The D&L Trail follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way for nearly four miles between East Penn Township’s new boat launch and the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. This is a dynamic section of trail, with continuous views of the Lehigh River on one side and the steep, rocky slopes of the Kittatiny Ridge on the other. Air and soil pollution from Palmerton’s zinc smelting plant defoliated the mountainsides, but, with the closing of the plant and the declaration of Lehigh Gap as a Superfund site, a successful remediation project is underway to bring the mountain’s native flora back to life. As you walk or ride the trail, take note of the grasses and shrubs growing among the scattered rocks; these are the first signs of what will one day be a thriving, blanket of green.
Parking is available at the East Penn Boat Launch (on Riverbend Rd., at Lizard Creek Junction) to the north and the Lehigh Gap Nature Center (on Paint Mill Rd., off of Rt. 873) to the south. Over the last year, this section of trail has seen significant improvements. Once the haunt of ATV-riders and the occasional fisherman, the trail has been widened, graded, and rolled so that mountain bikers, joggers, and hikers can also enjoy the trip. In some places, water drainage issues and loose rail ballast need to be addressed, but the trail is in generally good condition and sees regular use.
The scenery is a nice balance of industrial remnants and natural beauty. Along with the piers of old railroad trestles are wetlands and patches of wildflowers. Hawks circle above the river gap, and occasionally through the trees, you will catch a glimpse of the now dormant zinc plant. For a hawk’s-eye view of the gap, use the D&L Trail to access the ridge-running Appalachian Trail at the Nature Center. But, don’t miss the small ponds on the northern section of the trail.
Trail users can choose whether to travel the section and then backtrack or leave a car on both ends. For the more adventurous, continue the journey south along Slatington’s superbly-maintained rail-trail, Walnutport’s scenic canal towpath, or the Slate Heritage Trail that intersects the D&L Trail at Trout Creek.