What better way to experience our rich American Heritage and History than with a bicycle ride or hike along the Delaware Canal State Park Trail in Pennsylvania, the only remaining continuously intact canal of the great towpath canal building era of the early and mid-19th century. This 60-mile long, linear state park is part of the National Heritage Trail System. It runs from Easton to Bristol, Pennsylvania, closely following the contours of the Delaware River on the path once used by mule teams to pull cargo-laden barges along the Delaware Canal. Today, the towpath is used by cyclists, hikers, mountain bikers, birdwatchers, cross-county skiers, bird watchers and others.
It's no secret that the the Delaware Canal, its towpath and historic structures have periodically seen major flood damage. The good news is that the Delaware Canal still retains many of its original structures, thanks to the sheer determination and resilience of one of the most dedicated user groups in the northeast, The Friends Of The Delaware Canal. Call ahead for current trail conditions.
Trail Highlights: include Easton Dam and Fish Ladders, Washington Crossing Historic Park, Bowmans Hilltower and Wildflower Preserve, Virgina Forrest Recreation Area, Nockamixon Cliffs, Theodore Roosevelt Recreation Area, Lock Tender's House Visitor Center.
The northern Trailhead begins at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers in Easton, PA at the Lock 24 parking lot. Instead of traveling in a laden canal boat, you'll be bicycling the Delaware Canal State Park towpath south from Lock 24, the Gateway to the Delaware Canal System in Easton, to Lock 1 in Bristol, PA.
You may not have the time for a fascinating 60-mile weekend bicycle journey along the entire length of the Delaware Canal State Park Trail. Don't worry. There are many access and exit points. You can make the bike ride as long or as short as you want. Just across the river, the Delaware and Raritan Canal tow path on the New Jersey side parallels the Delaware Canal State Park Trail for 30 miles between Morrisville and Uhlerstown, PA. Six bridge crossings, along this 30 mile stretch offer cyclists a variety of interesting multi-loop, bi-state bike ride options featuring different aspects of the canal. Pennsylvania Delaware Canal State Park Trail connection bridges are located at the towns of Uhlerstown, Lumberville, Center Bridge, Washington Crossing and Morrisville.
The corridor along the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware Canal is narrower and more rustic than the New Jersey side. While the grade is level, the terrain varies from smooth hard-packed dirt and gravel with sticks and stones to nothing more than grassy double track. This bike ride is best suited for mountain bikes and hybrids and those wanting to combine beautiful scenery with historical and natural appeal.
Tip: Bring plenty of water and a few snacks along on your bike trip. While several wooden, Camelback Footbridges arching over the path at various intervals connect the canal path to surrounding neighborhoods, there are VERY long stretches where there is no easy access to services or refreshments. This can become a serious problem for an unprepared cyclist on a hot, humid summer day.
There are many surprises along the route. At times, the narrow corridor, often just 60 feet wide, is sandwiched between a wildflower lined, algae-filled canal and the river. At times it widens and opens up to scenic river and wetland vistas dotted with secluded river islands and wading birds. Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons , Geese and White-Tailed Deer are common sights along the trail. Along the way you'll pass farmland, forest, county parks, natural areas, historic sites, towering cliffs, ornate gardens, 19th century industrial ruins and verdant hillsides lined with residential houses.
Easton Dam and Fish Ladder
Nockamixon Cliffs & River Islands
The cliffs tower 300 feet above the Delaware River and dominate the landscape. Because the cliffs face north, they receive little direct sunlight. This cool habitat supports an alpine-arctic plant community that is rarely found this far south. Over 90 species of birds inhabit the cliffs, which historically have been used by the Peregrine falcon and Osprey. This is a great spot for birdwatching.
Theodore Roosevelt Recreation Area
Virginia Forrest Recreation Area
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
Washington Crossing Historic Park
Lock Tender's House Visitor Center
The Delaware Canal system provided a convenient and economical means of transporting anthracite coal and iron mined in the Upper Lehigh Valley, beginning in Mauch Chunk (now known as Jim Thorpe) to Philadelphia, New York and the eastern seaboard. It is the only canal, remaining continuously intact from the towpath canal-building days of the nineteenth century and still has almost all of it's features as they existed during its century of commercial operation.
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see Pennsylvania Rail Trails
Delaware Canal State Park
Phone: (610) 982-5560