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Switchback Railroad

The Lehigh Switchback Rail-Trail is a rail trail in Jim Thorpe, PA

photo: The bridge carrying the Lehigh Gorge Trail and a railroad over the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, PA. Photo by Listroiderbob2.

Length: 15.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Rail Trail
Agency: City, Town, or County
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (on pavement)
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running

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Location: PA Joins Jim Thorpe W to SR 902.
State(s): Pennsylvania
Counties:
Longitude: -75.73761
Latitude: 40.86635

Driving Directions

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Description

The trail surface is natural, consisting of dirt, roots, rocks, and occasional coal chunks. The trail runs downhill on the former right-of-way of the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway from Summit Hill to Jim Thorpe. Located midway on the trail is Mauch Chunk Lake Park which provides parking for hiking & biking up and down the trail.

When it began operating, the Switchback Railroad was the second railroad in America and the first in Pennsylvania. Built to haul coal from the Summit Mine to the Lehigh Canal, the railroad evolved from a gravity-powered system (The Down Track) and mule-powered system (The Back Track) to a 95% gravity-run operation.

In the late 1800s as steam locomotion became more commonplace, the Switchback Railroad was needed less for coal transport but was adapted into a passenger operation. From 1870, and for the next six decades, the Switchback Gravity Railroad evolved into a popular tourist attraction—one that thrilled visitors with 50-mile-per-hour rides downhill through the lush landscape of the Lehigh Valley. It is credited with inspiring the creation of the roller coaster. The tourist attraction closed in 1929, and the Switchback was sold for scrap in 1937 and converted to a trail in 1977.

Today the Switchback Trail still inspires tourists and locals alike. Two 9-mile routes intersect to make up the Switchback. Regardless of which you choose, start in Summit Hill and bike downhill toward Jim Thorpe. The grade in reverse is challenging. Although this trail doesn't require a lot of pedaling, it commands your attention. (For a shorter ride, pick up the trail in Mauch Chunk Lake Park, which has parking, restrooms, picnic areas and campgrounds. Fishing is permitted.)

Additional Details

Primary Surface: Not Available
Secondary Surface: None
Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: Not Available
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:
1980

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Trail management:
Carbon County Recreation Authority
P.O. Box 7
Jim Thorpe , PA 18229

 

Photos

The bridge carrying the Lehigh Gorge Trail and a railroad over the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, PA. Photo by Listroiderbob2.

The bridge carrying the Lehigh Gorge Trail and a railroad over the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, PA. Photo by Listroiderbob2.

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