Cars drive along Filmore Street in South Bethlehem on August 29. The city of Bethlehem hosts a variety of outdoor events to the public during the warmer months of the year. (Nahjiah Miller/BW Staff)

Nature in Bethlehem: Outdoor spots to explore


As classes begin and school work picks up, the back-to-school season may bring up feelings of anxiety for some. But the beginning of the fall semester is also associated with nice weather and the final weeks of summer.

Spending time outdoors is consistently cited as a way to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health overall. 

The Bethlehem area offers numerous areas for students and community members alike to prioritize mental health and spend time outside. Here are some outdoor areas to explore in the next few weeks, whether for going on a run to clear your mind or finding a peaceful spot to read your latest assignment. 

Burnside Plantation 

Located on Schoenersville Road, Burnside Plantation is a 6.5 acre site that begins less than two miles away from Lehigh’s campus. 

Once a family farm, the property now acts as a historic site to educate Bethlehem residents about life in the Moravian community between 1748 and 1848. In the mid-1980s, Lehigh County purchased what remained of the original Burnside Farm to preserve open space in Bethlehem. 

Walk through the property and expect to be transported back to 18th century farm life, as the original barns, sheds and kitchens are maintained. The historic setting acts as a scenic backdrop to daily walks and encourages visitors to learn more about the Bethlehem area.

Monocacy Nature Center

Less than a 10 minute drive from Lehigh’s campus, this versatile location includes meadows, woodlands, creeks, hiking trails and reservable gazebos. 

Located at the intersection of PA 191 and Broadhead Road, this eight acre park provides space for any nature-based activity. Plan a hike, fishing afternoon, off-leash dog walk or picnic at any of the publicly accessible areas at Monocacy Nature Center. 

The South Bethlehem Greenway is a linear park that follows a former Norfolk Southern rail line through the southern neighborhood of Bethlehem. Many local residents walk along this trail during the summer months. (Nahjiah Miller/BW Staff)

Moravian University 

While this may seem like an odd suggestion, Moravian University’s campus is both beautiful and educational. Using its nearby “South Campus” as a walking route allows South Side residents to visit Bethlehem’s Historic District, where information can be found about the neighborhood’s inception. 

The campus is also home to multiple historic sites owned by the Moravian Church, including the Old Chapel and Bell House. This destination offers a change of pace to those interested in exploring a new, green space away from Lehigh.

Sand Island Park 

This urban park, located on the north bank of the Lehigh River, is home to eight clay tennis courts, playgrounds, and biking and hiking paths. The park sits on a peninsula between the Lehigh Canal and the Lehigh River, which visitors have access to throughout the summer for fishing and paddling. 

This location provides an option for community members hoping to get their last fix of water activities before the fall. The canal also has scenic views for running, walking or biking. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the property, allowing students to experience the outdoors while getting work done near the family-friendly playground on location. Tennis courts and player workshops are also available for a fee. 

South Mountain Park 

Accessible by Mountain Drive, South Mountain Park is a conveniently located spot for those looking for a woodland hike in the middle of Bethlehem. The park is well-adapted for visitors of any activity level, with trails starting at lengths of just one mile. 

Mountain bikers can also explore South Mountain, which provides challenging routes. The park also features a disc golf course for visitors. South Mountain Park serves as an easy getaway from campus life complete with views of the Lehigh Valley. 

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    • John G. Lewis '90 on

      I don’t know about that… But I remember as a freshman student in introductory Geology the professor at one point got all the students together on a Saturday and we journeyed the environs of Bethlehem. It was fun, and at one point we were picking up fossils from exposed strata along the side of the road somewhere.

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