South Mountain Preserve

350 acres | 9 miles of hiking | 9 trails

South Mountain’s Trails>>

ADA loop .17 miles

This trail is .17 miles of crushed stone in a loop around our habitat regeneration deer exclosure area. This short easy loop connects to a boardwalk trail that runs to Emmaus’ Homestead Park. Total elevation changes of only 10 ft. along this route.

Uplands Trail .7 miles

This trail providing access to the Mountain Top and Log trails is relatively easy to walk, but is rocky and uneven in areas. Elevation changes 270 along this trail.

Trout Run Trail 1.2 Miles

This trail offers a spectacular overlook of Emmaus and Allentown through a utility cut. The trail also crosses babbling streams running down the hillside and has great views of unique boulder formations. This trail is rocky and uneven with elevation changes of 220 feet.

Alpine St Trail 1.7 miles

This trail is a rugged climb necessary to reach the upper trails. The trail is rocky in many places and crosses several small streams. Spectacular boulder formations and reclaimed quarry areas are major features on this route. Please be mindful and avoid the marked trails leading to private property at the edges of the preserve. Elevation changes 230 feet.

Alpine/Ithaca On-street Connection .7 miles

This on-street connection runs on Glenwood St. between Ithaca Playlot and Boroline Park. Trail markers on utility poles and the backs of stop signs mark the route. This trail is smoothly paved but does not include sidewalks, and climbs 50 ft from Ithaca Playlot to Boroline Park.

Mountain Top Trail .9 miles

This multi-use trail offers many elevation changes; switchback turns and is a favorite of mountain bikers. Elevations change 160 feet.

Bug Trail-.9 miles

This trail is named in memorial- not for a prevalence of insects. The trail is very rugged and can be difficult in places. There are many switchbacks and elevation changes along this trail, which connects the Trout Run and Uplands trails. A large glacial boulder stands about the forest floor on the south side of the trail. Elevation change of 130 ft.

Wilderness Trail .6 miles

The Wilderness trail connects the Alpine Street trail to Ithaca Playlot and the Alpine/Ithaca Onstreet trail completes a loop back to the Alpine trail; creating an enjoyable hiking with a large variety of trail types. This trail passes old mining sites, from South Mountain’s Industrial Revolution past, which since been reclaimed by natural to create pools which are vital for amphibian populations. This easy trail only climbs 90 ft from Ithaca Playlot to the Alpine St. trail.

Log Trail 2 miles

This winding trail was constructed with mountain bikers in mind, but is open to hikers also. To access the trail, users must traverse the utility corridor from the Upland trail–watching for trail markers designating the beginning of the Log Trail.  Extensive communities of spring flowers like Mayapple are found on this mountaintop trail. This is an easy trail with elevation changes of 110ft.

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  • Activities The trails through South Mountain are packed earth but can be stony in some places. Trails are accessible for hikers, responsible pet owners, trail runners, birdwatchers, mountain bikers, bicyclists and other passive recreation. Single use biking trails are maintained throughout, making the preserve one of the best mountain biking points in the Lehigh Valley. Grounds are open day to dusk.

  • Before you visit Please plan ahead. South Mountain is a pack-out site. Please do not litter; carry out all trash, as receptacles are not provided.

  • Getting Here

    Facilities/Main Entrance

    Alpine St. Entrance,

    Parking on-street and at Boroline Park, restroom facilities at Boroline Park

    GPS Coordinates: 40.547910, -75.483103

    From routes I78 & 309 exit onto Lehigh Street (Exit #18). Go south on Lehigh Street towards Emmaus. At the South Mall light make a left onto SW 33rd Street. At stop sign, turn right onto Dalton Street. Proceed six streets and turn left onto Alpine Street, the preserve entrance is at the end of the street.


    Other access points:

    Klines Lane

    GPS Coordinates: 40°32’21.8″N 75°28’56.7″W

    Large parking area, no restroom or picnic facilities

    Ithaca Play Lot

    GPS Coordinates: 40°33’17.6″N 75°28’36.8″W

    On-street parking, no restroom or picnic facilities

  • Wildlife

    South Mountain provides habitat for endangered bat species, and shelter for rare insects and amphibians. A large variety of interior forest dwelling birds are found on the preserve. Notable species include Scarlet Tanagers, Cerulean Warblers, Pileated Woodpecker, Veery, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Worm-eating Warblers, and Ovenbirds.

  • Plantlife

     The preserve serves as a green oasis rising above the urban areas of the Lehigh Valley, proving a stronghold for five plants of special concern. The preserve is a large portion of the South Mountain Natural Heritage Area and contains an exemplary natural seep community. The forests are a blend of Red Oak, Tulip, Maple and Beech, with some stands of over 100 years.

    In early spring, often before the snows melt, one of the earliest spring wildflowers blooms on South Mountain – Skunk Cabbage. Skunk Cabbage blossoms appear weeks before the plant’s leaves arrive. These blooms, which look like dappled brown or green hoods, melt through the snow by generating their own heat. In the summer, this plant is characterized by its large elephant-ear like leaves.

  • History

    In 1973, South Mountain gave rise to Wildlands’ mission as the organization’s first land acquisition. The preserve boasts more than 350+ acres of woodland trails, pronounced rocky outcroppings and unique vistas in an otherwise urban landscape. South Mountain Preserve is considered part of the 750-acre Robert Rodale Reserve, one of the most important natural areas in the Lehigh Valley.

    South Mountain is geologically part of the Reading Prong, a spur of the Appalachian Mountains. As part of the Crystalline Appalachian Mountains, it erodes less readily than the softer Sedimentary Appalachians such as the Kittatinny Ridge to the north or the Great Valley, which lies between the two ridges.

    South Mountain has always been a vital part of the Lehigh Valley’s history.  For the Lenni Lenape people, the mountain provided settlements, refuges, and a vital source of trade materials. Jasper, mined on private lands on southwestern portions of South Mountain, was used to create arrowheads and spear tips and has been found as far away as northern New England and Canada.

    The first permanent European settlements on the mountain were founded by the Moravians, Germanic missionaries, who settled in areas with permanent sources of flowing water. In this instance, the water sources were springs and streams fed from the mountainside, which flowed reliably, even in dry periods. Much of the drinking water in the surrounding communities is still sourced from South Mountain springs, streams, and wells. This aspect of the mountain makes conservation efforts of vital import to the surrounding communities who rely upon the unpolluted waters of the mountain.

    South Mountain also served as the green background to the Industrial Revolution. The forests were timbered for lumber and the charcoal needed to fuel manufacturing until the burgeoning coal industry took over that role. The mountain was mined for iron ore, and limestone for the steel mills. Gold, and uranium were also mined on the mountain, but in very limited quantities.

    Evidence of past mining and timbering operations are still evident on the mountains slopes. Abandoned mines created pools and ponds, which have been colonized by bountiful amphibian life, old quarries formed unique geologic pockets and cliffs, and the break between mature forest and regenerating timbered and agricultural areas have created sharply distinct forest habitats.

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Questions or feedback about this preserve?

Contact Preserve Manager Michael Hock

(610) 965-4397 ext 132 –