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

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
© Courtesy of Alizada Studios -

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

Big Pocono State Park
© Courtesy of pressmaster -

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

Delaware State Forest
© Courtesy of jeremy -

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.

Phone: 570-895-4000

4. Beltzville State Park, Poconos

Beltzville State Park, Poconos
© Courtesy of Thamyris -

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

Gouldsboro State Park
© Courtesy of NADEZHDA -

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, Poconos

Hickory Run State Park, Poconos
© Courtesy of oldmn -

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

Lehigh Gorge State Park
© Courtesy of jonbilous -

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

Mountain View Park
© Courtesy of Tim -

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

Promised Land State Park
© Courtesy of sinitar -

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

Prompton State Park
© Courtesy of kichigin19 -

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

Thomas Darling Preserve
© Courtesy of dachux21 -

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, Poconos

Tobyhanna State Park, Poconos
© Courtesy of renamarie -

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

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River
© Courtesy of smiltena -

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

The 12 Best Poconos Parks near me today according to local experts are:

Spotlight: Ski Shawnee

The Shawnee Mountain Ski Area is located in the eastern Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. In the winter months, Shawnee Mountain offers 23 ski slopes and trails, 2 terrain parks, and a snow-tubing park. The longest trail on the mountain is just over 5,000 feet long and runs start from a peak of 1,350 feet. Half of the mountain’s trails are marked as intermediate, with 25% beginner friendly, and 25% suitable for expert skiers.

Although there are 50 inches of natural snowfall annually, 100% of the trails have snowmaking capabilities. The mountain offers a ski shop with rentals and a tune and repair center. Known as a family-friendly destination, the mountain offers both full-day or drop-in babysitting service for children over 18 months. There are five separate dining options on the mountain, all offering gluten-free menu items. In the summer months, Shawnee Mountain opens to a wide range of entertainment, festivals, and activities. Popular events include the Autumn Timber Festival, the July Poconos Wurst Festival, and Pocono Puppy Palooza. Most events span 2 days and single or 2-day passes are available. Festival guests may stay at the official Shawnee Festival Host Resort, the Villas at Treetops and Fairway, or choose from a variety of nearby lodging options.

History: The Shawnee Mountain Ski Area was founded in 1975 by husband and wife Karl and Hilda Hope. The resort was sold 4 years later to Shawnee Development Inc. Ms. Hope was active in the community and worked with Eunice Kennedy Shriver to bring the first Special Olympics to the Shawnee Ski area in 1988. Recent updates to the mountain have included new ski lifts, allowing guests to reach the top of the mountain in under 3 minutes.

Ongoing Programs and Education: Billed as a family-friendly ski resort, Shawnee offers extensive programming for young and beginner skiers during the winter, while the summer months offer family-friendly entertainment and festivals. During ski season, the mountain ski school has an extensive variety of options, including beginner lessons for groups or individuals, for both children and adults. Children’s programs include 3-hour group sessions for new skiers as well as specialized sessions such as Mommy and Me ski groups and SkiBaby lessons for 3 year-olds. Development programs for more advanced skiers include 5 and 10-week weekend programs for teens as well as adult programs. The Shawnee Mountain Race Team is for advanced skiers aged 9 to 18.

Past and Future Exhibits: Shawnee Mountain is home to a series of weekend events and festivals through the non-skiing months. The summer season kicks off on Memorial Day weekend with the Shawnee Celtic Festival. Celtic music plays all weekend on two stages, and food offerings include traditional Irish and Scottish fare. Irish step dancers and a working sheep dog show rounds out the entertainment.

The Poconos’ Wurst Festival takes place in July. This Polish and German-themed festival offers musical entertainment, traditional dance performances, and the “Bier Stein Olympics,” a new, fun game for those over the age of 21. Children’s activities include magic and juggling shows and face painting. Of course, the highlight of the Wurst Fest is the food and drink. Several vendors offer wursts, wieners, kielbasa, pierogies, and beer.

The Sweet Corn and BBQ Festival takes place in August. Guests to this 2-day festival enjoy live music, delicious food, and family fun. Over 25 vendors offer roasted and sweet corn and there is BBQ from award-winning pit masters from Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, and more. Western-themed music plays all weekend long. Children will enjoy the juggling and magic shows as well as the games in the kids’ picnic area. Guests are encouraged to bring bags to take home some fresh vegetables from the farmers market.

The fall season kicks off with the Autumn Timber Festival. At this event guests enjoy the fall foliage and a full weekend of family-friendly entertainment, food, and music. The Timber Team Ironjack Shows are the highlight of the weekend, as Alaskan lumberjacks dazzle the crowds with pole-climbing, chainsaw competitions, log-rolls, and more. One of the premier canine shows in the country, the Classic K9 Performance Team, offers a high-energy dog show with tricks and stunts set to music. Live music entertainment as well as food and beverage vendors are ongoing throughout the weekend.

Pocono Puppy Palooza takes place in September and entertains with several events for both guests and their dogs. All proceeds go to a local animal rescue.

401 Hollow Road, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301, Phone: 570-421-7231

Spotlight: FM Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

The F. M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts theater in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The grand art deco theater originally opened in 1938 as a movie house and operated as such until 1977. It reopened in 1986, newly restored as the Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. The theater’s exterior is a unique trapezoidal shape and the art deco façade is made from marble and terracotta.

The original carpet has been restored according to old photographs and written descriptions from the 1930s. In addition, the colors and style of the hand-painted wallpaper and the ceilings in the lobby have been meticulously matched through research and skill, and re-painted with the same 1938 art deco technique. The seating has been updated to preserve the lines of sight while offering more leg room, more wheelchair accessible seating, and more comfortable red-velvet cushions for today’s patrons. The Kirby Center has hosted over 2.5 million guests since the 1986 re-opening and offers a wide variety of entertainment and shows. The Kirby Center has been host to everything from cattle auctions and grand opera to ballet, ice skaters, and comedians. In addition to entertainment, the center plays host to weddings, parties, and graduations as well as religious ceremonies, political speeches, and meetings. The F. M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts theater in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The grand art deco theater originally opened in 1938 as a movie house and operated as such until 1977. It reopened in 1986, newly restored as the Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. The theater’s exterior is a unique trapezoidal shape and the art deco façade is made from marble and terracotta.

The original carpet has been restored according to old photographs and written descriptions from the 1930s. In addition, the colors and style of the hand-painted wallpaper and the ceilings in the lobby have been meticulously matched through research and skill, and re-painted with the same 1938 art deco technique. The seating has been updated to preserve the lines of sight while offering more leg room, more wheelchair accessible seating, and more comfortable red-velvet cushions for today’s patrons. The Kirby Center has hosted over 2.5 million guests since the 1986 re-opening and offers a wide variety of entertainment and shows. The Kirby Center has been host to everything from cattle auctions and grand opera to ballet, ice skaters, and comedians. In addition to entertainment, the center plays host to weddings, parties, and graduations as well as religious ceremonies, political speeches, and meetings.

Each year, the Kirby Center offers over 80 cultural and educational shows for free to promote accessibility and education for all people of the community. The Young People’s Theater is just one of these programs and is host to approximately 10,000 grade school and high school students annually. Young People’s Theater events include Story Pirates, in which professional actors create a sketch comedy musical production of a local child’s original story. The Arts Education Program offers free master classes and teacher-in-service workshops to local schools and businesses. The Kirby Center partners with over 45 social service organizations annually to offer 2,000 free tickets to the members of the community.

Past & Future Exhibits: The F. M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts offers over 125 events annually. Past musical visitors have included Ringo Starr, Patti LaBelle, Foreigner, and Bryan Adams among others. The Kirby Center also hosts Broadway shows, and in 2016 offered Mamma Mia and Annie. The center’s ongoing Film Series features viewings of some of the most critically acclaimed recent releases as well as classic films.

71 Public Square Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701, Phone: 570-823-4599

Spotlight: Eckley Miners’ Village

Located in Wthe Poconos, Pennsylvania, Eckley Miners’ Village is a 73 acre historic coal mining town. Eckley Miners’ Village is the perfect location to explore the historic and cultural significance of coal mining and the people who were involved in it. Prior to the 1850s, Eckley was known as Shingletown. Shingletown was rural and was known as a forest community. Tench Coxe Estate, who were the owners of Shingletown, used Shingletown as a place to manufacture shingles.

In 1853, Richard Sharpe, Asa Lansford Foster, Francis Weiss, and John Leisenring traveled to Shingletown with the intent to explore the land in search for coal. The men found an abundance of coal in Shingletown and decided to create a company, which is known as Sharpe, Weiss, and Company. The primary owner of the Tench Coxe Estate, Judge Charles Coxe, decided to give the four men a lease on his establishment, so they could operate as coal miners. One year later, the men started working.

Within the first year of operations, the company made many advancements in the coal mining industry. Firstly, they created a saw mill to supply the town with their own lumber. Then, they began creating a small village where coal miners could rest and spend their free time. Initially, the town was named Fillmore. A few decades after, the town was renamed Eckley to honor Eckley B. Coxe, who was Judge Charles Coxe’s son.

Eckley’s first inhabitants primarily came from Great Britain. This community of English and Welsh immigrants were mostly made of coal miners. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Irish farmers began immigrating to Eckley. Then from the 1880s to 1890s, Eastern and Southern European immigrants moved to Eckley. Many immigrants who came to Eckley throughout the mid to late 1880s traveled with the intent of working long and hard hours in coal mines, which would allow them to make and save enough money to eventually purchase their own land and resume their old career and lifestyle as farmers. Unfortunately, few people were able to successfully carry out this dream since it was hard to rise from poverty and leave the company system.

Eckley Miners’ Village has a variety of historical attractions, which tell the history of the Village and the people who lived there.

Visitors’ Center was established in 1975. Every Eckley tour starts with an orientation and brief background of Eckley, which takes place at the Visitors’ Center. Some of the highlights of the Visitors’ Center includes a small exhibit hall, resemblance of the schoolhouse that used to sit at the site of the Visitors’ Center, and a movie presentation.

Immaculate Conception Church was established in 1861 and is a Catholic Church located on the poorer side of Eckley Miners’ Village. Irish immigrants primarily used this Church. The inside of the Church resembles what it looked like during the 1920s, as it was restored.

Eckley Sports and Social Club was established in 1946 and was used as a social hotspot for the residents of Eckley. Today, people still visit and use the club.

Slate Picker’s House was established in 1854 and is located on Back Street. The Slate Picker’s House is comprised of three rooms, which Irish immigrants occupied upon their arrival. The house is named after the position many men had who stayed here. Slate men were laborers who organized slate from the coal. This job paid the least among any other job in the village.

Laborer’s Dwelling was also built in 1854 and served as another residence for workers. Each structure was comprised of two half houses. Up to fifteen people would live in one half house. Each half house was comprised of 1.5 levels and four rooms, including a kitchen and a bedroom for a family.

Company Store was originally built in 1857, and then rebuilt during the 1960s by Paramount Studies for a movie. Although there were privately owned stores who had the cheapest prices in the area, miners were mostly required to purchase anything from the company store.

St. James Episcopal Church was built in 1859 and was the primary church for Welsh, German, and English residents who were Episcopalian.

Since visiting Eckley Miners’ Village is an educational opportunity within itself, there is a minimal amount of educational opportunities at the Village. While visitors are allowed to explore the Visitors’ Center by themselves, they are required to participate in a guided tour to explore the rest of the village. Eckley Miners’ Village offers a variety of general and specialized guided tours, which focus on different aspects of the Village.

2 Eckley Main St. Weatherly, Pennsylvania 18255, Phone: 570-636-2070