Tag along as our summer intern and DiscoverNEPA Cycling Team member, Max Greene embarks on a solo, 160-mile biking, camping and backpacking trip. The journey carries him from the heights of Montage Mountain and drops into the rolling hills and valleys of Carbon County.
A Two-Wheel Journey Along NEPA’s Most Scenic Roads
Taking it all in
NEPA makes for great training grounds for road cycling. There’s always a great ride up and over that ridge and into the next valley. Not that I’d run out of local rides, but I couldn’t resist my yearning to explore the rest of NEPA by bike. Quite appropriately, Jim Thorpe is one of my favorite spots to visit for a day trip. Even if you’re not partaking in one of countless outdoor activities, there’s just so much to do and see. There was only one problem: it’s a little too far for a day ride. The solution? It’s not a plane, train or car. Pack your camping gear, folks, it’s a weekend bike trip!
Day 1 – Montage Mountain and Route 502
I began my journey at the summit of Montage Mountain. I chose this starting point because it offers great parking, great views and it’s very close to some gorgeous roads. This was also the start of the Pocono Road Race 2019, hosted by the Veloce Bike Shop, home to the DiscoverNEPA Cycling Team. Route 502 is a gorgeous and well-maintained (though hilly) road giving access to the many remote roads just South of Scranton and East of Wilkes-Barre.
Day 1 – BicyclePA Route L – Thornhurst, Bear Creek and White Haven
PennDOT offers great resources for finding places to ride your bike. Whether you are a bicycle-commuter, distance rider or you’re just looking for some great riding, the BicyclePA can surely help you with planning. On any of these routes you can be more confident in your safety with wider shoulders, less traffic and surely some great riding.
Day 1 – Lehigh Gorge Trail and Jim Thorpe
After fueling up, I continued down the Lehigh Gorge Trail on my way to Jim Thorpe. The Lehigh Gorge trail is the section of the D&H Rail Trail alongside the Lehigh River. Converted from the Delaware and Lehigh rail line, this trail is very well maintained. It features 26 miles of smooth, fine gravel and a scenic overlook of the Lehigh River.
Heading South, this trail spits you out into quaint and historic Jim Thorpe. I could’ve spent the whole weekend wandering around the town’s few bustling blocks. But it was just about dinner time and Purple Green Juice Bar & Café was calling my name. After a quick stop and a few laps around downtown, I made my way to Mauch Chunk Lake Park. There, I scored one of the park’s clean and cozy family camping sites and set up for the night.
Day 2 – To Hazleton
On the morning of day 2, I was scheduled to be in Hazleton by 8:30 for an exciting DiscoverNEPA video shoot. Indeed, Route 309 would have been the quickest option. However, the countryside hidden between the Appalachian Ridges in this area are home to some of my favorite places in NEPA. I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity. This made for a natural detour past a stunning reservoir and a serene white church. The route culminated in a grueling climb up Spring Mountain Road before descending into Beaver Meadows. From there, it was an easy coast through Hazleton to Above the Poconos Skydivers.
Day 2 – Nescopeck State Park, Mountain Top and Wilkes-Barre
Since I typically ride out of Scranton, it’s rare that I get to explore the beautiful roads in and around Nescopeck State Park. Naturally, I took Honey Hole road directly through the park. The remote road, nestled between Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton offers access to countless trailheads. Here on Route 437, after one of the day’s longest climbs, I came across the D&H Trailhead.
The ride through Mountain Top and descending into Wilkes-Barre featured some great valley views. I made quick work of the awesome back roads and fast winding descents. From here, I made my way into Wilkes-Barre. And though it’s one of NEPA’s larger cities, I found plenty of biking trails along the mighty Susquehanna River.
Day 2 – Luzerne County Levee Trail, Downtown Pittston, Moosic and Montage Mountain
After a short cruise around Wilkes-Barre, I crossed the Market St. Bridge into Kingston and hopped onto the Levee Trail. This beautifully paved path proved a popular spot for walkers, runners and cyclists. The trail offered incredible cross-river views of Downtown Wilkes-Barre.
From Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, I made my way to Main Street in Pittston and then back to the start.
However, after 155 miles in two days, the climb back up Montage Mountain was nothing if not grueling.
Check Out Max’s Journey:
Gotta’ Fuel up – The Stops
Along my journey, I was treated to amazing meals at two incredible local restaurants.
Trailside Family Fine Dining is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner after a long day on the trail. Their warm, homemade dishes couldn’t have tasted better after a long 50 miles in the saddle. I opted for the Pasta Primavera with Scallops (my favorite food!). I also scarfed down tons of fresh-cooked veggies to fuel my next few hours. The staff was very welcoming and encouraging, and excited to share their vision of being the ideal dining spot for trail-goers.
Did I mention they have amazing desserts? I was lucky to get back on my bike after this meal. Be sure to check them out on your next adventure, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The end of my Day 1 ride brought me to Purple Green Juice Bar & Café. This quirky café sports a full menu of juices, smoothies, health drinks and more all made with truly fresh ingredients. After a long day of exercise, there’s no substitute for some fresh ingredients, good sugars and smiling faces.
I opted for a tasty fruit smoothie and a slice of toast with almond butter, fresh strawberries, sliced almonds and honey. After that masterpiece, I couldn’t help but take one of their chocolate smoothies to-go. Purple Green is certainly the place to go for quality food from quality sources. Best of all, it’s made by people who care about their food and their customers. They make you feel right at home the moment you step in the door.
On your next jaunt through Jim Thorpe, stop by Purple Green and grab a seat at the bar. Or, on a perfect day, pick a seat on the sidewalk patio and relax for a moment as the world passes by.