Tucked into the Pocono Mountains in the Lehigh Gorge of Carbon County is the charming village of Jim Thorpe, often called “The Switzerland of America.” On a recent day trip, we learned why it has earned this nickname.
Jim Thorpe has the allure of a European village with winding streets, rich history, quaint shops, beautiful architecture, galleries, and inviting eateries of all types. The drive time to Jim Thorpe is approximately two hours and 15 minutes from Manhattan and 90 minutes from Philadelphia. It is only 45 minutes from the Allentown and Bethlehem areas.
Jim Thorpe was originally founded in 1818 as the town of Mauch Chunk but was renamed in 1954 for the great Native American athlete. Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation and he was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the USA in the Olympics. He also played professional sports that included football, baseball, and basketball, and served as a successful sports coach.
The town of Jim Thorpe has museums that are ideal for day-trippers. Some go-to attractions are the Packer Mansion built in 1860. It was the home of philanthropist, congressman, and founder of Lehigh University Asa Packer.
Tour the Old Jail Museum, the site of the infamous Molly Maguire executions.
There’s a lovely fine art museum, The Stabin Museum and the Mauch Chuck Opera House that features entertainment options.
Check out the historic church tour of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to see beautiful Tiffany windows and ride in a 1911 Otis elevator. Be sure to check the hours of each spot as there are often seasonal changes in operating times.
Train enthusiasts and visitors of all ages will want to take a ride on the Leigh Gorge Scenic Train Rides by the Reading & Northern Railroads. The vintage coaches that date back to 1917 are powered by diesel engines for an exciting scenic ride that departs regularly from the charming downtown depot. We also like that there is a tourist information site located very near the train depot so you can learn all about the history of anthracite mining in the area and explore the Pocono Mountain’s many other attractions.
Make time to see the statue, mausoleum, and memorial of Jim Thorpe. While it is not in the central downtown, it is within a few miles located on Route 903. Set in a small park, it is a moving tribute to Thorpe and his many accomplishments.
If you enjoy hiking, there are a number of trailheads near town. Take a walk along the D & L canal path or a more challenging trek into the gorge. Just a few miles away is a lovely lake, Mauch Chunk Lake, an ideal spot for a picnic or to rent a boat in the nice weather.
Planning an overnight in the area? There are bed and breakfast spots in Jim Thorpe and plenty of hotels within a short drive. While there is parking both on the street and in lots, arriving early to town makes your trip easier.
Jim Thorpe has seasonal events so you may want to visit more than once. It’s a truly interesting, appealing gem of a destination in the Pennsylvania Poconos.
For more information, please visit the website for Pocono Mountains/Jim Thorpe.
Photo Credit: Marina Kennedy