Do you enjoy spending time in the outdoors? Nestled in between the historic town of Jim Thorpe, PA and the Francis E. Walter dam in the Pocono Mountain Region is the Lehigh Gorge State Park. Abundant in natural history and scenic views, the Lehigh Gorge State Park, won’t disappoint if you are looking for a day outside.
Carved by the Lehigh River the gorge has deep rock walls filled with vegetation, rock outcroppings, and waterfalls. Nature is astounding when you take the time to breathe in the fresh air and open your eyes to your surroundings. Whether you are looking for a recreational activity, a local history lesson or a challenging day hike we’ve got the spot for you.
Recreational Activities in the Lehigh Gorge State Park
Most activities in the park are seasonal, but the trails are open year round. Winter activities include cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. In the spring, summer and fall you can enjoy the following outdoor activities:
- Guided whitewater rafting
- Public boat launches for recreational boaters
- Rail trail biking path that follows the river is a pleasing 2% downhill grade
- Picnic areas
- Scenic views and wildlife watching
You can visit the State Park on your own or choose a river outfitter or a tour guide for your activities. Park maps are available on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) website.
Learning the History of the State Park
In the 1830’s the Lehigh Gorge State Park looked nothing like the serene picturesque views you will encounter today. Logging and coals industries were widespread in Northeast Pennsylvania and the river for transportation of material.
A system of extravagant locks and canals were built in the 1830’s and the section of the river between White Haven and Jim Thorpe became known as the Upper Grand Section of the Lehigh Canal. With 20 dams and 29 locks within 26 miles the transportation of goods down river became more convenient.
A severe storm in 1862 destroyed the canal system it was never rebuilt. You can see remnants of the old locks and dams as you hike or bike the Lehigh Gorge Trail or as you boat the Lehigh River.
Railroads through Jim Thorpe
New railroad technology replaced water transportation as the most efficient way to transport goods through the Lehigh River Gorge. As you explore the Lehigh Gorge State Park you will frequently see passing trains. They are now used for commercial transportation as well as a scenic train ride for tourists visiting Jim Thorpe.
Hiking Trails In and Near the Lehigh Gorge
One of the best hikes near the Lehigh Gorge State Park is to Glen Onoko Falls. The falls are not in the park, rather the neighboring Pennsylvania Game Lands. Even still, this is one of the most popular regional hikes accessible through the State Park. This is a natural area that possesses natural hazards like steep and treacherous terrain and fast moving water. Take precautions, not risks, and you will be rewarded with breath taking views of waterfalls and wildlife.
Be sure to stay on the trails for safety as well as preserving these natural areas.
Bald Mountain Tract
A recent addition to the Lehigh Gorge State Park is the Bald Mountain Tract. Old gravel roads serve as trails on this property. Scenic hikes to mountain vistas offer views of the Lehigh River Gorge from 600 feet above. The trail head and trails on the tract are unmarked and recommended for experienced hikers only. Topographical maps, compass, and the appropriate hiking gear are needed if you want to explore this area.
Hickory Run and Nescopeck State Park
Hickory Run State Park and Nescopeck State Park are neighboring natural areas that offer even more outdoor activities. Near White Haven, Hickory Run State Park offers more hiking opportunities in addition to fishing, boating, camping, wildlife watching and swimming.
The areas between White Haven and Jim Thorpe offer abundant natural resources and spectacular views, perfect for spending time in the great outdoors.
If you are looking for something to do or places to stay near Lehigh Gorge State Park, Whitewater Challengers has a 25+ acre campground with warm showers, bathroom facilities, recreation fields, dining services and a camp store. Whitewater Challengers also hosts a variety of outdoor activities. Call 800-443-8554 for more information or to talk to our river experts. Learn about what the Jim Thorpe and White Haven areas have to offer.