D&L Trail/Jim Thorpe

I consider the D&L my home trail. There are a couple of trails closer to my home but the D&L is only 20 minute drive and I enjoy it more than any other nearby trail. This post is focused on the northern portion of the trail officially called the anthracite region. I am less familiar with the southern end of the trail even though it is a mere 165 miles away.

Jim Thorpe is a small town in eastern PA along the D&L trail in Carbon County. The town was originally named Ma Chunk but the name was changed to honor Jim Thorpe the Olympic athlete buried there. The history of the athlete, and the town is interesting, but I am going to consider its importance to cycling.

The D&L Trail passes through the historic downtown. The D&L is a rail-trail and portions a rail with trail. You can board the train to take a scenic ride along the Lehigh River and on some weekends, you can ride to White Haven with a bike and return on the trail, about 25 miles. The 25 miles runs through the beautiful and scenic Lehigh Gorge. The ride is a very gradual downhill the whole way making it a very popular tourist destination. Some weekends the excursion train is pulled by a steam locomotive, check the railroad website for the schedule. Learn more about the Lehigh Gorge here.

In addition to the railroad, there are a couple of local outfitters that rent bikes and operate shuttle service for one way trips. Most people start in White Haven and ride down. You can opt to go to Mountain Top and ride the Black Diamond portion of the trail north of White Haven. The Black Diamond is named for the anthracite coal that was once hauled by trains in the area. Black Diamond does not reflect the difficulty of the trail but it is just a bit more of a downhill than the gorge. The gorge averages about 2% and the Black Diamond is 3-4%. The Black Diamond adds about 10 miles to the trip making for a 35 mile ride.

A bridge and short section of trail was recently completed on the south end of Jim Thorpe allowing easy access to the southern portion of the D&L Trail. You will pass remnants of the canal on one side of the trail with the Lehigh River on the other side of the trail.

This takes you to Weisport where the trail continues across the bridge. At the end of the bridge the trail turns right and zig zags down. At the bottom you turn right to go under the bridge and continue toward Bristol. Alternately you can turn left and follow a short spur to the town of Lehighton.

Further south you pass the nature center before the next trail town of Slatington. The trail continues south to Northampton. There is a spur trail in Slatington called the Slate Heritage Trail and another spur in Northampton called the Nor-Bath Trail. The section of the D&L between Jim Thorpe and Northampton is about 25 miles.

South of Northampton there is a gap in the trail before it picks up again in Allentown. The trail traverses the Lehigh Valley to Easton. Easton is the location of the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. It is also the location of Hugh Moore Park. This is the headquarters for the heritage corridor and the Canal Museum. Another trail of note in Easton is the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. This trail features sculptures and other art. It is short for cycling but worth a visit. From Easton the D&L Trail continues along the Delaware Canal to Bristol, PA. 

This section passes the historic Washington's Crossing (as in George Washington crossing the Delaware). The Delaware and Raritian Canal State Park Trail is on the other side of the Delaware river in this area. Several bridges in the area allow for some nice loop rides.

The trail has mile markers every mile along the entire length. The markers along the Delaware Canal are granite markers at ground level. These are a bit difficult to see. See a picture below. Also some of the highlights of the trail are listed below and may be located by mile marker.

On the northern end, the trail is expected to continue to Wilkes-Barre. This continuation involves several segments that will take the trail to Oliver Mills and across to the Seven Tubs nature area. Before meeting the Wyoming Valley Levee Trail in Wilkes-Barre. One 3 mile section from Oliver Mills to the Seven Tubs is nearing completion as of this writing. Other sections are not as far along in the planning and building process.

Once the northern end from Mountain Top to Wilkes-Barre, PA and the gap between Northampton and Allentown, PA are complete the trail will about 165 miles. The trail is divided into 3 regions: The Anthracite Region, Lehigh Valley, Delaware Canal. Jim Thorpe is the northern end of the Lehigh Valley region.

Jim Thorpe has several options for staying overnight and interesting merchants and food options. The train station serves as the visitor center and has modern restroom available to trail users. Many weekends include street vendors and entertainment in front of the visitor center. There is plenty of parking near the visitor center but you must pay at a kiosk or via an app called flowbird. This area is generally quite busy with trail users, people doing white water rafting and other visitors to the town.

There is another trail in Jim Thorpe called the Switchback trail. This trail was home to a rail line that carried passengers on weekends for a wild ride that became the predecessor to the modern rollercoaster. 

A short distance upriver from Jim Thorpe on the opposite side is an area called Glen Onoko. This is the lower end of the gorge. It offers hiking and river views along with plenty of free parking. Jim Thorpe is about 2.5 miles further south on the trail. If you visit Glen Onoko bring some lights and explore the abandoned train tunnel called the Turn Hole Tunnel. The tunnel entrance is at 40.88226, -75.76254. The end of the tunnel is a very nice overlook of the river. (UPDATE The tunnel has recently been closed for safety reasons.)

There is another abandoned tunnel at the Rockport trailhead. It is near the end of the last upper parking lot. From the trail, you walk a short distance up the road. The GPS coordinates are 40.96636, -75.75679

If you plan on ridding the Lehigh Gorge and have not been there before, please read important safety information.

As you ride the D&L there are some particularly nice spots for pictures. Don't pass these mile markers without stopping for a picture.

Picture stops

Black Diamond section

  135.95 Moosehead Lake

  135.85 Beaver Dam

  134.35 Concrete Phone Booth

Lehigh Gorge section

  128.1 Rambling Run Nice all the time but especially so when the water is running or the mountain laurel are blooming.

  125.2 Lock 24 Be very careful here since you need to venture off the trail. The lock itself has high stone walls that are not protected by a fence. Keep a close eye on small children and overconfident teens. Venture a bit further for nice views of the river.

  121.25 Buttermilk Falls Take pictures from the bridge or get closer to the falls. Be careful of slippery rocks if you choose the latter.

  120.65 Luke's Falls

  116.2 River lookout. Don't get too close to the edge.

  114.5 Lookout rock. Use your discretion if you are not sure footed.

  109.2 Bear Warning Sign. Not nearly as ominous as it sounds. Read Lehigh Gorge safety page if you are concerned.

South of Jim Thorpe

  104.4 Observation Platform

  103 Bridge to Nowhere

  102 - 103.8 Weisport Canal. No specific place but the water in the canal is usually still enough to give nice reflections making for good pictures.

  58.9 Easton, the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers along with a small dam at the end of the Lehigh make for some interesting shots.

Videos of interest:

Early fall 2021:

Early spring ride in the Lehigh Gorge

Delaware Canal portion of the trail

Autumn ride on the Black Diamond

Nor-Bath trail spur in Northampton

Steam engine pulling scenic excursion

First ride on new bridge/trail section south of Jim Thorpe

Switchback Trail

Learn more about the D&L Trail and its history on the official website: Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Corridor  

The D&L is part of The Link trail system.

Download the Delaware and Lehigh app for maps, tours, historic information, trail towns, businesses, museums and more.

D&L app as seen in Play Store

Black Diamond portion of the trail. Moosehead Lake seen on right.

Festivities in front of the Jim Thorpe visitor center.

Entertainment in front of the Jim Thorpe visitor center.

Native American performers in front of the Jim Thorpe visitor center.

Overlook at the end of the Turn Hole Tunnel in Glen Onoko

Slate Heritage spur trail at Slatington

Nor-Bath spur trail at Northampton

Delaware canal portion of the trail

Penn Haven, abandoned ghost town along the Lehigh Gorge portion of the trail.

Buttermilk Falls in the Lehigh Gorge near the Rockport Trailhead.

Confluence of Delaware and Lehigh Rivers seen from the trail in Easton.

Weisport Canal portion of the trail between Jim Thorpe and Weisport.

Kiosk to pay for parking in Jim Thorpe lot.

Lehigh Gorge section of the trail.

Mile marker in the Delaware Canal area.

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