Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is a popular year-round attraction in the Poconos, Pennsylvania, but in autumn, the picturesque scenery is punctuated by pops of glorious fall foliage.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is the main attraction of the very beautiful town of Jim Thorpe. Before it received a very literal and human place name, it was known as Mauch Chunk, Leni Lenape Indian for Bear Mountain. Its location in the Lehigh Gorge, by the fast-flowing Lehigh River, and its 19th-century architecture earned the town the nickname “the Switzerland of America.”
Jim Thorpe, in itself, is worth the visit, with its historic buildings, quaint cafes, and square, which makes it feel like you’re stepping onto the set of a Hallmark movie. It helps that we’ve arrived at the start of the fall foliage, and the place is packed with “leaf peepers,” a term for people who love road-tripping to catch the changing autumn leaves (yes, that makes us leaf peepers too). Just up the road is the No.9 Coal Mine and Museum, where you can ride an old coal train into the workings of a 19th-century coal mine.
But we’re here for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway Fall Foliage Train. You have to arrive early because, by 9:30 a.m., the car park is almost completely full. At $12, payable at pay stations or via a mobile app, it’s worth the expense to get a place close to the train station. For most of the year, you can get tickets in advance, but due to the popularity of the Lehigh Fall Foliage Train, tickets are only available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Buy your tickets at the historic red brick Central Railroad of New Jersey Station. It was built in 1888 in the Queen Anne style and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since January 1, 1976. Inside the building are clean public restrooms and a tourist information center. On the weekend we visited, the outside area had a quaint market with a range of food options, though you’d need to walk up Broadway to find a decent coffee.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway ticket prices
There is a range of tickets available, from a first-class car to an open-air car to a caboose. We chose a standard carriage, which dates back to around 1923. A standard coach seat will set you back $22 for an adult, and $9 for a child (3-12), with two and under traveling for free. If you want the premier experience, you can choose the Crown Car (heated, with clean toilets for $24/$10) or the deluxe Vista Club Dome Car, which offers panoramic views, climate control, and high-backed seats for $30 (kids $19).
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway train is a diesel locomotive that pulls the carriages along the historic line between Jim Thorpe to Old Penn Haven. The 16-mile trip takes us past the original turntable, old ox tracks, and over bridges that offer momentary clear views of the gorge and river. Between, hues of yellow, orange, green, and red pop out of the tree line. Along the way, look out for original telegraph poles that once transmitted Morse code from this resort town and mining hot-spot to the rest of the world.
Although the peak time of the year to visit the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is autumn, the train runs year-round. The team behind it offers plenty of reasons to come back through the year, with Santa Claus holiday trains in winter and bike and ride trains that get you closer to the mountain biking trails.
𝑺𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒂 𝑪𝒍𝒂𝒖𝒔 𝑺𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝑻𝒓𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒔 begin running starting 𝐅𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝐍𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟒𝐭𝐡 and operate select days until 𝐒𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝐃𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟒𝐭𝐡!
While you’re here, don’t miss Jim Thorpe.
The town of Jim Thorpe is named after the first native American to win a gold medal at the Olympics. The town is spread over two sides of the river, with the older town being the base of major coal mining activity in the 1800s. At its peak, the coal was transported down the hill to the river and rail tracks on a gravity railroad system. In the late 19th Century, this track was converted to a switchback, an early version of a rollercoaster.
Some of the highlights walking Jim Thorpe include the Old Jail Museum, Sound Check Records, the Emporium of Curious Goods, Mugglets Mug for coffee, Donerds Donuts for sweet treats, Wild Elder Wine and Cider Co. for drinks, and Antiques on Broadway for picking.
Today, what was once a resort town is also a popular location for thrill seekers. You’ll find buses and tours departing across from the station for white water rafting, zip-lining, and mountain biking. While Mount Pocono has the monopoly for skiing and boarding in winter, Jim Thorpe is the perfect base for a trip to the Poconos.
Looking for more vacation and road trip ideas across the northeast of the United States? We have great ideas across New York State, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is a vintage railroad that travels 16 miles beside the picturesque Lehigh River.
You can buy tickets for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway online for most of the year. In autumn, tickets are sold for the Lehigh Gorge Fall Foliage train in person only. During peak times, arrive an hour before the train to allow for parking chaos and queues. We would recommend staying in Jim Thorpe or close by to be able to enjoy this beautiful area to its fullest.Follow & Connect with us