Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania is the gateway to the lush and twisting Lehigh Valley. Cycling along a river gorge, a haunting underground realm and revered ruins are just a small sample of all that await.
The Man and the Town
Jim Thorpe was once regarded as the world’s greatest athlete in any arena. The boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged to bear the sport legends name over fifty years ago. This was done both as a memorial and a tourism revenue scheme to diversify the waning railroad hub and anthracite coal shipping economies.
The legitimacy of this Pocono Mountain Town becoming Mr. Thorpe’s final resting place, far from the Oklahoma of his birth, has incited legal conflict between the borough and the Native American Sac and Fox Nation to which he belonged. That worthy debate aside and the original marketing angle having long since dulled – I find it fitting that the spirit of one who so exemplifies the natural joy of physical engagement invites you to play in the Lehigh Valley.
Jim Thorpe today is an active mountain community, flush with cultural amenities that occupy much of the classic Victorian architecture lining its steep, hilly streets and cozy alley ways. Historic attractions such as the Old Jail Museum —where 7 of the Molly Maguires were hung — and the Asa Packer Mansion— which was the inspiration for Disney’s haunted Mansion — highlight Jim Thorpe’s heritage and cultural influence on the region and beyond. Galleries and artisan boutiques such as the Stabin Museum, host the pursuits of contemporary Creatives embraced by the town. At the bottom of the hill, 2 outfitters, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and the Lehigh Gorge Trail trailhead accommodate more adventurous endeavors . Jim Thorpe is a well rounded destination, with something on offer for all excursionists.
Lehigh Gorge Trail
Lehigh Gorge State Park is a verdant playground for white water rafting, hiking and cycling. For those of us on two wheels, The Lehigh Gorge Trail is the main attraction. This crushed gravel rail trail hugs the Lehigh River as it cuts a steep gorge through 25 miles of Pocono Mountains.
A relentless bounty of rushing waterfalls, gentle cascades, side streams, outcroppings and moss carpets encourage frequent dismounting and investigation. Generously adorned with pine, rhododendron and hemlock — setting off on the trail rapidly expunges the residue of day to day modern monotony. Pack a lunch and take advantage of one of the many scenic picnic areas. Pocono Biking provides efficient and well organized shuttle service departing from downtown Jim Thorpe to the White Haven trail head.
No. 9 Coal Mine
Only 20 minutes from Jim Thorpe is Lansford Pennsylvania and the No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum. Operating from 1855 until 1972, the No. 9 coal mine is /was the worlds longest operating anthracite coal mine. Since 2002, visitors have been able explore this underground treasure and gain visceral insight into the formation of the regions culture and historical hardships. Your guide will load you into a tiny rail car for the shadowy descent into the mine, where you will embark on a walking tour of dimly lit chambers and tunnels filled with industrial artifacts, true stories and tall tales. The mine is a constant 52 degrees, so dress appropriately. Arrive early and visit the museum before the tour begins.
Coplay Cement Kilns
36 minutes south of Jim Thorpe, the majestic towers of the Coplay Cement Kilns rise in opposition to their obsolescence to a height of 90 feet. They were once the beating heart of innovation, concealed behind factory walls, producing a relatively new material called Portland Cement. These pillars of industry now stand proudly exposed as a monument to the erection of the regions economy, which by 1900 supplied 75 percent of the cement used in this entire country.
Proclivities for industrial history aside, they are a sight to behold and you owe it to yourself to walk the perimeter around them. Gaze up and in, open the imagination and appreciate the structural assemblage as an object of art.
20 minutes North of Jim Thorpe, The Tank Hollow Overlook provides a birds eye view of the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Gorge Trail. The forested ledges invite you to sit, unwind and stay awhile. Though this is one of the better vistas in the region, it is lightly trafficked and you may find that you have this serene landscape all to yourself. The leisurely 3.5 mile out and back route is belted by wildflowers, pine, rhododendron, active birds and rustling wildlife.
Finding the trail can be somewhat elusive but its easy once you know how. I advise that you read the excellent piece on Tank Hollow by the good folks at Adventure –Inspired, for thorough navigation and other insights HERE.
A Bright Path
My Ladyfriend and I only indulged in these few special places on our two day jaunt to the Jim Thorpe area, but any combination of them would have justified the venture. There is still much to explore in and around the Lehigh Valley and we plan on returning.
Jim Thorpe’s native name is Wa -tho -huk, which translates as “Bright Path”. Mauch Chunk , the towns original name, means “Place of the Bear”. “The Bright Path in the Place of the Bear”. This is a moniker of legendary caliber and it has been bestowed upon a worthy bearer.
For More Information :
Jim Thorpe Visitors Information : Jimthorpe.org
Attractions, events, lodging, news etcetera.
Stone Row Pub and Eatery: http://www.stoneroweatery.com/wp/
My personal recommendation for dining out in Jim Thorpe. According to my Google review,
“Warm yet not intrusive staff. Every aspect of the meal was perfect and had a unique character. I had a millet burger with bacon and cheese. Yes, an unusual combo but it hit all of the comfort food notes that needed hitting, excellent. Served on house made focaccia that was flakey verging on crisp outside, satisfying airy and doughy on the inside. Many levels of texture as I bit through to the contents of the sandwich. All gluten free but no compromises in flavor or texture were made. Coleslaw was best I’ve had and when I inquired about it, the chef came out to discuss it with me. Unheard of. The chocolate cupcake that we took home was euphorically rich. When we travel to some of these smaller towns, we do not expect this level of quality. Indeed we had quite the opposite experience at a different Jim Thorpe restaurant the night before but Stone Row could put even the trendiest of the restaurants back home in Baltimore to shame. Do not hesitate to eat here.”
The N0. 9 Coal Mine and Museum:
Coplay Cement Kilns: