The Lehigh Gorge offers dozens of miles of great hiking routes. Living in Central New Jersey, this was a convenient spot to try -- about two hours away in the town of Jim Thorpe, where we discovered the popular Glen Onoko Falls Trail. We conquered this difficult trail as our first hike of the year. After a long, cruel winter, this turned out to be a fantastic outing in a new place that we probably will now visit again and again.
But first, how about a bit of interesting history (I found it fascinating, at least) before my trail review.
The towns of East Mauch Chunk and Mauch Chunk joined together to become Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in 1954.
The world's greatest athlete died at the age of 64 on March 28, 1953. Thorpe's widow, Patricia, sought to have her husband's legacy properly secured and approached the small towns in the Pocono Mountains with an offer. Patricia Thorpe, the third wife of the legendary Olympian and football and baseball player, approached leaders of the financially struggling towns and asked whether they wanted to consider joining the boroughs, renaming the village in honor of Jim Thorpe and having the joined municipality as his final resting place.
The towns united as Jim Thorpe, Pa., and the village essentially is legally regarded as a museum. In the past few years, Jim Thorpe's sons have tried to get the athlete's remains returned to his native Sac and Fox Nation lands in Oklahoma. An appeals judge ruled in favor of the town in 2014, keeping a memorial built to honor the American Indian legend undisturbed. The memorial site contains a large engraved headstone and surrounding statues of the athlete in action, as well as a small informational garden area with a sculpture called "The Spirit of Thunder and Lightning," a nod to Thorpe's Indian name, Wa-Tho-Huk, which means Bright Path, or Path Lit By Lightning.
We stopped by the memorial, which is a pristine and wonderful site, if little visited. Thorpe's being buried there never amounted to the tourist boom anticipated 60 years ago, but Jim Thorpe, Pa., holds an annual celebration of its most famous resident.
We thoroughly enjoyed the quaint town, and had a couple of fine meals -- lunch at Molly MaGuires and dinner at Broadway Grille and Pub (see review of this healthy, hearty meal at bottom of this post).
The route took about two hours. Here is a recap to help you explore this trail if you come the state park for a hike.
The trailhead is in Lehigh Gorge State Park. The entrance for the park is just across the gorge from Jim Thorpe. Once you enter the park, drive all the way to the parking area at the end of the road. You will pass several areas with no apparent trail heads. The train tracks will be on your left as you drive in. Get to the wooden divided bridge and you'll be there. Head down the steps to the trail sign and head under the bridge, to the orange trail sign on your left and you'll be on your way.
The first half of the route includes areas of rushing stream water and plenty of boulders to scramble up. You also encounter stages of well-marked paths, but the route includes many areas for you to make your way upward adjacent to the stream and falls as best you can. Be very careful. Rocks, water, mud and leaves can make for slippery footing. The trail is rated as difficult, and several signs along the way warn hikers to exercise caution.
Once at the top, a wide well-marked trail continues the loop with a gradual descent along a gorgeous forested route.
It was a wonderful first hike of the year, and we certainly enjoyed our cold beers and hearty meals afterward. We hope you can get out to try it, too.
Travel fit. Travel happy.
Dinner on Broadway
CMac and I wanted to have a healthy low-carb option, and we found the perfect spot at Broadway Grille and Pub in the Inn at Jim Thorpe.
Our selection was a $45 Argentinian-style mixed grill of petit filet with chimichurri sauce, chicken sausages and chicken breast. It came with a large green salad, and we picked the house blueberry-infused vinaigrette dressing. Listed as a meal for two, we had a lot of leftovers and decided it could amply feed four, along with a couple shared appetizers. We want to invite a couple friends and try that next time.