The Poconos span 2,400 square miles throughout northeastern Pennsylvania near the Delaware River, bordering Lake Wallenpaupack and the Lehigh and Wyoming Valleys. As much of the range lies within the greater New York-Newark combined statistical area, the Poconos are one of the American East Coast's top outdoor recreational destinations for urban dwellers, easily accessible by millions of East Coast residents within less than a two-hour drive. The region is home to two national parks and nine state parks, with most directly bordering each other or located within 30 miles of one another. Outdoor activities abound, from hiking and fishing to cross-country skiing and overnight backcountry camping.
1.Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
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Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area spans 70,000 acres along the Delaware River, from New Jersey's Delaware Water Gap to Milford, Pennsylvania. The recreation area was developed as a result of a proposed dam project following severe flooding in 1955 along the Delaware River near Tocks Island. Though the dam project was scrapped due to residential and environmental controversy, lands allocated for the project were donated to the National Park Service, leading to the creation of the Recreation Area in 1978. Today, it offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including areas allowing fishing and hunting with state licenses. Other popular activities include hiking, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and canoeing. A number of historic sites are also showcased throughout the recreation area, including significant indigenous and Dutch colonial archaeological sites.
1978 River Rd, Bushkill, PA 18324, Phone: 570-426-2452
2.Big Pocono State Park
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Big Pocono State Park spans more than 1,305 acres throughout Monroe County, Pennsylvania atop Camelback Mountain, managed by the Natural Resources and Camelback Ski Corporation and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation. The park was originally leased for development as a ski resort by the Camelback Ski Corporation and was opened to the public as a state park in 1954 following the purchase of game lands by the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters. Today, the park is home to the 1908 Henry S. Cattell Cabin, which formerly housed a nature museum and is preserved today as a historic site. Seven miles of hiking trails are offered throughout the park, along with a three-mile horseback riding trail near the park's western entrance. The park's Camelback Ski Area is home to the largest skiing and snowboarding resort in the Poconos, offering 33 trails across two terrain parks. Summit dining is offered at the Camelback Restaurant between May and October.
980 Camelback Rd, Tannersville, PA 18372
3.Delaware State Forest
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Delaware State Forest is an 83,519-acre state forest located primarily in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, with portions also located in Carbon, Northampton, and Pike Counties. Named in honor of the Delaware River, the forest was originally developed as a conservation area in the late 19th century, officially protected in 1897 with the implementation of the State Forest system. Mixed oak and northern hardwood forest ecosystems preserve a wide variety of native flora and fauna, with ample hunting and fishing opportunities offered at sites such as Saventine Creek and East Spring. More than 200 miles of trails are offered throughout the forest, including the 26-mile Thunder Swamp Trail System. 28 miles of ATV and snowboarding trails are also offered, along with hundreds of miles of vehicle roads for scenic driving. Backcountry camping is allowed at several sites throughout the forest with permits.
4.Beltzville State Park
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Beltzville State Park spans nearly 3,000 acres throughout Carbon County, Pennsylvania, centered around the 951-acre manmade Beltzville Lake reservoir. The park was opened to the public in 1972, following the evacuation of nearby village Big Creek Valley and the construction of Beltzville Dam by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Today, the park offers nearly 20 miles of shoreline around the lake, making it a popular fishing destination for smallmouth, largemouth, and striped bass, trout, walleye, and perch. Fishing opportunities are also offered at Pohopoco Creek, with game hunting permitted at several areas within the park. Swimming is offered between May and September at a public swimming beach, with 15 miles of hiking trails provided throughout the park for hikers and bikers.
2950 Pohopoco Dr, Lehighton, PA 18235, Phone: 610-377-0045
5.Gouldsboro State Park
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Gouldsboro State Park spans 2,880 acres throughout Pennsylvania's Monroe and Wayne Counties, bordering Tobyhanna State Park and the Pennsylvania State Game Lands along Pennsylvania Route 507. The park was named in honor of Industrial Revolution-era railroader Jay Gould, who held railroad route holdings in the region at the end of the 19th century. It is centered on the 250-acre Gouldsboro Lake manmade reservoir, which offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and ice fishing. Swimming is offered at a public beach on the lake, open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Hunting is available throughout the park with game permits, offering opportunities for turkey, deer, bear, and hare hunting. A number of visitor trails are open for hiking and biking, including the multi-use 1.25-mile Old Route 611 Trail and the difficult 5.8-mile Prospect Rock Trail. Excursion railroad rides are offered at the park's border with Tobyhanna State Park, operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad Company.
Pennsylvania 435, Gouldsboro, PA 18424, Phone: 570-894-8336
6.Hickory Run State Park
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Hickory Run State Park spans nearly 16,000 acres throughout Pennsylvania's Carbon County, accessible via Interstates 80 and 476. The park, which has been named as one of Pennsylvania's must-see state parks, is best known for its sizeable boulder field in its northeast corner, which covers more than 720,000 square feet and is the largest field of its kind within the Appalachian region, assumed to have been formed from glacial processes. It is accessible via the 3.5-mile Boulder Field Trail, which showcases gray-red sandstone boulders from the Catskill Formation. Outdoor recreational activities include swimming during the summer months on beaches along Sand Spring Lake and hunting within permit areas in the park and surrounding state game lands. During the winter months, ice skating is popular when Sand Spring Lake freezes over.
3613 PA-534, White Haven, PA 18661, Phone: 570-443-0400
7.Lehigh Gorge State Park
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Lehigh Gorge State Park spans 4,548 acres throughout Carbon and Luzerne Counties in Pennsylvania surrounding the Lehigh Gorge and the Lehigh River. The park is best known as a popular white water rafting site during the spring months, with the Lehigh River offering Class III conditions that are assisted by the pressure of water release from the Francis E. Walter Dam. Access points to the park are offered at White Haven, Rockport, and Glen Onoko, with opportunities for cycling, hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching offered throughout the summer months. The 26-mile multi-use Lehigh Gorge Trail offers year-round hiking and biking opportunities, incorporated as part of the 165-mile D&L Trail. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular park activities during the winter months.
S Lehigh Gorge Dr, Weatherly, PA 18255, Phone: 570-443-0400
8.Mountain View Park
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Mountain View Park is a public park in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, located along Sullivan Trail in Tannersville. The park was originally opened to the public in 1978 and is available for use between April and late November, with use restricted to the weekends following Labor Day. The park is a popular spot for amateur sporting in the region, offering three baseball fields, two basketball courts, a batting cage facility, and courts for soccer, tennis, and volleyball. A variety of nature trails are also offered throughout the park, along with four pavilions for picnics and group outings, providing access to electrical outlets and barbecue grills with reservations. The park is also home to the Crossing Abilities All-Inclusive Playground, which opened in the summer of 2014 and provides playtime opportunities for children of all ability and mobility levels.
104 Mount View Park Rd, Tannersville, PA 18372, Phone: 570-629-7324
9.Promised Land State Park
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Promised Land State Park is a 3,000-acre park in Pike County, Pennsylvania located near the Delaware State Forest at an elevation of 1,800 feet within the Poconos. The park sits on former Lenape indigenous tribe hunting lands that were heavily forested during the 18th and 19th centuries, which were repopulated following the sale of lands to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1902 and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Historic sites within the park include the Bear Wallow Cabins and Whittaker Lodge, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with a Masker Museum, which showcases exhibits on the CCC's work in the region. Second-growth maple, beech, oak, and hemlock forest areas are home to a variety of ecosystems, housing native species such as American black bears, wild turkeys, wood frogs, red-breasted nuthatches, and Blackburnian warblers. A wildlife observation deck is offered along Lower Lake, offering opportunities to spot new nestings of bald eagles. Year-round recreational opportunities include hiking, swimming, boating, horseback riding, fishing, and overnight camping.
100 Lower Lake Rd, Greentown, PA 18426, Phone: 570-676-3428
10.Prompton State Park
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Prompton State Park is a 2,000-acre state park in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, established by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 1962. Though the park is officially maintained by the state, it is listed as an undeveloped park site, meaning that is not actively managed by the DCNR at this time and is in the process of being transferred to the care of the Friends of Prompton State Park nonprofit organization. It is open to the public seven days a week between dawn and dusk, with some areas of the park restricted to day use. Boat launch facilities are offered at the 290-acre Prompton Lake, which is overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. 26 miles of hiking trails are available near the lake, along with picnic pavilions and restroom facilities. Overnight camping is also offered at several sites throughout the park.
PA-170, Prompton, PA 18742, Phone: 570-945-3239
11.Thomas Darling Preserve
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Thomas Darling Preserve is a 2,500-acre area of protected spruce forest and glacial wetlands ecosystems that has been managed by the Nature Conservancy since 1990. The preserve is named for Wilkes-Barre native and naturalist Thomas Darling, Jr., and is open to the public seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Throughout the spring and summer months, the preserve blooms with sheepberries and sheep and bog laurel, while in autumn, it is heavily populated by cotton grass, wildflowers, blueberries, and sphagnum moss. Black bears, coyotes, snowshoe hares, beavers, and a wide variety of native and migrating birds populate the region, which is open to the public for wildlife watching and exploration. Hiking trails are maintained throughout the preserve, along with a visitor-use boardwalk.
Pocono Lake, PA 18347, Phone: 570-643-7922
12.Tobyhanna State Park
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Tobyhanna State Park spans 5,440 acres throughout Monroe and Wayne Counties in Pennsylvania, originally established on artillery training range grounds associated with Tobyhanna Army Depot. The park borders Gouldsboro State Park, divided by a rail line that is operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad Company, which offers excursion train rides for area tourists. It is home to the 270-acre Tobyhanna Lake, which offers opportunities for boating and canoeing throughout the summer months. A public swimming beach is also open between May and September between dawn and dusk, though visitors should note that no lifeguards are staffed at the site. Visitor trails include a 5.1-mile hiking trail that encircles the lake and a 3.2-mile trail that links the park to Gouldsboro State Park. Overnight camping is offered at several sites throughout the park, including group campsites. During the winter months, the park is a popular site for ice skating, ice fishing, and snowmobiling.
114 Campground Rd, Tobyhanna, PA 18466, Phone: 570-894-8336
13.Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River
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Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River is a 73.4-mile scenic river stretch between the New York cities of Hancock and Sparrowbush that is maintained as a unit of the National Park Service, spanning a total recreation area of more than 55,000 acres. The park was established to protect portions of the Delaware River and to preserve the historic Delaware and Hudson Canal, which carried anthracite coal and other mining products from the Appalachian region to the major urban areas of the American East Coast between 1828 and 1898. Portions of the canal are preserved as a National Historic Landmark and are visible within the unit, including an aqueduct designed by Brooklyn Bridge architect John A. Roebling. The park sees more than 250,000 annual visitors, who come for outdoor recreational opportunities and tourism at the facility's Zane Grey Museum.
274 River Rd, Beach Lake, PA 18405, Phone: 570-729-7134
13 Best Poconos Parks
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Photo: Courtesy of Alizada Studios - Fotolia.com
- Big Pocono State Park, Photo: Courtesy of pressmaster - Fotolia.com
- Delaware State Forest, Photo: Courtesy of jeremy - Fotolia.com
- Beltzville State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Thamyris - Fotolia.com
- Gouldsboro State Park, Photo: Courtesy of NADEZHDA - Fotolia.com
- Hickory Run State Park, Photo: Courtesy of oldmn - Fotolia.com
- Lehigh Gorge State Park, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Mountain View Park, Photo: Courtesy of Tim - Fotolia.com
- Promised Land State Park, Photo: Courtesy of sinitar - Fotolia.com
- Prompton State Park, Photo: Courtesy of kichigin19 - Fotolia.com
- Thomas Darling Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of dachux21 - Fotolia.com
- Tobyhanna State Park, Photo: Courtesy of renamarie - Fotolia.com
- Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, Photo: Courtesy of smiltena - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of oldmn - Fotolia.com