Your Guide to Hiking and Exploring Hickory Run State Park

Find the beauty in “Shades of Death” and dine atop a natural wonder.

hickory run state park hike

Checking out the giant 16-acre boulder field on your next Hickory Run State Park hike. Photograph by 500px/Getty Images

Location: White Haven, PA
Getting there: 90 miles north of Center City — about an hour and 40 minutes by car
Personal space: 15,990 acres, more than 40 miles of hiking trails, and a lake that has a beach (swimming allowed!) — plus disc golf
Entrance fee: Free

This massive state park in the wooded foothills of the Poconos boasts multiple claims to fame. The first and most memorable is the giant 16-acre boulder field, a national natural landmark completely surrounded by a ring of ­evergreens — an attraction that might sound uninspiring on paper but is, in reality, an absolute wonder. Pack a bottle of wine and sandwiches for a picnic unlike any you’ve ever had. (Says one fan who’s been making the trek out for years: “It’s not necessarily on anyone’s bucket list, but once you’ve been there, you feel like you’ve done this really special thing.”) A few tips: Go on a cooler or cloudier day, as there’s not much shade on the rocks. Also, park amenities like trash cans and fully operating bathrooms aren’t easily accessible to this site, so plan accordingly.

Another reason to love Hickory Run is its many diverse and beautiful hiking paths — there are, for instance, lakeside trails, birding trails, steep mountain trails with staggering views, snowmobiling trails and more. One cool one to try? The Shades of Death trail — not named for today’s hiking experience, thank heavens, but for the challenging terrain settlers faced centuries ago. These days, it’s actually a moderate one-mile uphill path that weaves prettily alongside a creek and past the picturesque Stametz Dam waterfall. (Happily, the one-mile trek back to the trailhead is downhill.) You might also consider pre-registering for one of the park’s weekend guided hikes.

Because there’s so much to do here — the boulders, hiking, hunting, fishing, birding, disc golf, and other nearby diversions — you can easily spend a few days exploring. Visitors can camp in a tent, trailer or park cottage through the third Sunday in October while enjoying access to restrooms, showers, electricity and the camp store. The park also welcomes “rustic” campers through the end of December — you know, just you, a tent and the great outdoors.

hickory run state park

Join a rafting trip down the Lehigh River. Photograph by Whitewater Challengers

While You’re There … 
One of Hickory Run’s major perks is its proximity to other great outdoor destinations. Lehigh Gorge State Park (15 miles away) is known for its canyon views, mountain biking and whitewater. (Multiple companies offer guided rafting trips down the Lehigh River.) On the southern tip of the Lehigh Gorge is Jim Thorpe, the charming small town nestled at the base of the Poconos — a delightful place to spend a night (and dine out!) if camping isn’t your gig. There’s also horseback riding (by appointment) at Apollo Farms in Palmerton (19 miles); winter skiing and tubing at Jack Frost (15 miles) and Big Boulder (six miles); and underrated Hawk Mountain (40 miles) for glorious hiking, a wild bird sanctuary, and the “river of rocks” boulder field.

Published as “Hickory Run State Park” in the “Call of the Wild” guide in the October 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.