13 Ways to Have the Ultimate Poconos Summer Vacation

things to do in the poconos

Summer fun in the Poconos is calling your name. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Maybe, for as long as you can remember, the beach was your go-to summer escape. Then 2020 happened, your world shrank, and the Poconos — with all that fresh air and wide-open space — took on a whole new appeal. And for good reason: the peaceful lakes! The quaint cabins! The scenic hikes! A summer in the Poconos is a summer of simpler times, and — as we prepare to venture out again but perhaps aren’t quite ready to venture far — there’s never been a better time to go. Here’s how to make the most of your visit.

Commune With Nature

things to do in the poconos

Bushkill Falls. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Your guide to all our favorite Poconos hikes, parks and natural wonders. Keep reading here.

Fill Your Feed With Cabin Porn

These rentable cottages and chalets are just as much fun to explore on Instagram as they will be in real life.

Things to do in the poconos

Camp Caitlin. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Caitlin Cowger runs several delightfully retro-meets-rustic NEPA Airbnbs that have appeared in URBN catalogs and pop up in travel guides published by the likes of Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

Things to do in the poconos

Cinderloch Chalet. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Baley and Marco Boccitto purchased this Arrowhead Lake chalet just before the pandemic, then watched their following boom — likely because every picture on their feed perfectly encapsulates Poconos coziness.

Things to do in the poconos

The Hemloch Hollow. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Follow along as NYC creative director Michael Goesele and his partner, Lauren Spear, renovate an A-frame (and future Airbnb) in Shohola. Its sister property has been featured in Dwell and Vogue.

Things to do in the poconos

Camp Pocono Pines. Photograph by Laura Olivia

CPP proprietress Monica Mangin is documenting the transformation of her Lake Naomi cabin complex on IG, on YouTube, and in regular spots on Live with Kelly and Ryan. Watch for visits from Ripa and Seacrest.

Get Your Adrenaline Pumping

things to do in the poconos

Camelback Mountain Adventure. Photograph courtesy Camelback Resort

It’s not summer without a little adventure. Here’s where to find it. Keep reading here

Give a Resort a Go

Things to do in the poconos

The Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort. Photograph courtesy The Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort

Ready to be amongst people again? Book a room at one of these 12 great places. Keep reading here.

Find a Place Of Your Own

things to do in the poconos

Future Airbnb the Hemloch Hollow. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Buying a chalet ain’t what it used to be. If you want to win in a heated Poconos real estate market, you’d better come prepared. Keep reading here.

Live Your Best Lake Life

things to do in the poconos

Lake Wallenpaupack from Silver Birches resort. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

If there’s one thing the Poconos have more of than mountains, it’s lakes. Most are private, but Lake Wallenpaupack is an exception — and what a wonderful exception it is. Slicing through the border of Pike and Wayne counties at 13 miles long, with 52 miles of shoreline, Lake Wally is Pennsylvania’s second-largest state-contained lake. On summer weekends, it’s bananas, with jet skis whizzing off to Party Cove (exactly what it sounds like); for a calmer atmosphere, hit the water midweek or in the morning. It’s not really a swimming lake — there’s only one public beach, and it’s tiny — but boaters abound, and you can rent your own through the nearby Silver Birches resort.

For a crash course in lake life, hire Ray Cichocki of Hawley-based Ray’s Guide Service, who’s been guiding lake trips longer than anybody in the area. He’ll take you out to catch the really big ones (Lake Wally is known for huge catfish and largemouth bass), or he can just provide the history of the reservoir (it was literally built on top of an old town nearly 100 years ago), tell you the science behind its hydroelectric dam, and show you some of the positively gorgeous homes set along the shore. Maybe you can get him to share which one supposedly belongs to Miley Cyrus — he wouldn’t give us the deets.

Reconsider Cove Haven

things to do in the poconos

The Roman Tower suite at Pocono Palace Resort. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Not much has changed about the honeymoon resorts that first put the Poconos on the map — and that’s precisely the appeal. Keep reading here.

Do a Day Trip to Jim Thorpe

things to do in the poconos

Jim Thorpe. Photograph courtesy poconomountains.com

Ninety minutes north of Philly, this storybook town transports you back 100-plus years as soon as you see the Victorian-era train station. Formerly Mauch Chunk (“Bear Mountain” in Lenni Lenape), the village was renamed for Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe in 1954. (His memorial, a few minutes from downtown, is worth the detour.) Later, stop for lunch at Marion Hose Bar, then wander the shop-lined Broadway. Browse snarky greeting cards at Somer­sault Letterpress and shoes handcrafted using indigenous methods at Artisanal Gifts by Mabacol, then sample elderberry syrup (amazing on ice cream) at Wild Elder Wine & Cider Co. Snap pics at nearby Historic Stone Row and tour railroad tycoon Asa Packer’s hilltop mansion, then finish the day with Ecuadorian chef Heriberto Yunda’s flavorful food at Moya before hitting the road.

Go Local With the Groceries

poconos farmers markets

Check out Pocono Organics for produce. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

Stock your cabin kitchen from these farmers’ markets and local makers. Keep reading here.

Get Yourself to a Brewery (or Winery)

things to do in the poconos

Wallenpaupack Brewing Co., one of several must-try Poconos breweries and wineries. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

PA-made booze has no right to be this good. Here’s where to get it. Keep reading here.

Mind the Water Gap

things to do in the poconos

Just east of Stroudsburg, a river cuts through a mountain ridge, creating the perfect spot to spend long summer days. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is 70,000 acres of river-hugging park that was once tabbed for a federal dam project. The 40-mile stretch of Delaware River that runs through it, from Milford to Slateford, is a summer wonderland, slow-moving and ideal for canoeing, tubing and other water sports. Make life easy and book a jaunt through a livery, like Edge of the Woods Outfitters or the pet-friendly Chamberlain Canoes.

Finding your own little nook along the banks is another big part of the fun, which is why the McDade Recreational Trail, a 30-mile hiking/biking highway with intermittent car-accessible trailheads, is your friend. (If you’re just looking for a beach/picnic area without all the scouting, head to Smithfield, Milford or Turtle beaches and set up shop.)

As one local says, the ideal way to experience the Gap is while canoe camping: Throw your gear (and coolers) on a boat up in Milford or Dingman’s Ferry, paddle until you find an unoccupied campsite on one of the river’s islands, pitch your tent, then repeat the next day.

Eat Good Food

poconos restaurants

Llama Ice Cream. Photograph by Natalie Chitwood

These 16 restaurants are worth making a drive for. Keep reading here.

Cross the Border

Across the waters of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, Northeastern Pennsylvania blends into the Catskills. And in the Catskills, particularly in the border hamlets of Sullivan County (most about a 30-minute drive from Honesdale), the options get a little more slick. Cocktails (like the ones at Cochecton Fire Station) are infused with orgeat and tomato “essence.” Boutiques (like Nest and Sunny’s Pop in Narrowsburg) are run by ex-Vogue staffers and the wives of major movie stars. Restaurants (like the Laundrette, also in Narrowsburg, with its sans-serif neon sign) feel a little more, well, designed. It’s a glimpse at what NEPA could maybe become in 15 or 20 years, if enough city folk sink their escapist hooks into the area. And whether or not that’s a good thing is something we’ll likely be talking about for just as long.

Remind me … Where, Exactly, Are the Poconos?

The Pocono Mountains region is a woodsy swath of 2,400 square miles that runs along the northeastern edge of Pennsylvania, covering Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties.* Through the 1970s, but especially before air travel became common in the 1960s, it was a preeminent vacation destination for East Coasters; these days, visitors will find small towns, large family-oriented resorts, private communities, lakes (150-plus!), and state parks galore.

*There’s some debate as to how much the Poconos and Northeastern PA, or “NEPA,” overlap. For the purposes of this package — to maximize enjoyment during your time up north — we’re grouping them together.

Published as “We’re Going to the Poconos!” in the June 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.