Charles has long experience fishing, hiking, exploring, and camping in the Northeast.
30 Years Ago...
One of the most memorable moments in my life was the first time I laid eyes upon the historic little town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. As I wound my way down the side of a mountain with the sheer cliff face on one side and the raging Lehigh River on the other, I remember seeing the mass of train tracks coursing through the heart of the town like arteries. The Saint Marks church steeple towered above the tree-lined Main Street. I felt like I was finally home.
My mind raced with visions of what life in this remote coal-mining town must have been like. If I could, I would definitely make this fantastic town mine forever!
A Brief History of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
The town was founded in 1818 as Mauch Chunk, or as it has been known since 1954, Jim Thorpe. The town was renamed in honor of the Native American Olympic athlete in an effort to help revitalize the town. He was the first Native American to win a gold medal, taking home two medals in 1912 for the decathlon and pentathlon.
This picturesque town nestled along the banks of the Lehigh River is surrounded by mountains and was often referred to by the many railroad tourists as the "Switzerland of America."
From its humble beginnings as a coal-mining town, Jim Thorpe has come a long way. It began with 400 cleared acres and just 40 buildings until the "golden era" of the 1880s and 90s. During this period, the central train station, opera house, and courthouse were built.
As coal was replaced by petroleum-based fuel, tourism became a way of life for the old town of Mauch Chunk. With attractions such as the Switchback Railroad and trolley service to the top of Flagstaff Mountain, hotels and restaurants hustled and bustled in the early 1900s.
Natural disasters and flooding plagued Jim Thorpe as coal mining, tourism, and industry slowly faded until the revitalization of 1954.
Since then, this beautiful riverside, mountain town has fought back to once again become a popular vacation and tourism destination for visitors from all across America and beyond.
Downtown Jim Thorpe
Some of my favorite things to do while visiting Jim Thorpe are eating, exploring, and shopping—in no particular order.
My first stop generally would be the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and Museum. It's located in the center of town at 1 Susquehanna Ave. Scenic one-hour round trip train rides are offered here in the summer months with shorter 45-minute rides beginning in October.
A short walk from the train station, you can visit the Asa and Harry Packer Mansions. Situated high above the town, these picturesque homes are a great place to explore and learn about the history of Jim Thorpe. The Asa Packer Mansion is considered one of the best-preserved Italianate Villa homes in America. You can visit Asa Packer Mansion Tours online for more information. The Harry Packer Mansion next door is another fantastically preserved mansion with Italianate architecture and offers luxury historic accommodations with special events and private functions available. For more information and accommodation rates, you can visit the Harry Packer Mansion online.
Shopping and dining abound on the historic Broadway and Race Street. I personally cannot leave Jim Thorpe without a stroll along Broadway. From boutiques, antiques, coffee and crepes, it offers shopping and eats galore.
If your adventure starts before noon, definitely don't miss a hot cup of coffee at Muggles Mugs. What goes great with coffee? Donuts, of course. So take a quick trip across the street for some of Jim Thorpe's best at Donerds Donuts.
For something more substantial, take a short stroll down Race Street and visit the Old Stone Row Pub and Eatery for locally sourced, handcrafted omnivore cuisine that is both meat and vegetable-friendly. If fine dining is more of your thing, then you must not leave until you've visited the town's finest restaurant, Moya which specializes in elegant and straightforward cuisine. Situated on historic Race Street, Moya offers both a beautiful and elegant setting for diners to relax and enjoy the fresh and local cuisine.
For a complete guide to all the shopping and dining, Jim Thorpe has to offer, visit poconomountains.com.
My Short Film, Exploring the Poconos
Lehigh Gorge State Park
If camping and hiking are your things, the area around Jim Thorpe should satisfy your needs. Just around the corner from the center of town lies the entrance to the Lehigh Gorge State Park. Opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and scenic views abound here. Take a moderate/hard hike to see Glenn Onoko Falls and experience breathtaking views from the mouth of an old railroad tunnel, or hop on your bike for a fantastic ride to see two beautiful waterfalls along the Lehigh Gorge Trail.
There are many more exciting adventures to be seen and experienced during your stop at Lehigh Gorge State Park. The Jim Thorpe entrance address is: 301-319 Main St, Jim Thorpe, PA
Hickory Run State Park
Inexpensive and beautiful camping awaits at the Hickory Run State Campground, a short and scenic 25-minute ride from Jim Thorpe through the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. When I last stayed here, the rate for a tent site was around $30. I was able to park my SUV at the campsite with room for two tents and more. This is a great budget place to set up a basecamp and begin your outdoor adventures in the Jim Thorpe area. Bathhouses with showers and toilets are close to all the sites and are magnificently maintained. The GPS location of the entrance to the campground is located here: 41.02505114923187, -75.68590211617054.
Located just 17 minutes from Hickory Run State Campground is the spectacular natural wonder known as the boulder field. There are two ways to get to the boulder field. Depending on your adventure level, you can hop in the car and drive through scenic the Hickory Run State Park and arrive in relative comfort or opt for the more adventurous route, an easy 6.9 mile out and back hike. Two choices, one amazing adventure.
The GPS location for the Boulder Field is 41.05181169406505, -75.63895515451055. If you plan on hiking, the GPS location for the trailhead is 41.01277090515778, -75.62196367903911.
I just wanted to say, thank you to my readers, thank you all for supporting me and my writing. It has been a long 11 years and many articles later! I am still chugging along. I really couldn't do this if you all didn't read my article. I appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks again!
Exploring in and Around Jim Thorpe
© 2022 Charles Kikas