The popular ADA designed Ironton Rail Trail which passes through Coplay, Whitehall Township and North Whitehall Township will celebrate its 20th anniversary in June. It has taken a long time for the final section to be completed but that fete was completed earlier this year. This last section of the trail, about a 1¼ mile cindered portion in North Whitehall Township runs from Portland Street to the North Whitehall Township Recreation Park on Levans Road. If you haven’t been on this beautiful trail for a while plan a visit.
The new section is a little different from the rest of the trail. There is plenty of new high fencing in place next to the noisy Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays facility. There is a short open area where you can peak into the facility and possibly see clay shooters in action and view the quarry. There is also a really neat wooden bridge to cross here. Be careful though when crossing the very busy Mauch Chunk Road. Parking for the final section is available at both the North Whitehall Township complex and at a lot on Quarry Road and Portland Street near the Ranger Rod and Gun Club.
The trail consists of a 5+ mile loop section and a spur section. The spur section of the trail is now 3.7 miles long, and the entire trail length around the loop and the spur out and back brings the total distance to approximately 12¾ miles.
Another improvement which occurred last year to the trail was the addition of a 1¼ paved section from the start of the spur to near the Troxell-Steckel Park and House area in Egypt. Future plans are to eventually pave the few remaining cindered sections. Also, with the completion of the Lehigh Street Bridge (Hocky-Catty Bridge) in Hokendauqua, a once dreaded detour section is gone and a tunnel with lighting goes under the new bridge.
The former Ironton Railway route was purchased in 1996 from Conrail and converted into a 10-foot-wide path to maintain its historical significance as well as providing an open space greenway. It is great for walking and bike riding and there are many access points to the trail.
Interesting features of the trail are the 110-acre Natural Whitehall Parkway and the historic Saylor Cement Kilns in Coplay. The kilns are the site where in 1871 David Saylor began the manufacturing of Portland Cement. Off the trail nearby the kilns are the remnants of the once thriving Thomas Iron Works Ruins (if you have time, do explore them). The trail runs parallel to a section of the Lehigh River and several miles of the Coplay Creek.
The Ironton Rail Trail is open from dawn to dusk. Dogs are allowed but they must be leashed. Hunting, horses and motorized vehicles are prohibited.