History Along the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network

Many notable historic features of national and state significance found along the planned route of the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network (PHTN) illustrate how humans have settled this rich region over the past 12,000 years.

Pennsylvania Highlands history revolves around the four major rivers in the region: The Delaware River and its two largest tributaries: the Lehigh and Schuylkill Rivers; and the Susquehanna River.

The easternmost portion of the trail begins at the Delaware River – a designated National Wild and Scenic River– in Riegelsville Borough, which is a listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The PHTN follows the D&L Trail, a National Recreation Trail, through Delaware Canal State Park – a National Landmark. Following the trail north from Riegelsville leads to the historic cities of Easton and Bethlehem where the D&L Trail is adjacent to the Lehigh River and Canal. Both cities feature numerous noteworthy historic structures and sites. In particular, the Central Bethlehem National Historic District is historically significant for its Moravian cultural heritage and the south side of Bethlehem was the site of iron and steel making operations that were the heart of the American Industrial Revolution.

The historic feature that shines in this part of the Highlands is the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. The D&L Trail follows the towpath of the Delaware Canal and the Lehigh Canal for most of its 165 mile length. The importance of this and other early canal systems is beautifully interpreted at the National Canal Museum, which is located in Hugh Moore Park in the City of Easton.

The PHTN is envisioned to travel through the historic towns and woods of Bucks and Montgomery Counties to reach the Perkiomen Trail, which passes by Mill Grove, the former home of John James Audubon. As it crosses the Schuylkill River near Valley Forge, the trail then follows the river upstream for 25 miles before climbing out of the valley on a partially developed trail to the Hopewell Big Woods region near the boundary of Berks and Chester Counties. The proposed trail route connects with the Horse-Shoe Trail near Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, which showcases an early American “Iron Plantation.” Continuing with an Iron Theme that expands across the entire 13-county region, the PHTN is envisioned to co-join the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, which passes near Cornwall Iron Furnace National Historic District. The PHTN passes through the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area with its numerous historic towns along the big river and co-joins the Mason Dixon Trail at Wrightsville. Further south the PHTN runs through the South Mountain Conservation Landscape, passing through Pine Grove Furnace State Park, site of yet another historic iron making community.

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Community Open House Addresses Trail Gap

On the evening of Monday, October 16th, members of the Tollgate Landing community met with AMC staff and representatives of Richland and Milford Townships to discuss the potential for a trail connection to a new park and Trumbauersville Elementary School. Read More

AMC Presents Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Pilot Project

On Friday, September 22, 2017 members of the Appalachian Mountain Club staff presented the results of its Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Pilot Project to project stakeholders. Read More

Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Project Kick Off

The Appalachian Mountain Club is conducting an assessment of land conservation opportunities to assist in the protection of a high quality trail experience through a GIS-based analysis of viewsheds along the Circuit Trails. Read More

Congress Proposes Legislation to Reauthorize Highlands Conservation Act

Federal support is key to the success of land conservation efforts. Legislation like the Highlands Conservation Act, originally passed in 2004, has been instrumental in preserving valuable resources throughout the Highlands region. While the original authorization has lapsed, efforts are underway in Congress to reauthorize this important program. Read More