The Lehigh Valley is a picturesque, rural destination and a great place to explore a variety of Pennsylvania’s natural wonders. Hikers love this region, as it’s home to a number of diverse and interesting trails from steep and rugged pathways over mountainous regions to easy, gentle slopes with lovely lookout points. The Appalachian Trail runs through the area, too, and can be accessed at several different points across the region.
Often called “The Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls is a picturesque spot for light hiking. The privately-owned destination is home to eight scenic waterfalls. It's a fun place to explore for the entire family, as the hiking trails are moderate and linked through a marked, easy-to-navigate trail system with several wooden bridges that are perfect perches to admire these stunning waterfalls. Perfect for a day trip, there are facilities as well as food options and a few small shops.
Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
Situated between the Pennsylvania towns of Easton and Jim Thorpe, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is expansive and spans about 165 miles (the specific Lehigh section is nearly 50 miles in length). Offering a taste of local history, this trail, known as the “D & L” trail, runs along the region’s canals, which played a major role in transporting coal, iron, and other minerals during and after the American Revolution. This scenic trail winds across farmlands, rolling fields, and through several quaint, small towns.
The 2-mile Monocacy Way is a trek that stretches from Sand Island to Illick’s Mill. It’s a fun, easy hike that offers a quick nature fix. The trail runs parallel to a small, bubbling stream, through a pretty wooded area and across a historic wooden railway bridge. You’ll also walk past a plantation and have opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife along the way. The trailhead is conveniently accessed from downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Originally opened in 1929, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the world’s first preserve for birds of prey. In addition to wild animals, this destination is known for a wide array of butterfly species. There are 8 miles of hiking and while most trails here are rugged and steep, the area’s “accessible trail” is ideal for everyone and a great spot to enjoy the views. It’s situated near the South Lookout and features an easy, paved pathway that allows guests of all ages and abilities to enjoy nature, as well as many fascinating bird species.
Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center
Offering over 1,000 miles of picturesque hiking, the trails at Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center are situated close to Blue Mountain and feature a wide array of terrain to traverse including streams, wooded areas, and wide-open fields. One of the most scenic pathways is called “Henry’s Woods Trail.” Stop by the visitor’s center to check out the interesting exhibits and to learn about this distinctive region, which was also home to gun manufacturing in colonial days.
Marble Hill Natural Resource Area
Situated along the Delaware River—just north of the town of Phillipsburg, New Jersey—the expansive and lush Marble Hill Natural Resource Area is a nearly 300-acre preserve with a picnic area and facilities. It’s home to the Warren Highlands Trail, which features blue-blazed markings lovely scenery. Bird watchers adore this destination and it’s truly gorgeous in springtime and summer, with plenty of plants and flowers—it’s especially known for its colorful rhododendron.
Lehigh Gap East Loop
Famous for its jaw-dropping views, this difficult hike is a 2.4-mile loop on the Northampton side of the Lehigh River and traverses the Appalachian Trail for a bit. The Lehigh Gap East Loop is a steep, rocky meandering pathway that requires some scrambling over boulders. It’s especially challenging in the summer, as there’s not much shade, but experienced hikers say the incredible panoramic vistas are worth it. This trail is an ideal place for exercise, nature appreciation, and sighting wildlife. Be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks.
Bake Oven Knob
Situated northwest of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Bake Oven Knob (called The Knob by locals) is a path that runs along the Appalachian Trail and reaches about 1,500 feet in elevation. It’s an especially stunning spot to watch the sunrise, as it showcases views of the surrounding valley and the Blue Mountain Ridge. You can reach several points from this challenging trail. It’s 3.5 miles to Blue Mountain Road or about 8 miles to the picturesque Lehigh River. If you wish to get close to the top (without hiking the entire way), there’s a parking lot nearby. Keep in mind the access road is very steep, so it’s best to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle.