Welcome to another installment of our “Trail Town” series, this time spotlighting the Lehigh Valley region located in eastern Pennsylvania. Written by Bree Nidds and Mary Coryell, this feature was provided by Discover Lehigh Valley.
Lehigh Valley is home to Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, as well as a dozen charming towns and boroughs. Lehigh Valley is the third largest metro-region in Pennsylvania with over 800,000 residents, the tri-cities mentioned above account for a quarter of the population. Welcoming nearly 17 million visitors annually, over 6,000 hotel rooms are available to accommodate overnight visitors.
Lehigh Valley is tucked amid the Great Appalachian Mountains with charming countrysides and picturesque trails, perfect for thrill seekers and outdoor lovers. Experience Lehigh Valley’s timeless history first-hand as you explore the region’s various trails and get glimpses of the Lehigh Canal and locktender’s house, 90-foot-high Saylor Cement kilns, Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, and so much more!
Lehigh Valley has an abundance of trails that are appropriate for all levels of activity from a brisk walk to mountain climbing hikes, and best of all, most trails are free of charge and offer free parking! The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is a multi-use trail that spans 165 miles crossing railroads, canals, rivers, and trails. The Lehigh Valley portion is home to approximately 48 miles and spans the Central region of the corridor. Whether you prefer to walk, bike, or run this trail has all the options, and you can even take a break at Hugh Moore Park to ride on the Josiah White II canal boat or hop in the canal for some kayaking, paddle boarding, or a paddle boat ride.
The Link is an interconnected trail network highlighting a variety of trails across Lehigh Valley, one of which is the D&L Trail. This network of trails gives the community, as well as visitors, the opportunity to get outside and visit new areas of Lehigh Valley. Just a few of the many trail systems include:
Community & Culture
The trail scene in Lehigh Valley can be described as a “space for people to reconnect with nature and their childlike selves,” says Miranda Alvarez, a Lehigh Valley resident and D&L staff member. Alvarez reflected on the role that trails played in her life over the last few months and gives so much thanks for how accessible they are, whether it be cost or location.
Lehigh Valley trails allow people to get out and experience adventure, while also allowing the opportunity to rest and step away from the craziness of everyday life and take in the beautiful views. Miranda explains her favorite thing about the trails is that they allow people to experience the area with a completely different outlook, “you can ride a towpath, tucked between the canal and river, with remnants of industry peaking through or hide away from a bustling area of Bethlehem and listen to the serene sounds of water and critters, while enjoying a stellar view of the SteelStacks.”
This year, the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor partnered with Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) and Afros in Nature, in which they hosted a casual bike ride from Sand Island to Freemansburg and invited black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). This partnership/event allowed participants to access bikes and come together to reconnect with nature. “That event was so special to me, because it was such an example of how the Lehigh Valley offers so many resources to such an active community,” shares Alvarez. Lehigh Valley provides its community with many adventurous opportunities – whether it be biking, walking, or running along the D&L Trail, kayaking up the Lehigh River, or hiking and bird watching on Hawk Mountain, there is always something for everyone!
Lehigh Valley also does not fall short when it comes to providing its community with action-packed events. No matter what time of year, there is always something going on, such as PEEPSFEST®, Musikfest®, Oktoberfest, Christkindlmarkt, PA BaconFest, and so much more! While those events only last a few days, Lehigh Valley is always celebrating its unique cultural scene with events all year long.
Lehigh Valley has a very diverse coffee scene; coffee shops are growing and creating their own unique coffee blends and experiences. A few local favorites include Fieldstone Coffee Roasters, Lit Coffee Roastery & Bakery, The Joint Coffee Co., Saxbys Coffee, Cosmic Cup Coffee, Hava Java, and many more! You can enjoy a cup of coffee or specialty teas at the Easton Public Market, which offers selections from Threebirds Coffee House’s second location, Nest or Allentown Farmers Market, which offers Heffelfinger’s.
Beer, Spirits & Wine
Lehigh Valley doesn’t fall short when it comes to their beer selections. With local breweries from HiJinx Brewery to Weyerbacher Brewing Company to Two Rivers Brewing Company to Colony Meadery, there is no shortage of options.
Along with breweries, the Valley is home to seven local distilleries and there is no better way to end a long run, bike ride, or hike than to raise a glass with some friends! Enjoy spiced rum at Social Still, Applejack at EightOaks Farm Distillery, or corn whiskey at Triple Sun Spirits.
But we can’t forget about wine! Lehigh Valley earned the label “American Viticultural Area,” shining a light on all of the wonderful local wineries. A total of eight wineries makeup the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, which features local specialities of Chambourcin, Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc.
Nothing is quite like the hunger that strikes after being on the trail – fuel your appetite and discover local Lehigh Valley eateries. From pizza to seafood to burgers, there is no shortage of options to choose from. Enjoy a delicious pizza or burgers in downtown Easton at Stoke Coal Fire Pizza and Bar, The Brick Pizzeria Restaurant & Bar in Bethlehem, or at the Allentown Brew Works.
Grab a quick pre or post workout pick me up at Terra Cafe with their Mirage Smoothie or at Crave Bethlehem with their Orange-Aide pre workout drink! If you are looking for something a bit fancier later in the evening, venture to Wind Creek Bethlehem and enjoy dishes from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s three restaurants.
Get a taste of 3rd and Ferry Fish Market’s famous market fries or grab a steak from Three OAK Steakhouse or Blue Grillhouse. No matter what your taste buds are looking for, Lehigh Valley provides endless options from farm-to-table dining to quick and easy bites.
Looking for even more options? Browse the nearly endless restaurants that Lehigh Valley has to offer!
Local Knowledge & Trail Sharing
Lehigh Valley Visitors Centers provide outdoor enthusiasts with a variety of brochures, trail maps, and information to help assist with planning your next outing. Along with visitor centers, trail maps and information can be found throughout Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, at the National Canal Museum, and online at the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the LINK Trail Network’s websites.
If you want to connect with local running stores, Aardvark Sports Shop is located in the heart of historic Bethlehem, on the corner of Main and Broad. The Emmaus Run Inn is located on Main Street in Emmaus. Keystone Running Store is located on Mill Creek Road in Allentown. Connect in the area for group runs with Lehigh Valley Road Runners.
Maintenance and volunteer programs are offered through Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center. Programs include but are not limited to brush and branch removal, ambassador programs, gardening, flood clean-up, tree planting, and litter clean-up.
Lehigh Valley is a very active community when it comes to hosting races and competitions. Some local competitions and organizations include:
- D&L Heritage Half Marathon – The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor’s largest fundraiser and the only race held on the D&L Trail in which all proceeds directly benefit the D&L Trail. For the first time, the D&L Half Marathon was held virtually this year and spanned the entire month of October.
- The Blue Burn Trail Challenge
- The Blue Burn Trail Race
- St. Luke’s Via Marathon (Road) – All proceeds from this marathon directly benefit Via of the Lehigh Valley’s mission to help people with disabilities reach their full potential. This year’s marathon was powered by Runner’s World and spanned over a 2 month period where runners could choose to complete a Marathon, Half Marathon, Team Relay, 10K, 5K, or walk.
- St. Luke’s Half Marathon (Road) – The longest 13.1 running event in Lehigh Valley, since 1977 and is also the primary fundraising event for Lehigh Valley Road Runners, Lehigh Valley’s premier running club.
- Pretzel City Sports – Provides road and trail race timing and running event management services to the Lehigh Valley for almost 25 years and also holds 20-30 events of their own per year.
Along with local races, Lehigh Valley also played host to events such as the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Championship, NCAA Cross Country Championship, and Runner’s World Half Marathon (Road).