Hawk Mountain Sanctuary 8+ MILES
This 2,600-acre wildlife sanctuary atop Hawk Mountain in northern Berks County is a family favorite. A mile-long hike up a rocky ridge to the North Lookout rewards visitors with a 200-degree panoramic view that stretches for 70 miles. April 1 marks the start of migration for the 155 species of raptors that pass by the outcropping each spring. Staff and volunteers are on hand through May 15 to count the birds and will gladly help visitors spot and identify hawks, ospreys and eagles.
1700 Hawk Mountain Rd., Kempton | hawkmountain.org
Bake Oven Knob 0.8 MILES
The highest point in Lehigh County attracts hikers and nature lovers alike for its amazing Valley views. From a boulder-strewn ridge on the Blue Mountain, farmlands and forest spread out to the south as far as the eye can see. In the spring it’s not unusual to have migratory hawks sail by at eye level. To get there from the parking lot requires a short walk down a path filled with rocks. Take your time—they don’t call it Rocksylvania for nothing.
Bake Oven Rd., Germansville | alltrails.com
Trexler Nature Preserve
General Harry Trexler would be pleased to know the game sanctuary he established long ago lives on, and the herds of bison and elk he sought to protect are still thriving at the nature preserve that bears his name. With the Lehigh Valley Zoo right in the middle of things, there’s no shortage of wildlife up in Schnecksville. Today, the nature preserve offers a network of trails for almost any activity or fitness level, through hemlock forests, hills, meadows—even a covered bridge. Don’t miss driving through the Jordan Creek in your car.
Game Preserve Rd., Schnecksville | lehighcounty.org
Peace Valley Park and Nature Center
A Bucks County hot spot for bird watching year round, Peace Valley Park is especially renowned in the birding world for the migrating waterfowl that fly in during the spring and fall. The birds are happy to share the park’s centerpiece, Lake Galena, with boaters, kayaks and paddleboards (rentals available). Landlubbers can enjoy several well-maintained trails throughout the 1,500-acre park, including a paved trail around the entire lake.
264 Creek Rd.New Britain Township | buckscounty.org
Ringing Rocks Park 0.8 MILES
You may have heard about the musical boulder field known as Ringing Rocks, or maybe you went there as a kid. It’s worth a trip to this three-acre, glacier-created phenomenon. Bring a hammer and be prepared to smack some big rocks silly. Good shoes and a good sense of balance are also helpful as the boulders may be slippery. Spoiler alert: not all the rocks ring, but the fun is in finding the ones that do. A quick walk down a side trail brings you to Bucks County’s largest waterfall.
Ringing Rocks Rd., Upper Black Eddy | buckscounty.org
Bushkill Falls 2+ MILES
Nestled high up in the Poconos, the “Niagara of Pennsylvania” boasts eight waterfalls. The largest is the Main Falls, where the Bushkill Creek does a dramatic drop over a 100-foot cliff into a deep pool before continuing downstream along a boulder-strewn gorge. Scenic trails and bridges crisscross the creek and offer views of the falls from varying angles. Hikes over natural pathways are as short as 15 minutes or as long as two-plus hours. Family-friendly activities at nearby Twin Lakes include mini golf, paddleboats and fishing.
Bushkill Falls Rd., Bushkill | visitbushkillfalls.com
Leaser Lake 4 MILES
In far northwest Lehigh County lies a glittering gem of a lake. It’s not very big, but Leaser Lake is quiet and peaceful and perfect for a paddle around the shore or the island in the middle. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards (rentals available) can access the lake from all three parking lots; launch ramps for small electric-motor boats are on the north and east side lots. With benches and picnic areas everywhere, there’s no excuse not to linger. Pick up deli sandwiches and drinks from nearby Wanamakers General Store.
8502 Pleasure Ct., New Tripoli | lehighcounty.org
Beltzville State Park 15+ MILES
Beltzville State Park is a boater’s paradise. Just east of Lehighton, the park’s 949-acre lake welcomes most types of recreational boats, with no horsepower limit on motors. Kayaks, canoes and other non-motorized craft (rentals available) will find calmer water in the lake’s “no-wake” zones: Pine Run Cove and east of the Preachers Camp launch. Paddle down one of the long, winding arms to get up close to wildlife, perhaps wading birds, eagles or turtles sunning on a log.
2950 Pohopoco Dr., Lehighton | dcnr.pa.gov
Nockamixon State Park 13.5 MILES
Take a trip to Nockamixon on a sunny, breezy afternoon and the lake is filled with sailboats, catamarans and windsurfers. Most days, the 1,450-acre Lake Nockamixon buzzes with all forms of watersports, especially on weekends when the popular Bucks County park fills with visitors from our area and the Philly suburbs. The water is what brings them. Bring your own boat or rent one there; with six boat launches, anywhere you put in is a unique experience. And after a busy day on the water, ice cream from Owowcow in Ottsville is mandatory.
PA Route 563, Bedminster and Haycock Townships | dcnr.pa.gov
Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center
There’s something for every skill level of mountain biker at Jacobsburg. Beginner trails are gravel and flat, but there are a few climbs and technical stretches with roots and rocks to keep things interesting. Trails are a combination of singletrack and doubletrack over variable terrain. While not as crowded as other area parks, be prepared to share the trail with runners, people walking their dogs, and especially horses—keep an eye out for those road apples!
400 Belfast Rd., Nazareth | dcnr.pa.gov
Lehigh Gorge State Park 26 MILES
Wildlife, rocks and waterfalls await those who cycle the Lehigh Gorge near Jim Thorpe. An abandoned railroad bed along the Lehigh River is now a nice, wide, mostly paved path suitable for all fitness levels. Biking the entire 26-mile stretch from White Haven south to Jim Thorpe is a popular option—it’s a gentle downhill all the way. Use your own bike, or rent one from a local outfitter who will shuttle you to White Haven to start your ride.
Downtown Jim Thorpe | dcnr.pa.gov | runsignup.com
Switchback Railroad Trail 18 MILES
Rail enthusiasts know that Pennsylvania’s first railroad was constructed in the 1800s to carry coal nine miles from Summit Hill downhill to the canal in Jim Thorpe. Bike enthusiasts know that same route today is a fun biking trail, offering an almost pedal-free ride down the hill but a lot more effort on the way back up. Enjoy some incredible views of the Lehigh Gorge and Jim Thorpe. To make things easy, rent a bike from an outfitter in Jim Thorpe who will shuttle you up top for a one-way breeze back into town.
625 Lentz Trail Rd., Jim Thorpe | delawareandlehigh.org
1. Lehigh Parkway Path 6.5 MILES
There are options galore along the Lehigh Parkway Path in the Little Lehigh Parkway. With four bridges (one of them covered) crossing the Little Lehigh Creek, there are as many loops of pathway as you please. The trail’s versatility is one of the reasons it attracts such a diverse group of visitors, from seniors walking hand-in-hand to runners out to beat their personal record. There’s no denying the beauty of the surroundings, remarkably just minutes from downtown Allentown. Make time to visit the Lil’ Le-Hi Trout Nursery to see and feed the fish. Kids of all ages love it.
Lehigh Parkway East, Allentown
2. Ironton Rail-Trail 9.2 MILES
There’s lots for history buffs to love as they stretch their legs on the Ironton Rail-Trail, an easy multi-use trail that follows the route of the Ironton Railroad in Coplay and Hokendauqua. There are more than two dozen sites and nineteenth-century ruins to explore that tie into the Lehigh Valley’s roots in the iron and cement industries, including the eerie, 90-foot-high Saylor Cement kilns and a refurbished red caboose. The well-maintained trail with historic markers is mostly paved and consists of a 5.3-mile loop and 3.9-mile spur west towards Ironton.
Access: 3853 Chestnut St. Whitehall (main)
3. Saucon Rail Trail 7.5 MILES
Before walkers, runners, dogs and bikes took over, the path of Saucon Rail Trail was an important railroad link between Bethlehem and Philadelphia. Today, the wide, mostly flat gravel path connects Bachman Street in Hellertown to East Station Avenue in Coopersburg. It never feels crowded and there’s much to see along the way: wildlife, rock formations, the meandering Saucon Creek and the backyards of some beautiful homes. With so many trees, the trail stays nice and shaded when the weather warms up.
Access: 8 points in Hellertown, Lower Saucon Township and Coopersburg
4. Karl Stirner Arts Trail 2.2 MILES
Sculptor and patriarch of the Easton arts community Karl Stirner is memorialized in the walking trail that bears his name. It’s a bit like an outdoor art museum, where 20-plus pieces of artwork coexist peacefully with walkers, bikers and pups. But that was the intention: art placed in nature to inspire the public’s imagination. The trail follows the Bushkill Creek, includes a dog park and is within short walking distance of Lafayette College and Downtown Easton. A new bridge connecting Simon Silk Mill to the trail makes access easier than ever.
Access: Near 551 N. 13th St. (west) and 3rd St. (east), Easton
5. D&L Trail 40+ MILES
The entire 140-mile D&L Trail runs from Bristol to Mountaintop, with 40 of those miles within Northampton and Lehigh counties. Starting in Easton and heading north to Lehigh Gap, the trail follows the Lehigh River, jumping back and forth between canal towpath and old rail bed as it traverses Lehigh Valley history. A seven-mile gap exists from Allentown to Northampton, but plans are in place to close it with a 14-mile loop on both sides of the river— a canal path on the east side and rail bed on the west.
Access: Wy-Hit-Tuk County Park, Easton (south) and near 88 Main St., Slatington (north)