Riding the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway from Jim Thorpe, PA | So Good News


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Jim Thorpe is one of my favorite small towns in Pennsylvania, mainly because of how many great things there are to do in the “Switzerland of America”. And one of the most fun and popular things to do in town is to ride the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway has been running excursion trains into the Lehigh Gorge from Jim Thorpe, PA since 2005. It is part of the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad which both runs excursions from other communities in the area and operates a busy freight line.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway continues Jim Thorpe’s rich railroad history, dating back to the Switchback Railroad that opened in 1827 to carry coal from mines down to the canals along the Lehigh River. Later, passenger rides were added to this line, and many consider this gravity railway to be the forerunner of roller coasters.

Diesel train engine for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe PA
A Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway train ready to leave the station.

Wanting to both experience this rich history and see the beauty of the Lehigh Gorge, I boarded the train on an overcast late summer day.

Trains run year-round from the historic Mauch Chunk Station, which was built by the Central New Jersey Railroad in 1888. It is located on the east end of town near the Lehigh River. Even if you don’t ride this train, be sure to take a few minutes to enjoy this beautiful station and the busy square around it.

Mauch Chunk Station in Jim Thorpe PA
The historic train station in Jim Thorpe is worth taking a few minutes to check out.

There are several different seating options aboard the Lehigh Gorge and Scenic Railway, including both indoor seats in traditional train cars and open-air benched cars. I chose to ride in an open-air car as it offers the opportunity to take better photos, walk around the car to see both sides of the track and, on nice days, the opportunity to enjoy a nice breeze.

That said, the seats in the standard cars are going to be more comfortable, and there are three different grades to choose from that offer different levels of comfort. Be sure to look at all options before purchasing tickets.

Open air car on the Leigh Gorge Scenic Railway in the Poconos
Inside one of the open-air cars.

The train starts boarding approximately 30 minutes before departure. Although there are usually several cars in the outdoor seating area, I chose to board as early as possible to ensure I could select seats.

No matter what class of car you go with, I recommend sitting on the side of the car facing the Lehigh River and away from the city. This side has significantly better scenery for most of the walk. That said, it matters a little less in the open air car as you can walk around this area more easily than the other cars.

Lehigh River near Jim Thorpe PA
The one good view of the Lehigh River from the route as you cross the river to enter the gorge.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway leaves Jim Thorpe and heads north out of town and along the Lehigh River. Interestingly, despite running about a hundred feet of the river for almost the entire route, the view of the river is actually somewhat sparse as there is a section of trees between the course and the water. Still, what can be seen is very beautiful.

Most of the ride is in Lehigh Gorge State Park along tracks once owned by the Lehigh Valley Railroad. For the entire ride, the popular D&L Canal Trail runs alongside the track, so you’ll see lots of people walking and biking on this popular rail trail.

People riding bicycles on the trail next to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway near Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania
The train runs along the D&L Trail, which is popular with hikers and cyclists.

On select days, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway runs bike trains that go further into the gorge and allow you to take your bike for a ride on the way back. Definitely a great option for those looking for a chance to ride this trail.

Standard sightseeing trains run a total of 16 miles (eight miles out and eight miles back) from the train station in Jim Thorpe to an area known as Penn Haven Junction. During most of the year this tour takes 70 minutes, although they shorten it to 45 minutes in October and early November to accommodate more people who want to see the fall foliage in the area.

View of the open air car and the trail next to it on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in PA
The open-air car offers great views and the opportunity to walk around a bit.

As the train travels down the track, there is live narration that offers lots of great history in the area, as well as commenting on things seen along the train, including places like Glen Onoko and the Turn Hole Tunnel. This is very well done, but since the train is so long, some things are talked about well before you actually get to them if you’re near the back of the train.

Since you follow the same route back, the narration is a little more sparse in the second half of the trip, but this gives you time to enjoy the nature along the trails more fully.

Train cars in different colors on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Carbon County PA
The train navigates a bend in the track as it follows the Lehigh River.

Overall, I had a wonderful time on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and this is definitely among the best excursion railroads I’ve ridden in PA. Both the nature and the overall experience here are great and offer a bit of something for every taste.

If you’re looking for a fun way to while away some time while exploring Jim Thorpe, PA, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is a fantastic choice.

Parking and tickets

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania in the fall
Parking may be limited in Jim Thorpe on busy days.

Despite having a very large public lot at the east end of town, parking in Jim Thorpe can be a bit limited, especially on weekends. Be sure to plan to arrive well in advance of the scheduled train time.

Parking in the public lot near the train station is one price for the whole day and is $8 on weekdays and $12 on weekends and holidays. If you can find street parking in the city, which is often difficult, it costs $1.25 an hour for up to four hours.

A souvenir ticket from the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe PA
A Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway souvenir ticket.

It is recommended that you purchase tickets online prior to arrival, especially if you are visiting on a weekend, for an Autumn Leaf Train or for other special trains (Santa, Easter Bunny, etc.). Check in at the ticket window before the train to get a paper souvenir ticket.

Looking for even more places to visit nearby? Check out the Old Jail Museum, Number 9 Coal Mine, and the waterfalls of Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

Opening hours: The trains run on selected days throughout the year.
See the website for the timetable.

Cost: Adults: $19-29, Children: $9-19

Website: LGSRY.com

Address: 1 Susquehanna St
Jim Thorpe, PA 18229

See the map below for other attractions in the area.


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