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 Delaware: A Wild and Scenic 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 Heritage Corridor, 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 D&L Trail: A National Heritage Corridor

The historic feature that shines in this part of the Pennsylvania 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.

PHTN Connections to Other National Historic Sites

The Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network (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 on the Schuylkill River Trail before climbing out of the valley 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-align with 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-aligns 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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PA Highlands Trail Signage Installation Underway in Quakertown

PA Highlands Trails signage marking the PHTN route through Quakertown is being installed in the Borough.  Read More

Highlight the Highlands: Riparian Forest Buffer of Tinicum Township

Tinicum Township, in Bucks County, is located entirely within the Eastern portion of the Pennsylvania Highlands. Abutting the Delaware River, Tinicum is an active and engaged community. The Tinicum Civic Association automatically includes all residents, giving everyone a chance to get involved. The Association puts on the annual Arts Festival, which last year was supported by over 200 volunteers and raised over $100,000 dollars for local non-profits. Read More

#SaveLWCF: Jacobsburg State Park

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) serves as the main funding mechanism for the Highlands Conservation Act, allowing for the yearly allocation to protect the Pennsylvania Highlands and the rest of the four-state Highlands region. Congressional authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires on September 30, 2018, and must be reauthorized in order for funding to continue.  Read More

Highlight the Highlands: Valley Forge National Historic Park

Located on the Southeastern edge of the Pennsylvania Highlands, Valley Forge National Historic Park is a major attraction for history buffs and recreationists alike. The site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army, the park is filled with historic structures and monuments as you wind your way through the vast array of trail offerings. Read More