White Haven to Jim Thorpe
The family and I spent the weekend with relatives in the Poconos in Pennsylvania the weekend of August 7, 2010 and spend a day riding our mountain bikes on the scenic Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail, a former canal and railroad route.
The multi-use rail trail stretches about 28 picturesque miles between White Haven at the northern end and the town of Jim Thorpe at the southern end, winding through the Lehigh River Gorge Valley, under a canopy of trees just yards above the Lehigh River. The trial is relatively level so it makes for easy riding for the whole family. There were kids on bikes with training wheels on the trial the day we were there. This entire 28-mile trail is also wheelchair accessible.
The trail is double track of smooth, crushed limestone. It is mostly downhill (2% grade) from White Haven to Jim Thorpe, but don’t expect to coast all the way. You still have to pedal your bike most of the time. However, if you cycle the other way, from Jim Thorpe to White Haven, there won’t be any noticeable hill climbing either.
We decided to ride the entire length of the 28 mile long trail because it was an easier drive (on a map) to White Haven and Jim Thorpe then to drive in and out of Rockport. Rockport is the trailhead that is the mid-section access point on the Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail at about 10 miles from White Haven and 18 from Jim Thorpe. My wife didn’t want to ride so she shuttled us riders to White Haven and drove to Jim Thorpe to pick us up at the end of the ride.
If you plan on doing the whole trail, try to get to the White Haven trail head early to give yourself plenty of time to finish the ride during daylight.
And if don’t you want the hassle of doing your own ferrying people, bikes and cars back and forth, there are a few commercial shuttles services in Jim Thorpe that will take you and your bike to the top of the trail at White Haven. If you don’t have a bike, some of these services can rent you one, too.
The parking area and trail head at White Haven was bustling with cyclist getting their bikes ready for their ride on the Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail and shuttle buses dropping off kayakers and rafters for their whitewater rafting down the Lehigh River. At Rockport, kayakers and rafters coming from White Haven are picked up, and kayakers and rafters fresh from Jim Thorpe are dropped off for their whitewater adventure back to town.
It is very busy at these drop-off and pickup points so slow down to avoid any accidents. Once you get pass these two congestion points along the trail you are rewarded with river views on one side and rock formations and the few small waterfalls on the other.
Intermittent informational signs along the trail point out natural features and denote historical events. There are also some sporadic mile markers to let you know how far you are from your destination. If you need to take the occasional break, there are benches and picnic tables all along the trail that provide views of the river below and several of the waterfalls.
The last five miles of the Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail runs along and just below an active railroad line. The trail use to end at the parking lot at Glen Onoko about 2 miles north of Jim Thorpe. But the recent completion of a section of trial brings you right into the train station at the edge of town.
Restrooms are only available at the trailheads. There are no services along the entire trail. So plan and pack accordingly.
There are many other good off road bike trails and mountain biking trails in the area. After all, Jim Thorpe is not a major mountain biking destination for no reason.
To the northern trailhead in White Haven: Get off Exit 273 on I-80 and follow PA 940 east to the White Haven Shopping Center. Turn right on Main Street. Go through the shopping center parking lot and bear right to the state park access area.
To the southern trailhead at Glen Onoko: Take Exit 74 of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-476). Follow US 209 south to Jim Thorpe. Then take PA 903 north across the river. At the stop sign, continue straight to Coalport Road. Turn left to Glen Onoko.
To the southern trailhead in Jim Thorpe: Take Exit 74 of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-476). Follow US 209 south for about 6 miles into Jim Thorpe. Park (fee) at train station parking lot on Front Street.
Local map of Glen Onoke and Jim Thorpe
To the trailhead at Rockport: From Jim Thorpe, follow US 209 south to PA 93 north. After six miles, turn right onto Brenckman Drive to the town of Weatherly. Continue through Weatherly then turn right onto East Main Street (which turns into South Lehigh Gorge Drive, which is also PA 4010) into the village of Rockport. Turn right onto Rockport Road and continue down toward the gorge.