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Jersey Jaunts - Biking in (and around) New Jersey

Lehigh Gorge Trail ReDux - Summer 2006

We made another trip to the Lehigh Gorge in 2006, this time on a beautiful summer day. Even in summer the trail is cool from the tree canopy that shades the path; on more than one occasion we were bathed with refreshing waves of cool air that would linger around the many waterfalls and rock faces as we passed.

This trip we discovered lock 24, somehow on our first trip we managed to pedal past this site. The lock is worth the effort to dismount and explore closer in, a word of caution however, particularly with children, the lock is deep, and a fall into it would surely cause serious injury, if not death. There are no fences or walkways, and the footing is marginal, I'd definitely keep the single digit age kids away, and apply strong parental control on the older ones. Further south on the trail at Mud Run there is another lock that isn't so deep with a safer trail that leads down into the old canal bed. Here is a GPS route with many waypoints of interest along the way; I found this a handy way to find the many interesting sights along the ride.

This trip we used Blue Mountain sports to shuttle us to the Whitehaven trailhead, it's difficult to compare Blue Mountain with Pocono Whitewater, the other trail shuttle service, because they are so different. Blue Mountain is small and leaves right from Jim Thorpe, while Pocono is a huge organization and operates from a base quite a distance out of town (maybe 20 mins?). When using Blue mountain you can bike from the end of the gorge trail, across the bridge, and back into town (and your car), albeit on a narrow shoulder road, with two killer hills at the end, this gives you a full 25 mile ride, whereas Pocono Whitewater picks you up at trail's end (about 22 miles), and buses you all the way back to their base. Note that the Blue Mountain guy said they would pick you up at the trails end as well if you give them a call, something to consider with kids.

During our stay (this was a no kids trip) we rode a portion of the switchback railroad trail that also ends in Jim Thorpe (for a shuttle to the top I would definitely use Blue Mountain for this trail, as the lower trail head is about a block or two from the store).

Since we were only interested in sampling the trail we parked at Manch Chunk lake park (just outside of town) where the trail makes one of two road crossing, from here we pedaled up the trail to the Summit Mountain trailhead (about 3.5 miles), then let gravity take us back down to the lake (boat rental, bait, swimming also available at lake). While the ride up was bumpy, it was also slow (~5-6 MPH); however the ride back down was bone-jarring at 10-13 MPH).

The switchback is technically a rail-trail with a fairly constant grade, but the surface is ROUGH, defiantly mountain bike turf (I rode a shock less hybrid!), 1" gravel rocks, random 2" to 4" mini-boulders and even chunks of coal spilled a hundred years ago from train cars makes this a bumpy experience. The very top portion at the Summit trailhead is actually a paved road (we never saw a car), providing a brief respite from the bumps. I pity the family who attempts the trail with trailer bikes, or kid trailers (yes we encountered some of these hapless folks). Good bike control is important since you must dodge rocks, etc, and the consequence of an uncontrolled off-trail excursion in some sections isn't a pleasant thought.

Given the opportunity again I think would rent a shock equipped bike and make it a one-way trip from top to bottom.