Know where to look: Discovering trails in my hometown

On the most recent trip to my hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I discovered some trails I didn’t know existed. It was April, 2017 and spring was just thinking about awakening from its winter slumber. And me, I was wide awake and tired of running on the roads and longed for a bit of trail adventure during my visit to the Christmas City.

I decided to tap into the formula I had become accustomed to while researching a series of trail running where-to books for Falcon Guides. I pulled up Google on my laptop and started searching for parks and trails in Bethlehem. What I found was a trail system within one mile of my Mom’s digs.

The Monocacy Nature Center offers a wonderful urban-esque trail experience with mostly single-track trail, running two miles from the Illick’s Mill Trailhead to the Delaware & Lehigh Trail. In addition to the two miles of trail, which cross railroad tracks in a few spots as well as several streets, there are a few splinter tails adjacent to Monocacy Creek to further explore the area.

With piles of leaves from the previous fall still littering the trails along with exposed roots peeping out periodically, this was a trail run requiring focus to avoid catching a toe. Along the way, I enjoyed creek noises and delighted in the geese and swan frolicking in the pond. I crossed a few wooden bridges and ran past the Burnside Plantation, an 18th century Moravian Farm, and the Colonial Industrial Corner. This area is dubbed historic Bethlehem after all. I ran this particular route out and back, but could have continued further once on the D & L Trail, for more miles.

The D & L Trail in downtown Bethlehem is part of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, which runs along the Lehigh River. This multi-use trail is 165 miles in length with 135 miles completed including sections of rail trails and canal towpaths. From downtown Bethlehem, the D & L Trail heads east to Easton, or west to Allentown. The section from Allentown to Easton is approximately 16 miles long. While a student at Lehigh University, I often ran along the canal towpath and years later, I ran several 5K races, which included sections of the Sand Island Park.

I revisited the trails in November during another trip to the Lehigh Valley. Running south on Center Street to Illick’s Mill Road, I crossed the street at the designated pedestrian crossing to the trailhead for the Monocacy Nature Center where there is ample parking if choosing to start at this point.

Different from springtime, the fall offers far more leaves dotting the trails, with numerous piles along the banks of the Monocacy Creek. On my run, there were some muddy sections on the trail from the prior night’s rainfall. The geese were still frolicking and the swan was regally floating in the pond. Come late December, the pond will most likely be frozen and the trails covered in a dusting of snow until the spring thaw.

I’ll continue to enjoy this newfound treasure on my travels east, and encourage others to venture to hometown trails, or wherever travels may lead, to find hidden gems worthy of exploration. Consider sharing your stories and adventures with the American Trail Running Association and our followers.