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The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - Jim Thorpe: A Local's Perspective

Trail Blog #2

Written by: Jay Marsden

The rich history in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the place that I call my home, is no secret. From being the thriving coal town of the 19th century named Mauch Chunk or “Sleeping Bear”, to the notorious Molly Maguire trials, to once being the wealthiest town in America, housing 13 millionaires at one time. Jim Thorpe may not be “The Switzerland of America” it once was but it is still a truly remarkable place to live or visit. There are so many amazing things about this town in my eyes that it is almost hard to narrow them all down.  So in order to document this section of the D&L trail I threw together, as a local, my top five favorite things to do in JTPA (in no specific order because everything here is awesome) and a few local preferences:

The Glen
Glen Onoko State park will be the first place you enter if you are traveling from the Upper Grand Section in White Haven or Rockport. This place is such an amazing asset to the area that I would spend weeks at a time here during the summer months if they would allow it. The series of spectacularly rugged waterfalls that fall into the Lehigh Gorge Valley are unlike any other in the area. Preserved almost completely naturally this area can be quite dangerous but on a hot day the water in the Lehigh River under the towering walls of the gorge is incredibly refreshing.  This park is only about a two mile walk from the downtown area of Jim Thorpe, courtesy of the newly restructured trestle bridges along the railroad.

The Lehigh
The Lehigh River is one of the most heavily trafficked rivers in the country when it comes to commercial whitewater trips and it is also a vital resource for the waterman of all distinctions. It is trout season right now and the Lehigh is stocked with some good sized brown, brook, and rainbow trout. Whether you spin or fly now is the time to get out your boots wet. Also, this section of the Lehigh between the Glen Onoko state park and downtown Jim Thorpe is the section I call the “easy day”. If you launch your boats at the Glen and Float to downtown Jim Thorpe you get a taste of class three rapids (above 500 ft³/s), some beautiful scenery, and some easy yet valuable river experience, and it only takes about two hours. You can even stow your boat at one of the local outfitters and walk or ride your back to your car at the Glen via the Lehigh Gorge trail.

The face of Jim Thorpe, Broadway, is where our night life exists. The incomparable acoustics of the Jim Thorpe Opera house this summer sounds as fantastic as usual so keep an eye out for who will be performing in the following months. On most Friday and Saturday nights there is live music at both of the major bars on Broadway and during the summer months these sounds flow extremely well with the sweet summer air and the great food seen.  Moya, Wheel, and Flow all boast some pretty substantial reviews for their fine dining. But for lunch you can’t miss the buffalo chicken pizza at Antonio’s and the classic candy and ice cream store across the street called Rainbow’s End.

The Switchback
One of my absolute favorite places in town is the Switchback trail, which runs straight from Summit Hill to Broadway if you would like it to. However, this trail is the hub for some of the best mountain bike riding in the area and passes by the beautiful Mauch Chunk Lake. Stop by the outfitters in downtown Jim Thorpe and ask for maps for both the Mauch Chunk Ridge, an extremely technical and rocky single track trail with a killer downhill at the end and Switchback Two a.k.a. Indian Springs, which is an intermediate trail with a fantastic lookout over the Lehigh Gorge. The main trail of the Switchback is personally my favorite place to run in the world, I’ve put in a lot of miles on this trail and it has never gotten old. The best part is that the Mauch Chunk Creek keeps you company the entire way.

Mauch Chunk Lake Park
If trail running and mountain biking aren’t your passion be sure to check out Mauch Chunk Lake Park. A beautiful man made lake that curves through the upper part of the town’s valley. Stocked with a substantial amount of largemouth bass and the home of some very unique coves that can be explored by man powered vehicles only Mauch Chunk Lake is a spectacular place. Also, there is a very authentic camping area, a lovely swimming section and multiple concession stands. However, beach volleyball at Mauch Chunk Lake Park is where it is at. Bring some friends and settle things the old fashion way, by spiking the ball at your buddy’s head.

And lastly, a few recommendations from a local:

Tommy’s Steaks and Subs on the east side of town has a sandwich called “The Rambo,” which is a cheese steak with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, French fries, ketchup, and mayo all wrapped up in a freshly baked roll. Sounds amazing right? Please do not take my word on this one. Go there as soon as physically possible and try it for yourself, you’ll find yourself believing in the Rambo’s powers very quickly. You might need to hit the gym a little harder the next day but it is worth it, I promise.

Drink Bear Creek Iced Tea. There are two companies that produce single serving cartons of ice tea in Jim Thorpe and they can be found in almost every convenient store in Jim Thorpe. There has always been a dispute whether Zimmerman’s ice tea (in the orange carton) or Bear Creek ice tea (the brown carton) is better but I’ll gladly state my opinion one more time. Drink Bear Creek Iced Tea if you haven’t tried it already.

Check out the Carbon Country Environmental Center on Lentz Trail just passed Mauch Chunk Lake. Their hours are a bit unknown but at any time you can visit the fully grown golden and bald eagles that are currently recuperating among other large and small birds from injuries on the premises

Stop at the old Flagstaff ballroom on Flagstaff Road if you get a chance, the view will blow your mind.
If you have not had the chance to spend at least a weekend in Jim Thorpe I highly recommend that you do. It is such an amazing place filled with amazing people and experiences I promise you won’t be disappointed if you keep an open mind. I really hope that I will be seeing some more new faces walking the streets of this beautiful town soon. And don’t forget to check out why the Rand McNally nominated good old JTPA as one of America’s most beautiful towns on July 25th at eight on the Travel Channel. Check it out!