I have friends who live out in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, and recently they invited my daughter and I to join them on a Rail Trail bike adventure with Soarin’ Eagle Rail Bike Tours. I had seen other places with rail bikes before and this was on my to do list, but didn’t realize there was one now open only two hours from home.
After booking in advance (because they often sell out, especially on weekends!), we headed out for a mid-afternoon adventure. We were super lucky it was a little overcast and not rainy. While much of the trail is in a pretty wooded area, there are many parts that are exposed with no shade at all. If you are heading on a sunny day, make sure to wear a hat (don’t worry, its unlikely that you’ll go fast enough for it to fly off) and bring sunscreen. Also bring water no matter the weather because there aren’t stops along the way and its a six mile bike ride that takes approximately two hours.
We checked in at the railroad station in Hawley, where they also do a lot of holiday themed train rides and such, but now these tracks are shared on the weekends with the rail bikes. The staff here was amazing and they really had such a physical job. In addition to having to ride the 6 mile trip with us, they also had to load everyone on to the bikes, turn the bikes around at both ends of the tracks and also run up and back along the tracks whenever we hit street crossings.
When you book your trip, you can pick from a two or four seat bike for your trip. Our group had seven people in it, so we got two four-seaters and because we booked together, they were able to place us together on the tour. Once you get on the bike (which honestly was the trickiest part for me since I was the brake person and the brake is in the middle of the seat) and get adjusted, the rest was easier. Once you are seatbelted in, you are good to go.
The actual ride starts off a little bit slow, as you’ve got to get out of downtown Hawley. This means that you’ve got to stick close to the bikes in front of you so the entire group can make it across streets safely. But after the first few crossings, you can pedal more at your own pace, just not faster than the bike in front of you, obviously.
You’ll be treated with the beautiful views of the Lackawaxen during the ride, and there’s some pretty forest as well. It’s got to be stunning in the fall when the leaves change, and tours are slated to run until the end of October. On our trip we were even treated to the sight of two beautiful bald eagles who were just sitting and chilling out in the treetops along the river.
The bikes aren’t too hard to pedal once you get going, especially once you’ve got the hang of starting and stopping. There are a two railroad bridges that might be a little unsettling for anyone who is afraid of heights, but we took them as incentive to look up and pedal faster.
At the halfway point at three miles, we had to disembark the bikes (remember the name on ours, Biscuit and Yoda) and sit on some picnic tables as the crew used a cool metal spinner to turn the bikes around one-by-one on the track so we could make our return trip. It reminded me of the way they turn the trolley cars in San Francisco.
We got into the groove on the way back and were singing the whole way, highly recommend the classic “Proud Mary” as the lyric of “rollin’ on the river” really seems to suit the occasion. The bikes can get a little harder to pedal if some of the people in your groups opt to take breaks during the ride, but its totally still doable. No one is going to get stuck. Kids can definitely do this, though each bike needs at least one rider over the age of 16 to be in charge of the brake. If you’ve got smaller kids they might not be able to reach the pedals which means you’ll be doing the leg workout for the day while they kick back and enjoy the ride.
Because there isn’t really steering involved (aside from manning the brake), you’ll have your hands free to take photos. Be careful taking pics if you are in charge of the brake, in case people suddenly stop… which they do quite often.
When you go, you’ll need closed-toe shoes, like sneakers, and no skirts or anything that could get tangled up. There’s a basket on each bike to store a bag or sweatshirts.
Soarin’ Eagle is open from Memorial day to Halloween and is rain or shine, so make sure to check the weather and dress accordingly. The two-person tandem bikes (which accommodate up to two people) are $85 and the quad bikes (which accommodate up to four people) are $150 per trip. Hawley is located in the Lake Wallenpaupack region of the Pocono Mountains, and is about two hours from New York City.