The magnificence of nature at its best is only one of the reasons for becoming enthralled with Lehigh Gorge State Park, as the river carves its way through the sheer cliffs and lush vegetation of Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region and the Pocono Plateau. The region is a magnet for history buffs, sportsmen, hikers and bikers, fishermen, and for families who want to retreat from daily life — just for a bit — to refresh and rewind.
Visitors can be as active as they choose, exploring the outdoors or visiting museums and riding the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway from Jim Thorpe to White Haven. Today, visitors may even view an original 900-foot mining elevator shaft after riding by rail 1,600 feet into a mountain!
No matter what activity level suits you, a weekend or a week spent in and around the park is a tonic for both body and soul. Many of the trails, campsites, and attractions are dog friendly, but always check local regulations before you visit. The park features waterfalls, rushing streams, whitewater courses, 33 miles of hiking trails, and numerous spots to simply pull off the road or the trail to enjoy scenic vistas.
The landscape was shaped in part by extensive coal mining operations in the nineteenth Century and includes an extensive array of dams, locks, and canals built by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company to transport the rich deposits to market during the Industrial Revolution.
John James Audobon spent time in the area, painting and decrying the loss of the natural greenery of the region. Luckily, the landscape recovered, and today’s visitors marvel not only at the sculptural quality of the ravines and surrounding peaks, the sheer cliffs and rugged outcroppings that supply outstanding vantage points high above the Lehigh River but also at the varied green vegetation that is a stunning hallmark of the Lehigh Gorge Trail.
The park, approximately 6,000 acres located in Luzerne and Carbon Counties, actually follows the path of the Lehigh River from the Francis E. Walter Dam in the north to the town of Jim Thorpe at its southern boundary. It encompasses 26 miles of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
Jim Thorpe is frequently billed as “the gateway to the Gorge,” but getting to Lehigh Gorge State Park is easy, even from other towns. Situated only about two hours by car from both Philadelphia and New York City, drivers may access the park at multiple points, with ample day parking available for visitors. You may also arrive at the park by train or bus. You’ll find a variety of camping and lodging facilities, and the end of the trail in Jim Thorpe offers accommodations, charming shops, eateries and other attractions.
Find maps and complete information about Lehigh Gorge or any of Pennsylvania’s other 123 state parks online at the state’s Parks for All site.
Thrills and challenges abound along the Gorge route that follows the river’s path, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit the Park.
Open year-round, the No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum features a mining-car expedition that whisks visitors 1,600 feet into the mountain and then on a 600-foot walking tour to view the original mine shaft and a “miner’s hospital” carved out of solid rock. Imagine the hard life of a coal miner in 1855! The unique museum is housed in the mine’s original pre-WWI “wash shanty,” and features mining artifacts as well as a gift shop.
Vintage coaches, some of which date to 1917, allow you to sit back and drink in the beauty of the area. Your fully-narrated round-trip train journey, fueled by modern diesel engines, begins and ends in Jim Thorpe and offers extraordinary, changing views of the Lehigh River route through the park. It’s perfect for a family outing! Check out the special event trains, including holiday runs, that are scheduled periodically throughout the year.
Yes, you can experience the thrill of whitewater rafting in Lehigh Gorge. Time your adventure for a calm, family-oriented ride down the river, and rent a kayak for a leisurely water experience. Alternatively, be there to experience the full force of a major water release from the dam that will require some strenuous paddling to navigate through the rushing water. Well-trained guides are available to keep you safe and afloat. Pick your level of exhilaration, and experience an outdoor adventure you won’t easily forget!
Remember, you don’t have to be in the water to experience the excitement of the river and the surrounding steep cliffs of the gorge. Follow a riverside path for a nature hike in the fresh air and get your fill of flora, fauna, and legendary vistas. Hit one of the park’s many trails on your own or as part of an escorted group. This park is all about personal discovery and enjoyment. Check local resources to help you fashion your own trip.
Trout fishing enthusiasts especially enjoy the fast-running waters of the Lehigh River, particularly when the trout are running. Cast your line from the shore or don your waders in a serious search for a trophy trout. If you’re simply fishing for fun, just relax and hope you get enough nibbles to enjoy dinner around your campfire!
The winter season can be just as mind-blowingly beautiful as spring, summer and fall. Check out the opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling when the flakes start to fall and experience the beauty of Lehigh Gorge State Park shrouded in white!
Whatever you choose to do in this part of the Poconos, know that it will be a treat for you and your companions. Whether you’re local or from far away, whether you visit for a day, a weekend, or longer, we welcome you to what is, arguably, one of the most beautiful regions of the entire country.
While you’re in the area, consider booking a stay at Skytop Lodge, a quintessential Pocono resort that has been welcoming guests to its 5,500-acre compound for nearly 100 years.
Known for its historical emphasis on comfort, beauty, elegance and service, its year-round calendar of activities and special events, fine dining venues and lounge facilities, an indoor swimming pool and an award-winning golf course, a stay at Skytop Lodge can be the frosting on the cake of a visit to Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Contact us now to determine availability and pricing, and to schedule your visit.