Lehigh Gorge State Park offers a muscular adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. The park offers 4,548 acres are miles of multi-use trails for boating, hiking, biking, and whitewater rafting. There’s also the Buttermilk Falls trail for the less-hardcore nature lover.
Lehigh Gorge was carved by the Lehigh River over thousands of years into deep rock walls filled with vegetation, rock outcroppings, and waterfalls.
The park follows the Lehigh River from the outlet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Francis E. Walter Dam at the northern end to the town of Jim Thorpe at the southern end of the park.
Bike or Hike the Lehigh Gorge Trail
Hike or bike on 26 miles of abandoned railroad grade turned trail along the river. You’ll spot several waterfalls, remnants of the old Grand Section of the Lehigh Canal, and wildlife, including snakes, lizards, and birds. You can refill water bottles at the Rockport Access Area.
Visit Turn Hole Tunnel
While at the Gorge, don’t miss walking through Turn Hole Tunnel, a 1860s railroad tunnel that was abandoned for good in 1956. The south side is open to pedestrians and can be accessed from the Glen Onoko Trail. Inside, walk over railroad ties to the north overlook. Look out onto the Lehigh and see the piers that still stand from the old railroad bridge.
Hike Buttermilk Waterfall
For an easier waterfall walk in the park, follow a flat trail near the Lehigh Gorge Trail that leads to Buttermilk Falls, a cascading 50-footer that tumbles down a rocky ledge.
Whitewater rafting is a popular summer pursuit at Lehigh Gorge State Park, and whether you like family-friendly Class I or II rapids or more challenging Class II to III whitewater, the Lehigh River delivers. Wind down the gorge where canyon walls tower high above you, and past rocky areas and stunning waterfalls as great blue herons and kingfishers fly overhead.
River flow is controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the best way to up your whitewater ante is booking on a dam release day, when released water creates more significant rapids. Unless you’re a pro, don’t go it alone rafting the Lehigh’s waters. Professional, qualified guides provide safety equipment, transportation to and from the river, and have the know-how to get you down the rapids safely. Local guides include Jim Thorpe River Adventures, Pocono Whitewater Adventures, Whitewater Challengers, and Whitewater Rafting Adventures.
The northern section of the Lehigh River is stocked with trout and is the most popular with anglers. Approved trout waters stretch from the Francis E. Walter Dam to Sandy Run. Whitewater boating north of White Haven is discouraged to promote this section for fishing activities. The fishing areas are difficult to get into, and you’ll be one of the only ones there – so it’s worth it to float, hike, or bike your way in. You’ll be rewarded with an exciting fishing experience and plenty of trout and smallmouth bass. The Lehigh Gorge is home to numerous Class II and III rapids, so only experienced rafters and kayakers should attempt to float this water without a guide. Remember to check before you go so you can stay away on whitewater release dates.
The park is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset. Day use areas close at dusk.