accidental oasis," Hidden City Philly writes. "Hidden by an elevated street grade resembling a plateau and surrounded by a tall, barbed wire security fence, the 37 acre man-made lake was decommissioned in the 1950s when the population of the city went into dramatic decline and the need for water reserves dwindled."
Get involved/support this park:
The Fairmount Park Conservancy holds an annual 5K and volunteer days.
The Historic Strawberry Mansion and Woodford Mansion are always looking for people to get involved.
Definitely stop in and check out the Smith Memorial Playground. Perfect for little kids and big kids.