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You’ve heard of the Steel Belt and the Sun Belt. The 6.7-mile Plainfield Township Recreation Trail passes through an area known as the Slate Belt. The quantity and quality of local slate made this part of Northampton County the world’s largest slate producer for a time and prompted construction of a railroad that later became the rail-trail.
An immigrant from Wales started the first local slate quarry in nearby Bangor in 1848. The popularity of the blue-gray slate soon grew, and others began mining. The Bangor and Portland Railway was created to serve the quarries in 1879. After 1909, a series of railroads operated it until Conrail sold it to the township in 1987. The trail was completed in 1991.
The trail crosses Little Bushkill Creek five times on scenic wooden bridges from West Pen Argyl to the outskirts of Stockertown on a slight downhill grade. All but the northern segment is paved. The trail is open dawn–dusk.
Starting at the trailhead in West Pen Argyl, you begin at the foot of Blue Mountain, which carries the Appalachian Trail across its summit. A neighboring community, Pen Argyl—where Jayne Mansfield, a Hollywood actress of the 1950s and 1960s, now rests beneath a heart-shaped tombstone—is about a mile east of the trail. Pen Argyl is also home to the 1923 vintage Weona Park Carousel, which is ringed with three rows of horses and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Passing through a wooded area, you’ll see a large slate refuse pile like many that dot the landscape here. More than two-thirds of the mined slate was considered unfit for use and was discarded in slag piles like these. The useful slate found its way onto houses and buildings as slate roofs, which still abound in older parts of Philadelphia and other Eastern Seaboard cities. Single quarries are still operating in nearby Wind Gap, Pen Argyl, and Bangor.
The route heads south past farms, though the surroundings can be difficult to discern in the summer because of the dense forest bordering the path. You’ll likely see horses grazing in pastures when you pass some clearings.
The trail ends just past the Belfast Junction trailhead off Main Street on the outskirts of Stockertown, home to a large cement factory. The trailhead for Stockertown Rail Trail is just across Main Street, and the trail goes 1.1 miles into town, where you’ll find a mini-mart and tavern.
Plans are underway to build a trail to improve safety between the Plainfield Township Recreation Trail and Stockertown Rail Trail. The 1.6-mile connector trail will also link trails in Jacobsburg State Park. The project will take place in two phases, with work anticipated to be completed in Bushkill Township in 2019–2020 and in Plainfield Township in 2020–2021.
To reach the northern trailhead in West Pen Argyl from I-80 W, take Exit 304 for US 209 S toward Snydersville/SR 33 S. Merge onto US 209 S, go 6.2 miles, and then continue onto SR 33 S. Go 5.4 miles, and take the exit toward Wind Gap. Turn left onto SR 115, and go 0.1 mile. Then continue onto N. Broadway, and go 0.4 mile. Turn left onto Alpha Road, go 0.4 mile. Then turn left onto SR 512 N/N. Lehigh Ave., and go 0.8 mile. Turn right onto Buss St., and take an immediate left into the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the northern trailhead in West Pen Argyl from I-80 E, take Exit 302A to merge onto SR 33 S toward US 209 S/Snydersville in 3.2 miles. SR 33 S turns slightly right and becomes SR 33 S/US 209 S. Go 2.2 miles. Continue onto SR 33 S, and go 5.4 miles. Take the exit toward Wind Gap, and follow the directions above from Wind Gap to the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the southern trailhead in Stockertown from I-78, take Exit 71 for SR 33 N toward US 22/Stroudsburg. Merge onto SR 33 N, go 8.5 miles, and then take the SR 191 exit toward Stockertown/Bangor. Turn right onto SR 191 N/Industrial Blvd. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto SR 191 N/Main St. Go 0.7 mile, and turn right into the trailhead parking lot.
Recently rode this trail with a hybrid bike. The trail surface for most of its length is rough and laced with potholes. What makes it worse is that the shaded trail makes it difficult to see the potholes and other imperfections in time to steer around or slow down. There is a short stretch of smoother pavement at about the one mile mark.
This trail has great potential as it is very scenic and follows a creek for most of its length. A wayside with picnic tables and port-a-potty midway was welcome.
Slight upgrade most of the way out made for a quick return if you can avoid trail problems.
The Plainfield township trail is a very picturesque trip through a pastoral area of Pennsylvania. The trail is dotted with quaint farm houses and punctuated with the sounds of cows. A mature tree canopy shades the trail for the vast majority of its length. There are picnic tables every mile or so and restrooms at about the halfway point at Knitters Hill Road, with picnic tables. The pavement of the trail gradually gets rougher the farther north you go, the pavement ends at Grand Central Rd, and the trail reverts to crushed gravel and then rocky gravel.
About a half mile north of Grand Central Road, the trail departs from the rail right of way and ascends up a rocky truck road graded with golfball-sized to fist-sized limestone. As of Fall 2016 this section of trail was heavily rutted on the short, steep hills. I would not recommend this for casual bikers or small children. As such, I would suggest entering the trail at or south of Grand Central road.
There was a wall with lost keys tacked to it at the Knitters Hill Access area, which adds to the character of the trail.
The Plainfield Township Trail is a very nice trail for walking and biking of which we’ve done a half dozen times or so over the years. Today’s trek started at the Grand Central Rd access point (unofficial, but there is new parking there) N40° 50.642' W75° 16.050' elev 628’; we then rode south crossing several country/township roads. The trail is wide and mostly asphalt or crushed and packed red stone. It is quite smooth and very well maintained as well as being beautifully shaded. It’s wide enough for side-by-side, but there were a lot of times we would have had to merge into a single track yielding to other riders to pass us. There are a number of stream crossings with wide wooden bridges, all of which are in very good condition and transitions between bridge and trail are very smooth. There are numerous benches and a couple picnic tables to sit and enjoy nature. We continued south to the Stockertown access point at N40° 45.960' W75° 16.285' elev 423’. There is ample parking at this trail head end and has a porta-poddie, benches and an assortment of bike repair tools cabled to a 4x4 post sponsored by a local bike shop. We sat on a bench for a few minutes, re-hydrated and grabbed a couple of selfies and started the trek back to Wind Gap. Since we hadn’t gone quite the 12-mile round trip goal for today we continued north to West Pen Argyl to finish it off. Once crossing Grand Central Rd the trail changes significantly. It then becomes gravel and old rail ballast; it’s still wide and easy to ride. You wind in and around an old slate quarry with one steeper hill and then you’ll end up at the Buss St parking area just off SR 512. There were a steady stream of other walkers and riders the entire trip traveling in both directions. All-and-all a very nice easy scenic trail.
great trail! I ride it as much as I can on bike. Going north there is a slight uphill grade. Not too difficult.
First timers on this trail. One Mom and two kids ages 8 and 13 all with hardy Trek mtn bikes. We started at the nearest parking area to our home from just across the bridge in NJ, the northern end point in Pen Argyle, which turned out to be a mistake. Heavy ballast stone coated the trail, and down hill and up at first which made the youngest rider a little nervous about riding. We also thought perhaps we entered onto the wrong trail, or not the trail at all. No markings at all in the northern parking area, or on the trial at that point. Just some street signs with truck pictures, which made me nervous. Later discovered that area has a quarry that you can ride near. There is a T crossing in the road also that is not marked and later I learned that the quarry is at the T section.
Once we made it down the first section, and saw another family of bikers turning their bikes around and heading south, we knew we were OK. The trail leveled out with smooth pavement from there on. Memorial Day, so the trail was busy with bikers, and dog walkers and everyone was very friendly. But that was at the start at about 10am, by 12 the trail was deserted. We did not ride all the way to the Stockerton tail head this time as we had to turn back at some point to make it back up the gravel hills to the truck, but will defiantly ride this trail again.
If you take your kids, make sure you start at Knitters Hill Rd. parking area or at the Stockerton area and ride north until Grand Central Ave and turn around. The road crossing were OK, and on every road but one did the traffic stop when they saw us approaching the road. Only at Delabole Rd crossing it seemed to be the busiest and we had to wait until finally a driver stopped at the crossing and we could pass.
I give this a three star because of the confusion of the northern section. Safety first, gets the trail marked. But the Boy Scouts did a GREAT job on the rest of the trail! Thanks Boys.
Great, lightly used trail. Parking lot was packed at Stockertown (southern) trailhead, but not many people on trail, especially as you went further from the trailhead parking area. The southern end is paved with crushed stone, middle part changes back and forth from crushed stone to regular pavement. After crossing Grand Central Road, changes to crushed stone and dirt for about a mile. Once trail turns left near northern terminus (continuing on railroad bed is now private property), the surface changes to heavy ballast stone (driveway-type terrain)...very difficult for trail bikes to continue. Trail is continuously flat (old railroad bed), with the exception of the left turn at the end, which takes you up quite a steep grade before leveling off again to the Pen Argyl trailhead.
Overall very nice, long trail. Kudos to Boy Scout Troop 33 of Pen Argyl for signage at road crossings, mileage signage, and building many "rest stops" along the way. Also to note - this is the only trail I've ever been on that has a "bike fix up" station at the trailhead - essentially a bunch of tools hanging on nylon cables on a post for those quick bike tightenings! Great idea!
Can also start further south, as Stockertown Bike Path is now finished and paved, although don't know where trailheads are. Noted it was paved as it passes over Industrial Blvd. at Route 191/33 interchange. Doesn't not seem fully completed yet, as road crossing at trailhead (where you'd change from the Stockertown trail to the Plainfield Twp. trail) is not signed or painted whatsoever, but possible...just use extreme caution.
Just rode it in late November, and it was perfect. Most of it is paved, so it would be a good pick for when it's been wet. Very quiet. Scenery is nice, lots of woods and farms with frequent views of Little Bushkill Creek.
Beautiful trail with blacktop surface. A little boring being flat and straight but nice scenery. Required to clean up after horses a problem having to dismounted and kick the manure off the trail a bit of a pain especially if you need a mounting block to get back on. Our horses didn't like going under the low underpass under the highway around 2 miles from the south end. Cars roaring overhead, a stream on one side and park benches combined with a ceiling off 8 or 9 feet made them uneasy but with some incouragement we made it through. Overall a very relaxing ride but a little boaring. Personaly I'd go a few miles away to Jacobsburg
I'm an avid user of this trail. I'm happy how this trail has been updated and kept up over the years.
Most of this trail, about 6 miles on the southern end, is very nice and easy to bike or run. The northern end for about .75 to 1 mile is heavy ballast and difficult to bike on. Very hilly and not good traction unless your bike has knobby MTB tires. Moreover, when you do reach the northern end at rt. 512 there is only a small lot, no benches, tables etc.
There are some great views of the creek and wooded areas which is nice. But after going north of Grand Central Rd. it starts to get bare, and is rocky around the old quarry site.
The road crossings are a little annoying. They are not hard to navigate, but just too close together for my taste.
Although this trail is always in good condition it has been updated since Hurricane Sandy with new railings at some points, picnic tables, benches, trial signs, trash & recycle containers and a new porta-potty at Knitters Hill Road/Merwath Road picnic rest area.
Very nice trail and a favorite of ours for biking. Love all the trail bridges crossing the creeks here and there - nice scenery. Benches to rest at several points along the trail. We start at Stockertown and go north (slight uphill grade) to about a mile past Grand Central Road (gets a little hilly & path is rougher) and then turn around to go gently downhill all the way back. Majority of the trail is macadam, some areas the macadam is topped with a rough coat, and from Grand Central Road north it is hard packed stone. Overall an enjoyable ride!!!
The north end of this trail has a parking area off Rt 512 north of Wind Gap, right turn onto Buss ST, parking is on the left. Trail northward from north parking toward Pen Argyl is rougher. From Buss St south trail is well graded. Middle section of trail in parts has recently been regraded, stoned and compacted. Paved parking is at the Stockertown end. General pitch of land downhill from north to south. Trail is mostly shaded but does have some exposed sections in the lower end of the middle of the trail. No amenities that I have seen.
Rode this trail early summer, very easy, steady and level, great for family rides and walks.
I usually prefer long bike rides, but my trip last month was well worth it (I was in the area so took a ride). I parked at the south end and proceeded to the quarry. The trail is in excellent condition until you get to the unmarked road at about mile 5.75. From there its about 0.75 miles to the quarry - you can see the trail narrow and proceed to the right - but I didn't follow it as I was running out of time.
There had been a heavy rain a few days before, and the creeks were all babbling and very pretty!
This is an excelent trail and the reviews are useful. The surface is paved, some new and some old. The description of the start of the north end on Buss Road off Rt 512 in Pen Argyl is incomplete. There is parking available on Buss Rd at a spot labeled Recreation Trail. The trail is down in the valley so there is a quarter mile connection or link trail down to the rail trail from the parking lot. At the parking lot past the barrier posts take the crushed stone covered path to the right around the old quarry and waste mgt site down to the rail trail. Youker 8/27/2010
This was my absolute favorite trail in my years that I lived in the Lehigh Valley. I ran hundreds of miles here. It was a great alternative to running on harder surfaces. I moved away a couple of years ago but get back on occasion. Anytime I've been in the area, I always made a point to run on this trail. I went back about a year and a half ago and found my worst fear- they paved the 2 mile (approximate) grass section of the trail. For those who liked the softer surface for running, this ruined the trail. If you like an easy bike, it's fine. Blacktopping the trail turned it into a scenic road with no cars. If I wanted to run on blacktop, there is plenty of road. Shame on Plainfield Twp- you destroyed what made this trail great!
My wife and I have ridden our bikes on this trail many times as well as walking our 2 Beagles. People are always friendly and trail does not have that much traffic. On cooler weekends the south parking area at RTs191 & 115 gets crowded! usually the middle lot and northern lot (outside Wind Gap) are not as busy. Almost all of the trail with the exception of the stretch from Grand Central Road to the north parking area.
My first time on this trail, there were some trees overblown onto the trail from this past weekends winds, only one will require a chainsaw, the small ones I cleared to the side of the trail. Spring fever today had about 15 people out this clear, sunny Sunday morning at 10am, about 35 deg F, but I was the only biker. Trail runs along Little Bushkill Creek for a while, which makes for some nice views.
Nice to see the improvements to the trail. The wider width is nice for bikers to pass safely. Also like the elimination of the gates at the cross roads. I have been walking & cross country skiing this trail since it's creation. Very nice & peaceful. Close & convienent.
"This is an absolutely wonderful trail; it's perfectly suited for both biking and walking.
The trail surface varies from a very hard packed ballast, grass, loose gravel, and smooth asphalt. All of these surface types will be encountered if you travel the trail's entire length.
Unfortunately, there are only two dedicated trail user parking lots and one is at the trail's southern terminus (Route 115/191). The other lot is mid-trail and difficult to get to from major highways.
There are several street crossings, but none are unmanageable.
I drove 90 minute to try this trail out and will come back again in the future; it was that nice."
"This trail goes from Wind Gap to Stockertown. It is very flat and straight. The few bends in the trail are slight and you can usually see almost 1/2 mile in front you. The path offers decent shade with trees on both sides. An easy, relaxed trail."
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