The Pocono Mountains offers a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities year-round that lets visitors get away from the city for some fun in the picturesque mountains.
You don’t have to poke around in the Poconos for very long before finding an outdoor activity that fits your tastes. There are nearly as many recreational opportunities in the area as there are mountain peaks, from the high-energy of snow skiing to the laid-back leisure of floating along one of the region’s numerous waterways.
“The Pocono Mountains is a four-season destination,” says Brian Czarnecki, sales and marketing director at Camelback Resort. “It appeals to families, individual travelers, adventure travelers. You have lake regions, the mountain regions, quaint towns. It’s the depth of the offerings in the Poconos during all four seasons that make it so appealing.”
Water, water everywhere
While the mountains might receive name recognition, water is just as important to the appeal of the Poconos. A prime example is Lake Wallenpaupack, which has 53 miles of shoreline spread across 5,700 acres, making it the third-largest lake in the state.
“One of the great things about this lake is the natural beauty of the shoreline,” says Steve Gelderman, who owns Wallenpaupack Scenic Boat Tours along with his wife Bridget. “It’s not like some lakes where all you see are homes along the shoreline. The homes here are tucked back, so you get to see the landscapes along with wildlife like bald eagles and ducks. You really get to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake.”
One of the region’s top fishing locations can be found in the southern foothills of the Poconos at Pohopoco Creek in Beltzville State Park. This trout stream feeds into the 949-acre Beltzville Lake, a popular spot for both boaters and migrating waterfowl. Another natural gem within the Poconos is the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a sprawling 67,000-acre park surrounding 40 miles of the Delaware River. With more than 100 miles of trails, the park offers numerous hiking opportunities, along with canoeing, rafting, fishing and camping.
The Delaware River is the focal point of the Scenic, Wild Delaware River Geotourism Program. The goal of the project, which encompasses four Pennsylvania counties, is to help create nature-based tourism activities. The program is being promoted by the National Geographic Society, which is working with local organizations, businesses and residents to map the best travel experiences, stories and businesses in the region. For those who like their outdoor recreation mixed with information, the 166-acre Kettle Creek Wildlife Sanctuary offers hiking and kayaking programs through its 7,200-square-foot education center.
The Niagara of Pennsylvania
Since 1904, visitors have been drawn to the beauty of Bushkill Falls, a series of eight waterfalls that have been dubbed “The Niagara of Pennsylvania.” The falls are on land owned by the estate of Charles Peters, who opened Bushkill as a tourist attraction back when visitors arrived on horse-drawn carriage.
“The estate of Charles Peters is very dedicated to the stewardship of natural resources. So a lot of what you see there looks the same has how it did back in the early 1900s,” says Bushkill Falls spokesperson Diane Hannan. “It’s quiet, it’s back to nature. You don’t have loud music, there’s limited cell service. It’s a beautiful place to just get away.”
The falls are open to the public from April through November and are accessible by a network of hiking trails and bridges.
A place for all seasons
There was a time when tourism in the Poconos basically shut down in the winter, but that certainly is no longer the case. The region now offers nearly 200 trails for a wide variety of winter activities, including skiing, snowtubing, toboggan runs and snowmobiling. Blue Mountain Resort has 39 trails dedicated to winter sports, and then turns around when the snow melts and offers 21 trails for mountain biking. Even when the weather outside is frightful, several area resorts keep the fun going with large indoor waterparks. Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resort and Camelback Resort all provide opportunities for visitors to swim and slide regardless of the temperature outdoors.
“This is now a year-round recreation and vacation area,” Hannan says. “In fact, you have a lot of people who used to vacation here who have become full-time residents, just because they enjoyed it so much all year long and decided to stay.”