Jim Thorpe trail connection completed
The D&L Trail is one of the gems of the Pennsylvania cycling network. It follows the route that anthracite traveled during the heyday of coal mining. Currently the D&L runs 140 miles, from Bristol in the south to Mountaintop in the north.
Until this summer, there was a virtually impassable point at Jim Thorpe where the trail jumps from the east to the west side of the Lehigh River. There was no bridge and the only possible road route to bypass the gap was along the steep, busy, narrow-shouldered US-209.
In mid-August, a multi-year, multi-million dollar project was completed and the Mansion House Bridge was finally opened to the connect the trail across the river.
The D&L Trail
Official Site: Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
The D&L Trail is divided into three sectors:
- Delaware Canal Region – Bristol to Easton along the Delaware River
- Lehigh Valley Region – Easton to Lehigh Gap along the Lehigh River
- Anthracite Region – Lehigh Gap to Mountaintop along the Lehigh River
The Mansion House Bridge is in the Anthracite Region. (Click on the image to open a high resolution PDF map.)
Jim Thorpe (pop. 4600) is the largest town along this section, with lots of shopping, dining and lodging options. It’s also the departure point for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which runs regular “Ride and Bike” service to Penn Haven and less frequent “Bike Train” service to White Haven.
Up to this summer, it’s been easy to do out and back rides from Jim Thorpe to the north through Lehigh Gorge State Park. It’s a beautiful, rugged section along the often raft-filled river. Parking can be challenging, especially on busy summer days. Rather than park in the quaint area near the train station, I usually go to the larger, free parking lot a few miles north at the Glen Onoko Trailhead.
Ride to the South
With the opening of the Mansion House Bridge, it’s now possible to do a nice out-and-back ride to the south of Jim Thorpe. There are lots of trail heads with free parking.
I wanted to do a 25-mile ride, which set my southern start point at Lehigh Gap Nature Center, across the river from Palmerton. For a shorter ride, another easy starting point is Riverview Park, across from Bowmanstown.
This was my first time on this part of the trail and it was a great experience. I thought it might be rough and less maintained because of the prior gap in the trail, but that is definitely not the case. The path is well-marked and in very good condition.
There are some interesting stops along the way (such as Lehigh Gap Nature Center and the town of Weissport) and the scenery is great. I had no idea there was a canal along the river all the way along this section. Once you get to Jim Thorpe, there are plenty of opportunities for dining and a conveniently located bike shop.
This fall, I’m planning to ride the entire D&L, pedaling from my house in Philadelphia to Mile 0 in Bristol, then continuing all the way to Mountaintop and down into the Wyoming Valley, where my family lives in Wilkes-Barre. Look for details in a future post.