The Best Poconos Hikes, Parks and Natural Wonders to Explore Now
A dozen places to get your fill of fresh air without venturing too far from Philly.
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Our favorite Poconos hikes, parks and natural wonders.
Eons ago, a glacial lake formed in what is now Canada and crept all the way into the Poconos. As a result, this small patch of land features ecoscapes you usually only see north of Toronto as well as stunning native orchids. Some exterior trails are good for the smallest hikers; to visit the bog itself, book a guided tour through the Monroe County Conservation District. East Stroudsburg.
Drive to the top of Camelback Mountain, then take a 1.7-mile hike to see Monroe County from almost 2,000 feet up. Longer trails are available for more adventurous hikers, and most involve some enjoyable rock scrambles. Tannersville.
The mythic trail winds for 230 miles through Pennsylvania, but we recommend hopping on or off where Main Street and Mountain Road intersect near the town of Delaware Water Gap. Stay on the PA side to scale Mount Minsi, or cross I-80 to launch your ascent of Jersey’s Mount Tammany. Delaware Water Gap.
This only-in-the-Pokes spot — which, okay, is technically over the Monroe County border in Northampton — is teeming with walking paths and massive improbably balanced stones. Created in the ’70s as a roadside shrine for “tired sinners and reluctant saints,” the park has been welcoming solace seekers and random hikers ever since. Bangor.
Situated just a five-minute drive from downtown Milford, this 3.5-mile round-trip hike, while steep, is scenic — and well worth the effort. After pushing through clusters of evergreens to make it to the peak, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the town — and the Delaware River running alongside it. Milford.
Dubbed the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” these eight awe-inspiring waterfalls are located a full 1,200 feet above sea level. Bushkill isn’t taxpayer-funded, so the cost of admission ($9 to $18) helps cover the huge amount of upkeep required to keep the landmark — and its four hiking paths — pristine. Bushkill.
When the hustle and bustle of Lake Wally makes you want to pour another glass of chardonnay, instead proceed to this idyllic 3,000-acre state park laced with miles of hiking trails under a cooling canopy of oak and hemlock trees. Go bald eagle-spotting, or kayak the smaller lakes. Greentown.
Maybe “biggest waterfall in Pennsylvania” doesn’t sound all that impressive if you’ve been out West, but you’ll be singing a different tune once you’re standing on one of the multiple viewing platforms and staring at these thunderous 175-foot falls. The best part? It’s less than a half-mile hike from the parking lot to get there. Milford.
If you’re short on time, consider this brief but strenuous 1.4-mile trek, which connects to the Switchback Railroad trail just outside of Jim Thorpe. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning river views and a look at the ruins of a hilltop railway bridge. There’s no trailhead, but the blue water tower marks the start. Jim Thorpe.
This 16-acre natural wonder in Hickory Run State Park is filled with red sandstone and quartz boulders up to 26 feet long. The Mars-like habitat is surrounded by trees but devoid of vegetation. Access it by car, or take the 6.2-mile round-trip hike (beginning off Route 534 across from Hawk Falls) to picnic on the rocks. White Haven.
A flat and kid-friendly out-and-back, this 1.6-mile grassy path runs parallel to the old Delaware and Hudson Canal, which once shuttled coal from Northeastern PA to NYC. Take time to read the plaques that unpack the canal’s history; they’re near the parking lot, which is four minutes north of Hawley and set right next to a bright red early-1800s farmhouse. Hawley.
The former summer home of the Pinchot family — best known for Gifford Pinchot, two-time Pennsylvania governor and founder of the USDA Forest Service — was donated to said Forest Service in 1963. As of early June, tours of the stone mansion remain closed for COVID, but re-opening may be in the works for later in the summer. Until then, the gates to the grounds are unlocked for self-guided tours of the forest trail and elaborate estate gardens. Milford; greytowers.org.
Published as “Commune With Nature” in the “We’re Going to the Poconos!” guide in the June 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.