We flew through the forest, jumped off a tree, paddled down the Delaware River, biked a scenic rail-trail, and hiked to amazing waterfalls while visiting Pennsylvania.
Welcome to the Pocono Mountains
You can find the Pocono Mountains covering four counties in northeast Pennsylvania. Only a few hours from major cities like Philadelphia and New York, it has been a long-time vacation spot for residents of the East Coast. The region encompasses 2,400 square miles of tree-covered mountains, picturesque waterfalls, winding rivers and scenic roads.
The Land of Love and Heart-Shaped Tubs
The Poconos first gained major recognition in the 1960’s as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.” How did a lesser-known area in the U.S. find itself with an “of the world” designation? Self-promotion, that’s how. One clever hotel owner invented the heart-shaped whirlpool to lure honeymooners to the area. Life Magazine put together a 2-page promo spreading the word and the honeymoon capital was born.
They must have done an excellent job promoting the slogan, because I -who was not honeymooning anywhere near the 60’s- even knew of the reputation. I have no idea how or why, but I did associate the Poconos as a romantic destination. The Visitors Bureau has been working hard at shedding the label because the area has many things to offer all types of travelers, not just couples. Don’t get me wrong, it’s super romantic standing at the base of a beautiful cascading waterfall, but that’s not the regions only draw.
Top Reason to Visit the Poconos – The Great Outdoors
The Poconos has indoor waterparks, wineries, breweries, small towns and numerous restaurants which are all entertaining, but we decided the number one reason to visit is for the outdoor adventures. With many state parks and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Poconos has tons of outdoor activities to choose from in every season: hiking, biking, boating, fishing, swimming, zip-lining, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, tubing, or horse-back riding.
We spent two weeks in the beginning of October exploring the area. Here are four can’t miss outdoor adventures in the Poconos Mountains.
#1 Biking Lehigh Gorge Rail-Trail
The discovery of coal is what initially led to the development of the Lehigh Gorge area. It was transported on the river at first, but eventually moved via the railroad. The old railroad path is now a well-used scenic hiking and biking trail along the river.
We joined Pocono Biking in the town of Jim Thorpe for the most popular ride, the Full Lehigh Gorge Trail. They fitted us for our bikes, then shuttled us to the town of White Haven. We had a great experience with the folks at the store and also with our friendly bus driver. From there, we rode the 25 miles back to town.
Tip: If you don’t think you can bike the full 25 miles or are limited on time, hop on the 15 mile Lower Gorge Trail.
I loved this ride for so many reasons. First, it is slightly downhill so even though you have to pedal, there are no climbs. My kind of biking! Second, we follow along the river with a few spots to climb down near the water. Third, there are waterfalls on and within a few miles of hiking from the trail. Lastly, no street crossings at all. It took us about 4 hours to complete the ride with stops for lunch and pictures. All in all, it was a memorable day!
Tip: Either bring your lunch or grab something in White Haven because there is no food options on the trail.
#2 Climbing and Flying through the Forest at TreeVentures
Exhilarating, challenging, invigorating and just plain good ol’ fun is how I would describe our experience. It was my first time doing anything like this and my husband’s second time. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of climbing, jumping and gliding with Poconos TreeVentures.
The staff suits you up and gives a thorough safety speech including all the ins and outs of the course.
We started out with the TreeVentures course which has five levels of difficulty that range from easy to hard. Everyone has to pass through lower level courses to build up to the more complicated ones. The highest point on the advanced course reaches 40 feet high.
We walked across aerial tightropes, balanced on moving platforms, climbed ladders, and stepped along swinging logs.
After the rope course, we bounced over to the Zip Quest. It has 9 zip lines connected by bridges and ladders throughout the park. I am now officially a zip-lining addict!
The Zip Quest prepared us for the last big one of the day, the Pocono Zip Racer. It’s two 1,000 foot zip lines side by side. I could not stop screaming and giggling as I twirled round and round. It was a perfect way to end the day. Check out our video!
#3 Canoeing the Delaware River
We joined Shawnee River Trips for a 10-mile scenic canoe ride down the Delaware River through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We met at Shawnee Inn and they shuttled us to Smithfield Beach where we began our day on the river.
Tip: Rates include canoes, kayaks or rafts – paddles, life jackets, orientation, shuttle transportation, and free parking.
The boundary line for Pennsylvania and New Jersey slices right through the Delaware River. Throughout the afternoon, we joked about which state we were in. We were a little early for peak fall color, but some of the trees were starting to turn. Either way, the valley is lovely.
The section we paddled ended in Portland, at the southern end of the recreation area. The last few miles of the trip, the river winds in an S-like curve and passes under a few bridges and through mountains. Canoeing the Delaware River is an outdoor adventure I would not miss in the area.
#4 Waterfall Chasing
There are more than a dozen spectacular waterfalls in the Pocono Mountains. The best thing about the waterfalls is that some of them are not that hard to get to. Dingmans Falls and Raymondskill Falls, the tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania, are only a short way on boardwalks from the parking lot.
Bushkill Falls and Childs Park have many waterfalls and pools in the surrounding area, but are slightly more difficult to get to. The walking is easy except for the multiple stairs. The waterfalls are surrounded by lush forest and have numerous viewpoints. It’s worth the little bit of effort to see both parks.
Onoko Falls, in Legigh Gorge State Park, is a dangerous trail with a steep climb and rocky path. I would only suggest it for well-balanced and experienced hikers. And definitely no messing around while on the path. If you’re up for the challenge, it is definitely worth it.
Be Part of the Adventure.
Thank you Pocono Mountains CVB and its associates for hosting us. All words and opinions, however, are my own.
Have you ever had a Pocono Mountains outdoor adventure? If not, what’s your favorite thing to do in the outdoors?
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