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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.
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