Officially, the Bethlehem Trail System does not exist. But that didn't deter twenty-one hikers from "discovering" that portions of three trails combined make for an excellent system of recreational walking paths, ranging from the highly developed, paved South Bethlehem Greenway and the gravel D&L Trail, to the largely wooded Monocacy Way.
We began our 7-mile "Urban Hike" at Illicks Mill and were given an overview of the Fox Environmental Center by its Executive Director Karen Dolan. The Fox EC has applied for a grant to develop a plan for the Monocacy Way trail.
From Illicks Mill we traveled downstream along the Monocacy Creek to the Moravian Industrial Corridor, where we stopped to admire the ongoing dam removal project on the creek. Continuing downstream we reached the D&L Trail at Sand Island and followed it down to the Minsi Trail Bridge. After crossing the Lehigh River and taking in the views of the former steel mill complex and casino, we picked up the South Bethlehem Greenway.
The Greenway took us down through the heart of Southside Bethlehem where we crossed back over the river on Fahy Bridge to the Northside and walked up to the Moravian Historic District. From there we went back to the Monocacy Creek and followed Monocacy Way back up to the starting point at Illicks Mill. What this hiking route lacked in topographic relief was more than made up for by the intensity of visually interesting features that one would expect to find in a culturally diverse city.
The City is convening monthly meetings to bring partner organizations (including AMC) together to create what will be known as the Bethlehem Trail System. In the not-too-distant future Bethlehem will be one of the more notable trail hubs in the entire region with local and regional trails coming together at the confluence of the Lehigh River and Moncacy Creek, including the PA Highlands Trail, which will follow portions of the Bethlehem Trail System.
Hike leader Cathy Reuscher points to PA Highlands kiosk at Sand Island.