The Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail is part of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, following historic railroad and canal routes on now abandoned rail and canal paths in Pennsylvania. The multi-use rail trail winds along the Lehigh River Gorge Valley from White Haven to Jim Thorpe, PA providing 26-miles of exceptionally scenic, relatively level, easy cycling.
The Lehigh Gorge is also a National Natural Landmark and the breathtaking scenery and Lehigh River are the main attractions. The river gorge cuts deep into the Pocono Plateau, providing views of steep slopes covered in hemlock, birch and rhododendron, rock outcroppings, roaring rapids, streams and waterfalls.
The rocky, fast moving Lehigh River, a designated State Scenic river, is a major tributary of the Delaware River. The Class III whitewater makes this upper section of the Lehigh River a popular whitewater destination. Rafters, kayakers and canoers are constant companions along the route, especially during the Spring (late March through June) and on summer weekends when the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the Francis E. Walter Dam at the northern end of Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Mountain Biking the Lehigh Gorge Trail
Depending on your ability level and amount of time you have, there are several mountain bike ride options you can do.
1. Out-and-back ride beginning and ending at any one of the three trail access points at Glen Onoko, Rockport or White Haven.
2. Rockport is the central access area. You can set up a shuttle by leaving a car in Rockport.
3. While you still have to pedal, the 26 mile slight downhill grade from White Haven to Jim Thorpe makes this a very popular bike trip. If pedaling your way along the entire Lehigh River Gorge Rail Trail is not an option for you on this trip, licensed Adventure Tour Outfitters in and around the town of Jim Thorpe provide shuttle services which allow you to begin your bike ride at either Rockport or White Haven for an easy, one-way ride to Glen Onoko.
Rockport To Lehigh Tannery
15 miles round-trip : Access: Rockport Trailhead
During our weekend escape from New York City this summer in July, we mountain biked from Rockport to the Tannery Bridge, just below White Haven. While the entire trail is beautiful, this particular stretch of the Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail is highly recommended.
Trail Highlights: Include but are not limited to Buttermilk Falls (Lukes Falls is within a short walk south of the Rockport trailhead), old railroad trestles, 18th century high canal locks, stone arched rail bridges, and the ruins of the Lehigh Tannery, an industry that once required the mass destruction of almost all the Hemlock trees in the area.
The smooth, crushed limestone rail trail surface is as close to being paved as you can get. You can do this ride on a mountain bike or hybrid bike and we even saw a few people cruising by on recumbent bicycles, including Mike who hails from White Haven. The Lehigh Gorge Trail can be ridden in either direction as the gentle 2 percent grade is hardly noticeable. Benches and picnic tables strategically located at various points along the trail, provide magnificent views, shade and the opportunity to stop for a rest or a snack. Bring lunch and a camera along on this ride.
Heading north from Rockport, the trail travels higher above the river than the Lower Lehigh Gorge Trail, is less travelled and offers more of a rugged, remote wilderness experience. Along the way, glimpses of the river and rock ledges far below are visible between the trees. There are 11 rapids along this short stretch, no doubt due to the many roaring streams and tributaries that enter the Lehigh Gorge along this route including Mud Run, Leslie Run, Hickory Run, Goulds Run, Irishtown Run and Black Shanty Run. Interpretive Signs point out historical features and tell the stories that happened on or around the Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail long ago.
If you are adventurous, take the time to explore some of the side trails that branch off the main route to the right. We'll share one of our discoveries with you. At the Mud Run Mileage Marker, we noticed an obscure footpath on the right. Parking our bikes well off to one side of the trail, we hiked the short, but rather steep, narrow path down to the river. The fact that no one had been this way for some time was made obvious by the intact, spider web barriers woven across the trail.
As we approached the river, the sound of churning rapids got louder. Finally, emerging out onto the rocky river shore, we had an Indiana Jones moment. You know. . . the feeling you get upon the discovery of a hidden, historic treasure. A magnificent, Stone Arched Rail Bridge curved gracefully over Mud Run, close to the point where this tributary enters the Lehigh River. The whole scene was picture postcard perfect . . . and we wasted no time in taking one. See our Lehigh Gorge Trail Photo Gallery.
At Lehigh Tannery, where this leg of our suggested bike ride ends, you'll come to a paved road. The trail picks up on the other side and continues to White Haven. At the road intersection, turn right and cross over the Tannery bridge. Immediately to the right, there is a wooden platform overlooking the ruins of the Lehigh Tannery. Take the time to read the stories on the interpretive signs. Head back to Rockport to complete the ride.
River corridors are wildliife corridors. Great blue herons, mergansers, kingfishers and beavers are common sights. In summer, look out for snakes, fence lizards and black-and-white and magnolia warblers. Black bears have been spotted on the trail. Although this isn't a common occurence, you may get lucky (depending on your point of view). We didn't.
Rockport To Glen Onoko
13.2 miles one way
Trail Highlights: Include but are not limited to the abandoned, Turn Hole Railway Tunnel, 18th century high canal locks, rail bridges, Glen Onoko Falls.
As you cycle south of Rockport on a slight downhill 2 percent grade (you still have to pedal), the forested walls of the Lehigh Gorge rise higher and higher above you on both sides as you descend closer to the river. Near Glen Onoko, the walls are close to 1000 feet high, offering a different perspective from the Upper reaches of the Lehigh Gorge Trail. At Penn Haven Junction the trail crosses an active railroad line and then follows alongside. Around the midway point, as you pedal round the curves, there are views of the 1,700-foot peak of Pococno Mountain and the eastern slope of Packer Mountain.
The trail surface gets rougher as there is generally more trail traffic on the lower section of the Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail. Motorized vehicles operated by the railroad are permitted access for rail maintenance. Both Jim Thorpe and Glen Onoko are still the popular tourist destinations they historically were. At the turn of the twentieth century, Hotel Wahnetah, a railroad sponsored mountain resort, was built at Glen Onoko. It boasted a 56 room hotel, dance pavillion, tennis courts, gardens, and hiking trips to nearby spring-fed waterfalls. After a fire in 1911, the hotel was closed.
Today, experienced adventurers still hike the steep, treacherous rocky mountain trail leading to Glen Onoko Falls, located across the river within what is now State Gameland 141. Follow signs to the falls from the main parking lot at Glen Onoko Access Area.
Glen Onoko To Jim Thorpe
2.3 miles one way
From the Glen Onoko parking area, the trail follows the main road and crosses the Lehigh River over a recently rennovated old railroad trestle. A new trail link leads cyclists right into historic downtown Jim Thorpe, the gateway to many other historic rail trails and mountain biking trails in the area.
The 19th century saw the introduction of major logging and mill operations. In 1829 John James Audubon, while painting birds, was distressed and remarked about the pace of tree cutting here. The discovery of coal led to rapid settlement and development and of course, the building of the railroads and canals. 20 dams and 29 locks were constructed over the 26 miles between Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and White Haven. Five and one-half miles of canal were also built.
When severe flooding in the mid-1800s destroyed the canal system, it was replaced with the new technology of railroads. Today, throughout the corridor, remnants of canal locks, dams and towpath are still visible as well as railroad bridges and old tunnels. The nearby town of Jim Thorpe is a Victorian Era gem with antique shops, galleries and historical buildings.
Parking, handicapped accessible comfort and changing room station at Rockport and Glen Onoko. Limited parking at White Haven.
White Haven Trailhead: Northern Access Area (9.1 miles to Rockport)
Exit 273 off I-80. Follow Rt.940 east to the Thriftway Store. Go through the Thriftway parking lot, bear left to the state park access Area.
Rockport Trailhead: Midpoint Access Area (9.1 miles to White Haven / 13.0 miles to Glen Ononko)
Take Rt.209 south from Jim Thorpe. Turn onto Rt.93 North and drive to S.R.2055 (Lehigh Gorge Drive) through Weatherly into village of Rockport (S.R.4014). From the north exit 273 from I-80 . Head west on US940, turn left onto S.R.2055 to village of Rockport (S.R.4014).
Glen Onoko Trailhead: Southern access area. (Glen Onoko to Rockport - 13.0 miles / 2.7 miles to Jim Thorpe.
Exit 74 from the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Take US209 south to Jim Thorpe, Rt. 903 north across the river to Coalport Rd., turn off Coalport to Glen Onoko.
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see Pennsylvania Rail Trails
Lehigh Gorge State Park:
Phone: (570) 443-0400