Well, only some of the time.
But the trail on the Pennsylvania side of Delaware River (it’s actually along the Delaware Canal, which runs parallel to the river) is quite different from the one on the New Jersey side, to say nothing of the Delaware & Raritan Canal towpath from Trenton through Princeton and to New Brunswick.
Riding more of the Delaware and Lehigh Trail is one of my goals for this year. A few years ago four of us rode north and south of Jim Thorpe, PA., and that’s when I realized that most of this 165-mile route is open. So today we drove to Frenchtown, NJ, a small town that is full of people walking and biking along the D&R Canal from the south, eating and drinking at local spots and meandering through stores. In other words, a town that definitely feels the economic impact of this trail, even though it’s at the northern terminus.
The Delaware & Lehigh Trail
We crossed the bridge to the Pennsylvania side and it was … quiet.
No town. Not even a sign at the end of the bridge telling us where to find the towpath/trail (that would be left and then a quick right, along a quiet road and then left just before the covered bridge and between a few homes … oh, that last part is signposted, just not branded Delaware Canal, let alone Delaware and Lehigh Trail).
Our first impression of the trail: narrower than in New Jersey. And within a few miles it narrowed some more. At one point it really was just a single track. At other points, it was two tracks, with a much wider strip of grass down the middle. At times it was dusty, at other times a bit rocky (as in not comfortable crushed stone dust). To be fair, the D&R from Trenton to New Brunswick has its share of different road surfaces, and in both places the variety makes for a nice change of pace. But you definitely want to do this on a hybrid, not a road bike.
The landscape was more open than the woods on the New Jersey trails, and you’ll never see something like the Nockamixon Cliffs on the Jersey trails — 300 feet of sheer rock.
I was surprised by the number of places where we could have stopped for a bite, or at least some ice cream, either right on the trail or on the other side of the canal, along the road, especially considering how isolated it felt. (I voted for the 24-flavor soft-serve place but was ignored.) We saw a good number of people using the trail, even if not as many as on the Jersey side. So there’s potential for more economic impact with just a bit more promotion.
There’s signage. Not great signage, like Great Allegheny Passage great. Or even like the signage we found on the D&L much further north. For one thing, I’d have liked to have known how far we were from Easton, the first real city in our path, especially as we got close. It wouldn’t be hard to add information about amenities (mostly food and drink) along the route, and it doesn’t need to be fancy, even as basic as a symbol and mileage.
But we didn’t make it to Easton. This stopped us a few miles short of the Easton Dam (where the Lehigh flows into the Delaware), let alone downtown Easton. It didn’t look deep, but it seemed too long to try to just coast through.
Parking tip for the D&L and D&R trails
Our ride: 35 miles. There’s free all-day parking along the trail in Frenchtown, between the river and the Bridge Cafe. (No overnight parking allowed, in case you were thinking of a bike overnight to, oh, Bethlehem. Sorry, that would be me.) There were plenty of open spots at 10 a.m. but none when we got back after 3 p.m.