Hiking the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe

Lehigh Gorge Overlook along the Mount Pisgah Trail.

The Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe is a steep but easy-to-follow trail leading up Mount Pisgah to a pair of fantastic Carbon County vistas.

A map of the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania.
A map of the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.

The trail utilizes former right-of-ways from the Switchback Railroad, built in the early 1800s to carry coal from mines in the mountains to the Lehigh Canal below.

The Mount Pisgah Plane that was used to transport coal and later tourists up and down the mountain above Jim Thorpe.
The Mount Pisgah Plane that was used to transport coal and later tourists up and down the mountain above Jim Thorpe (public domain image).

How to Find the Mount Pisgah Trail

The Mount Pisgah Trail Head is located along North Avenue in Jim Thorpe at GPS coordinates 40.86733, -75.74552.

Mount Pisgah Trail parking area along North Avenue in Jim Thorpe.
Mount Pisgah Trail parking area along North Avenue in Jim Thorpe.

The trail looks like a steep, rocky ATV trail, and that’s pretty much how it remains the entire way up the mountain.

The rocky Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
The rocky Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.

The distance from the parking area to the summit is roughly 0.7 miles, with 500 feet of elevation gain along the way.

Mount Pisgah Trail summit above Jim Thorpe.
Mount Pisgah Trail summit above Jim Thorpe.

Once you reach the summit, you can either bear right to the Lehigh Gorge Overlook, or bear left to the Jim Thorpe Overlook.


The Lehigh Gorge Overlook

Bearing right, you’ll hike approximately 75 yards before coming to some ruins and a weathered sign that tells you about those ruins.

A weathered historical sign about the "bridge in the clouds" along the Switch Back Railroad.
A weathered historical sign about the “bridge in the clouds” along the Switchback Railroad.

At one time a “bridge in the clouds” stood here, part of the Switchback Railway.

Sketch of the former railroad bridge and engine house locations on Mount Pisgah.
Sketch of the former railroad bridge and engine house locations on Mount Pisgah.

Today these bridge supports are covered in leaves and moss.

Remnants of the bridge supports on top of Mount Pisgah.
Remnants of the bridge supports on top of Mount Pisgah.

In their prime they would have been covered in soot and coal dust.

Photo of the railroad bridge that once stretched across the top of Mount Pisgah.
Photo of the railroad bridge that once stretched across the top of Mount Pisgah (public domain image).

Another 100 yards past the bridge ruins, you’ll come upon the remnants of the Mount Pisgah engine house, which powered this portion of the Switchback Railroad.

The engine house that once stood at the top of Mount Pisgah, now the site of the Lehigh Gorge Overlook along the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.
The engine house that once stood at the top of Mount Pisgah, now the site of the Lehigh Gorge Overlook along the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe (public domain image).

Today, all that remains of the engine house and surrounding support structures are some stone foundations.

Remnants of the engine house at the top of Mount Pisgah in Jim Thorpe, PA.
Remnants of the engine house at the top of Mount Pisgah in Jim Thorpe.

The Lehigh Gorge Overlook is just a few yards north of the old engine house, facing in the direction of Lehigh Gorge State Park.

The Lehigh Gorge Overlook at the top of the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.
The Lehigh Gorge Overlook at the top of the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.

If you’re lucky (or planned well like I did on this afternoon), you’ll catch the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway passing through the valley far below.

A view of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway fall foliage train from the top of Mount Pisgah.
A view of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway fall foliage train from the top of Mount Pisgah.

If navigating by GPS, use coordinates 40.86936, -75.74998 to find the Lehigh Gorge Overlook and the ruins of the old engine house.

View from the site of the old Switch Back Railroad engine house on top of Mount Pisgah.
View from the site of the old Switchback Railroad engine house on top of Mount Pisgah.

The Jim Thorpe Overlook

Backtracking past the bridge historical sign and following the trail in the opposite direction will bring you to the Jim Thorpe Overlook along the Mount Pisgah Trail, located at GPS coordinates 40.86815, -75.75254.

The Jim Thorpe Overlook along the Mount Pisgah Trail.
The Jim Thorpe Overlook along the Mount Pisgah Trail.

From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why Jim Thorpe was often referred to in the 1800s as “the Switzerland of America”.

Looking down into Jim Thorpe from the top of Mount Pisgah.
Looking down into Jim Thorpe from the top of Mount Pisgah.

On this October afternoon the air was clear and cool and the views from Mount Pisgah were exceptional!

A view of South Avenue and the Jim Thorpe Cemetery from Mount Pisgah.
A view of South Avenue and the Jim Thorpe Cemetery from Mount Pisgah.

To get back to your vehicle, simply retrace your steps down the mountain, past this abandoned car you no doubt noticed along the way, wondering like I did how in the world it got to the top of Mount Pisgah!

An abandoned car at the top of Mount Pisgah along the Mount Pisgah Trail.
An abandoned car at the top of Mount Pisgah.

Nearby Attractions

While the Switchback Railroad is just a memory, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is still very real, and riding it is one of the best things to do when visiting Jim Thorpe.

Fall foliage around the train station in Jim Thorpe, PA.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe, PA.

Turn Hole Tunnel is an abandoned railroad tunnel located near the Glen Onoko access to Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Looking through the Turn Hole Tunnel at Lehigh Gorge State Park towards the north portal.
Turn Hole Tunnel at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

And directly above Turn Hole Tunnel you’ll find Moyer’s Rock Overlook, offering a commanding view of the Lehigh Gorge.

Moyer's Rock Overlook on an October afternoon at Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Moyer’s Rock Overlook on an October afternoon at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Buttermilk Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park is a cascading waterfall along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail, 1/4 mile north of the Rockport Access to the park and rail trail.

Buttermilk Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Buttermilk Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Luke’s Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park is an easy 1/4 mile hike/bike ride south of the Rockport Access along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail.

Fall foliage around Luke's Falls in October, 2021.
Fall foliage around Luke’s Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Tank Hollow Overlook in Carbon County offers visitors a stunning view of a bend in the Lehigh River in the western Poconos.

Hikers at Tank Hollow Overlook in the western Poconos.
Hikers at Tank Hollow Overlook in the western Poconos.

Exploring Hickory Run State Park is an in-depth guide to the best things to see and do at this 15,990-acre park in Carbon County, just north of Jim Thorpe.

Stametz Dam along the Shades of Death Trail at Hickory Run State Park.
Stametz Dam at Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County.

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Pennsylvania’s Best Travel Blog!

Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I am from Lehighton but spent my early years in the 1970’s roaming & hiking in Jim Thorpe, I had a VW back then & drove it up Mt. Pisgah, I do not know if that was a no, no back then, but exploring was in my nature back then. But after that so many lives were lost at Glenonoko Falls which made it dangerous for rescue efforts & that sealed that beautiful, natural site. We still have the Lehigh & many trials & attractions in Carbon County & all the surrounding counties of Pa. So enjoy, enjoy the great outdoors. Thank You Rusty for the beautiful pictures & your detailed descriptions !

  2. I grew.up in JT and we would often hike up to “the Glen’. We sat on the big flat stone on top of the falls and ate our PBJ sandwiches. At the end of the stone moss grew and it was very slippery. Below was the Falls. Many have lost their lives getting too close to the edge. Little did we worry about sitting on that flat Rock eating, talking and laughing. Mom and Dad would have been horrified if they knew WHERE we spent our day. But they didn’t, so all was well!

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