Every town has a unique identity. Some are factory towns, some are beach or lake communities, some are shopping centers. Our favorite places to visit are trail towns. While home is our favorite trail town, we like to see others too. The ingredients for an exemplary train town are easy access to outdoor activities, impressive local shops, delicious food, and suitable accommodations.
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We were still on our Christmas break when we decided to take a quick trip to Jim Thorpe, PA. It’s one of the most popular travel destinations in the state, and for good reason. We enjoyed walking down Broadway, visiting the shops, and a short hike by Mauch Chunk Lake. Jim Thorpe has all the ingredients for a fantastic trail town experience.
There is no lack of places to hike and bike in and around Jim Thorpe. The Switchback Railroad Trail and the D&L Rail Trail both run through it. Each feature miles of gradually graded trail perfect for casual hiking and cycling. Experience a bit more exertion and see gorgeous waterfalls in Lehigh Gorge State Park. These are some of the most popular spots to get outside in Jim Thorpe. You can also go whitewater rafting and take train rides.
Two features we love about a new place are their local shops and food offerings. Our original goal was to visit the Harry Potter themed cafe called Muggle’s Mug. The girls have gotten into the books and movies over this past year, so we thought it would be a cool treat for them. Unfortunately for us, their holiday schedule meant that they were closed that day. Instead, we visited Donerds Donuts. There we had massive gourmet donuts and coffee.
Tips for Visiting a Popular Trail Town
We have learned a few things in our travels that help make an experience the best it can be.
First, search online to pick out a few places you’d like to visit. You don’t need a detailed itinerary, but knowing what’s available helps guide your trip. If something does require advanced booking, you can take care of it in your planning phase.
Second, talk to the locals while you’re there. Usually, anyone working in a shop or restaurant knows the town well and can help you find the hidden gems. We hadn’t decided where we would hike, but the shopkeeper in House of Jerky directed us to Mauch Chunk Lake Park. We enjoyed our walk there and plan to book a cabin sometime this summer. That’s how the shops and outdoor spaces form a symbiotic relationship that helps everyone.
Third, don’t plan a trip around a single destination. Small businesses sometimes have inconsistent availability. That’s not good, but it shouldn’t ruin your trip either. We were disappointed that we didn’t get to experience the cafe we wanted. But we enjoyed an alternative and hope to try visiting the other place again in the future. These unique places are part of what draws a crowd to trail towns.
Lastly, visit on a weekday if you can. The more popular a place, the more packed it is on the weekends. We were in Jim Thorpe on a Monday after a holiday. There were small crowds of people on the street too, but we found parking easily and didn’t have to wait long for help in any shops we visited. We heard that the weekend is a whole other story. I know that it’s not always possible to make day trips during the week, but if you just want a quick taste of a popular destination, it’s a good option.
We hope these tips are helpful next time you visit a unique trail town. Winter is a great time for day trips to check out destinations where you may want to spend a few days in the future.
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