The Palmer Township Recreation Trail (a.k.a. the Towpath Bike Trail) is a terrific community asset for Palmer and Bethlehem township residents and a great destination for visitors as well. Three modes of transportation once operated on this corridor: Lehigh Canal, the Central Railroad of New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley Transit (LVT) interurban.
Chartered in 1818, the privately owned canal remained in operation for 113 years, hauling anthracite coal from Mauch Chunk to the Delaware Canal at Easton. The Easton and Western branch was built in 1914 and fell into disuse in 1972. The LVT Easton line was part of a larger electric railways system that stretched from the Delaware Water Gap to near Philadelphia.
Today a smooth, 8-foot-wide asphalt trail traverses the corridor in a partial loop running nearly 8 miles from Easton High School to Riverview Park. The loop is the heart of the trail. The small spur section running south from Easton Area High School in Palmer Township makes a nice connection for locals to access the trail.
Heading north from the high school, is a spur known as the Tatamy Trail, which stretches north for several miles, connecting a few small parks and reaching the community of Tatamy.
Mostly tree-shaded, the trail is pretty and well maintained, with mile markers, benches and flowerbeds sprinkled throughout. Starting at the high school, you cruise down a gentle grade to Riverview Park, which lines the banks of the Lehigh River. The first mile of trail passes through neighborhoods and parks, but the path quickly becomes secluded and serene as it weaves through farmland and woodland.
Around mile 5 the trail starts to loop back and runs along the river, although at this point the distance and tree cover make river views hard to see. Close to mile 6 the trail intersects with another rail-trail the D & L Trail: Lehigh Canal South, which heads south to Allentown. To stay on the towpath trail and complete the loop, bear left. At this point, you start to see the river off to your right, and as you glide along the next to the river, stop and enjoy the gorgeous Chain Dam overlook. As the trail comes to a close you wind back from the water's edge through Riverview Park, with its picnic areas, ball fields, pavilions, restrooms and parking. Fishing is also available at this park.
To extend your sightseeing, take the short distance (on road) out of the parking lot down Lehigh Drive, and turn right to go over the Glendon Bridge into Hugh Moore Park. This great recreational park offers canal rides on boats drawn by horses plying the old towpath, historical markers sharing the canal's history and open green space to picnic, play soccer or relax.
To reach the Riverview Park trailhead from Allentown, take US Route 22 East to 25th Street South. Stay on 25th Street South for about 2 miles and turn right on Lehigh Drive. Turn right into the parking lot.
To reach the northern trailhead from Allentown, take US 22 East to 25th Street South. Turn right onto William Penn Highway (Easton Avenue). Almost immediately you will see a shopping center on your right and Easton High just beyond it. Turn left onto 27th Street, which dead-ends at the entrance to the trail. A small gravel area here does not have posted parking restrictions.