Bike, Hike, and Raft the Lehigh Gorge This Summer!

Photo Courtesy of Poconowhitewater.com

By Taylor Smith

Five times larger than New York’s Central Park, Lehigh Gorge State Park in northeastern Pennsylvania is a 4,548-acre wilderness just 90 minutes from Philadelphia and two hours from New York City. The region is home to the Northeast’s most accessible and convenient whitewater rafting, family style rafting, hiking, and rail trail biking. This summer, encourage your kids to put down their screens and instead experience an action-packed Whitewater Dam Release weekend, biking, or hiking in the great outdoors.

Surrounded by state park-protected woodlands and mountains, visitors will enjoy 12 miles and four to five hours of active class III whitewater and breathtaking scenery. This type of trip is suitable for ages 8 and up. While paddling over rapids, you’ll have an active, unforgettable day outdoors. Although no experience is necessary, feeling comfortable in the water is a must. Highlights include over 17 sets of rapids and beautiful scenery in the Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Natural whitewater flow occurs from April 2 through mid-June, with Dam Release weekends scheduled from May through October. This year’s Dam Release dates offer an extra “boost” on those class III whitewater rapids that will really get your heart pounding.

Photo Courtesy of Poconowhitewater.com

DAM RELEASE DATES:

July: 7, 8, 21, 22, 28, 29

August: 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26

September: 1, 2

October: Daily, plus a mega Dam Release on October 6 and 7.

Dam Release trips have limited availability, so reservations are strongly recommended. Visitors can book as soon as possible at poconowhitewater.com or whitewaterchallengers.com.

Photo Courtesy of Poconowhitewater.com

TRAIL BIKING IN LEHIGH GORGE STATE PARK

The Lehigh Gorge Bike Trail is one of the most scenic trail rides in the United States. Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, it winds through old growth forests overlooking the dramatic rapids of the Lehigh River in Lehigh Gorge State Park. Bikers will enjoy spectacular views of whitewater crests, slanting cliff faces, unmarked woodlands, and waterfalls. Whitewater Challengers (whitewaterchallengers.com) offers bikes for rent and shuttle services. Half Trail (1-1.5 hours on the trail) and Full Trail (2-2.5 hours on the trail) are available.

Another great biking source is Pocono Biking (poconobiking.com). They offer trail maps and the chance to test your endurance skills by biking the Upper or Lower Gorge at 10 or 15 miles, the Lehigh Gap Trail at 23 miles, the Full Lehigh Gorge at 25 miles, or the Full Monty at 36 miles.

Photo Courtesy of Poconowhitewater.com

HIKING TRAILS IN AND AROUND THE LEHIGH GORGE

Lehigh Gorge State Park is nestled between the historic town of Jim Thorpe, Pa., and the Francis E. Walter Dam in the Pocono Mountains. Rich in natural history and views, the park will keep you busy with hiking activities if you are looking for a day or weekend spent outside.

A system of extravagant locks and canals were built in the 1830s to support the logging and coal industries, which were once widespread across the region. The river was used as primary transportation for this material.

A severe storm swept through in 1862 destroying the canal system, and it was never rebuilt to its original capacity. Visitors can see remnants of the olds locks and dams as they hike and bike along the Lehigh Gorge Trail.

Eventually, new railroad technology replaced the canal system, and hikers will observe frequent passing trains. Many of these trains are now used for commercial transportation, as well as a scenic train ride for tourists visiting Jim Thorpe.

RUN & RAFT ON JULY 7

Have you heard the news?

This year Whitewater Challengers is offering a Raft & Run event on July 7, which includes a 7.5-mile jog along the scenic Lehigh Gorge Trail before transitioning into a three-hour whitewater adventure along the Lehigh River. On the morning of the event, participants are scheduled to meet at the Whitewater Challengers Rafting Center, located at 288 North Stagecoach Road in Weatherly, Pa. Racers will receive a commemorative Run & Raft T-shirt along with lunch on the river. Runners will enjoy the stretch of mostly gravel trail surrounded by lush foliage, shade, and pristine landscapes. Whitewater Challengers will have shuttle buses on hand at the finish line to provide runners and rafters with a short ride back to the rafting center. To register, visit whitewaterchallengers.com/run.