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Note: This developing route is not yet fully contiguous; please refer to the interactive maps on the websites in the Related Content section.
The D&L Trail runs for more than 140 miles through Eastern Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia’s northern metro area to Mountain Top in the Appalachians. It follows historical canal and railroad routes at the core of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, where natural resources and human ingenuity combined to power the nation’s Industrial Revolution.
The trail follows the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers through Bucks, Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, and Luzerne Counties. After several gaps are closed, it will be the longest rail-trail in the state at more than 160 miles. This national recreation trail is included in five regional trail system projects: the Circuit Trails, which will connect 800 miles of trail in Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey; THE LINK trail network in the Lehigh Valley, working to connect more than 500 miles of trails; the Northeastern Pennsylvania Trails Forum; the September 11th National Memorial Trail; and the East Coast Greenway, which will run from Maine to Florida.
It’s a good idea to visit the official trail website (delawareandlehigh.org) before heading out to check on local conditions. You’ll find valuable information on detours, lodging, dining, shuttles, and other services. While directions to and from on-road sections of the trail are marked in many cases, it’s best to refer to the website’s detailed collection of maps and detour information for each trail gap before making a long-distance trip. A portable GPS device is also recommended.
Delaware Canal State Park Segment: 58 miles
The southern section of the D&L Trail from Bristol to Easton passes through the linear Delaware Canal State Park for nearly 60 miles. This is the longest section of trail, with only minor interruptions. The crushed-gravel surface follows the towpath that dates to the early 1800s, when Bristol was chosen as the terminus of the canal that carried huge shipments of anthracite coal to drive regional industries.
Travelers through here will find canal locks, aqueducts, and other historical structures and homes. Between Bristol and Morrisville the trail passes near Levittown, an early example of the modern American suburb. Dining and lodging are available in many towns along this route. The tree-lined waterway supports bald eagles, herons, and ospreys, as well as smaller bird species and other wildlife. Walleye, bass, and shad thrive in the Delaware River.
Technically, the starting point for the trail begins at Bristol Lions Park (100 Basin Park, Bristol, Pennsylvania); however, a gap currently exists between the park and the trailhead at Jefferson Avenue (near Prospect Street), making the Jefferson Avenue trailhead the best place to begin your journey.
Several short gaps occur in the first 9 miles to Morrisville: in Tullytown by Levittown Town Center; at Tyburn Road in Morrisville; at the CSX rail corridor, just farther north of Tyburn Road; and at Lincoln Highway/Bridge Street in Morrisville. The gaps at Tyburn Road and at the CSX corridor are expected to be resolved by the end of 2019, though fixing the gaps at Tullytown (incomplete but passable) and at Bridge Street (not passable) is expected to take longer. You can detour on the road around the Bridge Street gap.
A side trip across the Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville leads to New Jersey and the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail, which runs along the Delaware River for almost 73 miles. Back on the D&L Trail, Washington Crossing Historic Park, a major attraction, lies 8 miles up from Morrisville. It marks the spot where General George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware on Christmas night in 1776 for a successful surprise attack on British forces.
As you arrive in New Hope, cross PA 32/River Road/Main Street, and take a sidewalk for about 300 feet to a short flight of steps back up to the canal path. The trail goes through downtown, which features dining and specialty shops. A popular stop here for exploring local history is the Locktender’s House (which serves as an interpretive center) and Lock 11.
From downtown New Hope, the trail follows the canal 35 miles to Easton, where it turns to head up the Lehigh River from its confluence with the Delaware.
Lower Lehigh River Segment: 16.7 miles
The D&L Trail follows the path of the Lehigh Canal from Easton to Bethlehem and Allentown, the most populated section of the trail. Barges primarily hauled coal and iron from mines and foundries upriver beginning as early as 1818.
The pathway is paved at the beginning of this stretch but later is surfaced with crushed stone. Just before crossing the Lehigh River on the Hill Road bridge 2.3 miles past Easton, history buffs might enjoy continuing straight to Hugh Moore Park, home of the National Canal Museum, where visitors can ride a mule-drawn canalboat.
About 6 miles farther down the trail from the bridge, you’ll find the Freemansburg Canal Education Center, located in a restored mule barn from 1829. The historical site features a canal lock, lock tender’s house, and the ruins of a gristmill. Passing through neighboring Bethlehem, you’ll have a clear view of the towering Bethlehem Steel chimneys across the river. Once a major steelmaker, the site is now home to an entertainment and cultural events venue named SteelStacks. This section of trail ends at Canal Park in Allentown.
Following the bend in the river north begins an 8-mile gap in the trail, where most of the route, except for a 0.5-mile path through Allentown’s Overlook Park, is on shared roads.
Middle Lehigh River Segment: 31.7 miles
An unimproved, but open, 1.4-mile section of the D&L Trail runs along the east side of the Lehigh River in Catasauqua and North Catasauqua. The path resumes at the intersection of Canal Street and West 10th Street in Northampton at a trailhead it shares with the 6-mile Nor-Bath Trail. (An interesting side trip is the Ironton Rail Trail across the river in Coplay, where nine towering obsolete cement kilns are preserved in Saylor Park.)
From the Northampton trailhead, the D&L Trail is paved for 1.3 miles through Canal Street Park and crosses the Lehigh River on the PA 329/West 21st Street bridge (bicyclists are encouraged to walk). On the west riverbank, the crushed-stone pathway—which follows the former railbed of the Lehigh Valley Railroad—travels upstream around a few bends through lush forests and towering cliffs with breathtaking views of the river. In 11 miles you’ll reach Slatington, where you’ll find the Slate Heritage Trail junction; both are named for the abundant slate deposits mined here.
Across the Lehigh River via the PA 873/Main Street Bridge is the 3.9-mile Walnutport Canal Spur that passes through Walnutport, where old locks, a lock tender’s house and museum, and ruins of an aqueduct are visible.
Lehigh Gap and Lehigh Gorge State Park Segment: 24.3 miles
Staying on the main D&L Trail for 2 miles after the Main Street Bridge, you’ll enter the narrow Lehigh Gap. The Lehigh River and a highway also squeeze through the Kittatinny Ridge water gap, and the Appalachian Trail crosses the river here too. You’ll pass the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, which sits on a 750-acre toxic cleanup site left behind by a zinc processing company. This area represents an environmental success story, as it has been revegetated and returned as a habitat for native birds and wildlife.
From the nature center, it’s another 7 miles to Weissport. Note the 1-mile-long section of shared roadway on Riverview Road between East Penn Township and PA 895. Lehighton to Weissport has another 1-mile on-road segment that heads north on Lehigh Drive and then east across the river at Bridge Street to a section of trail heading 1.7 miles south to Parryville or 3 miles north toward the borough of Jim Thorpe. Just before crossing the river, you can also head 0.5 mile north to Lehighton on a spur that provides access to the downtown area, where you’ll find a variety of restaurants and the headquarters for the Lehighton Outdoor Center, a biking and whitewater rafting outfitter.
On the east side of the river, the route from Weissport ends just before Jim Thorpe, but local shuttle services serve those passing through. The D&L has been working on a pedestrian bridge to remove this gap in the trail, which is anticipated to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020. Jim Thorpe, formerly named Mauch Chunk, is the burial site of the legendary Olympic athlete. It’s also home to an 1888 train station that’s the base of operations for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Mountain bikers will enjoy the rugged Switchback Railroad Trail nearby.
The trail picks up again in Jim Thorpe on the west side of the river, just south of the North Street bridge. Dramatic river gorge views greet D&L Trail users as they cross the Nesquehoning Trestle and continue the next 25 miles on crushed stone through Lehigh Gorge State Park and state hunting grounds. (There are no services for 22 miles on this stretch, so stock up in Jim Thorpe.) You’ll likely see kayakers and rafters in the river and scattered waterfalls in the steep rock face.
The next borough is White Haven, a former transportation hub during the coal-mining era and a good place to find food or lodging. Snowmobiling is allowed on the segment between Penn Haven and White Haven. At White Haven, a 0.3-mile section shares the road with Main Street and travels by restaurants, stores, and a bike rental shop.
Black Diamond Segment: 11.5 miles
The on-road segment in White Haven leads to the next section of the D&L, known as the Black Diamond Trail due to the region’s coal mining heritage. The trail climbs a slope for the next 10 miles, parting company with the Lehigh River along the way, to the Black Diamond Trailhead on Woodlawn Avenue south of Glen Summit. Most riders end (or start) their long-distance rides at the Black Diamond Trailhead, as this is the current end of the main section of trail.
There’s about a 4-mile gap from this trailhead north to the isolated 1.2-mile last section of the D&L Trail in Mountain Top. Studies are underway to find the best route through the mostly forested landscape. If you must continue to Mountain Top, consider a shuttle, as PA 437 has narrow shoulders.
The trail’s eventual destination is the river commons of the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre. The Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is working with multiple partners to complete this trail.
To reach the southern trailhead in Bristol from I-95, take Exit 42 to merge onto US 13 S/Bristol Pike toward Bristol. Go 1.4 miles, and turn left onto Beaver St./Beaver Dam Road. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Jefferson Ave. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto Prospect St. Make an immediate right into the parking lot.
To reach the Canal Street trailhead in Northampton from I-78 E, take Exit 59, and turn left onto W. Rock Road. In 0.2 mile turn left onto PA 145, and go 2 miles. Continue straight another 2.1 miles, as the road changes names from S. Fourth St., Basin St., S. Third St., and finally American Pkwy. Turn left onto Sumner Ave., and go 0.8 mile. Turn right onto N. Sixth St., which merges into MacArthur Road in 0.2 mile. Continue on MacArthur, which rejoins PA 145, for 2.7 miles. Turn right onto Lehigh St., go 1.2 miles, and then continue onto Eugene St., which turns into Cypress St. Turn left onto Fourth St., and go 1.3 miles (note that Fourth St. turns right and becomes Main St.). Turn left onto W. 10th St., which turns right and becomes Canal St. Look for the small parking lot at the endpoint, immediately to your left. Another larger parking lot is available just 0.3 mile farther along Canal St., to your left.
To reach the Northampton trailhead from I-78 W, take Exit 60B to merge onto PA 145 N. In 2.8 miles, continue straight onto S. Fourth St., and follow the directions above from there.
To reach the northern trailhead in Mountain Top from I-81 N, take Exit 165A to merge onto PA 309 S. (From I-81 S, take Exit 165, and turn left onto PA 309. Go 1 mile to start the following directions.) Go 3 miles, and turn left onto Woodlawn Ave. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto Lehigh St. Look for parking on the right.