The Poconos

Eastern Pennsylvania's mountain playground: Waterfalls and honeymoon retreats, modest ski slopes and NASCAR

"The Poconos" are a small range of the Appalachians, but the term also describes the much larger region around them that has been an all-season playground for Philly and NYC families for over 60 years.

It's been dubbed "Honeymoon Capital of the World" since the early 1960s, when Morris Wilkins installed heart-shaped tubs and two-story champagne glass–shaped hot tubs in his hotel's suites.

These "Poconos" are most famous for their old-fashioned, all-inclusive hotels (picture the Catskills resort in Dirty Dancing) and the Pocono NASCAR raceway (800/RACEWAY; But the area is also chock-a-block with year-round outdoor activities, from skiing Camelback to hiking in Hickory Run or the Delaware Water Gap.

The main tourist info offices are in Stroudsburg, 1004 Main St. (570-424-6050; 800-POCONOS;; and Delaware Water Gap, at exit 53 of Rt. 80 (570-476-0167).

For State Park info contact 888/PA-PARKS (, or 717-783-7941 for State Forests.

The Niagara of Pennsylvania and Other Natural Wonders

The town of Delaware Water Gap is the gateway to the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (717-588-2451; surrounding the Delaware River and incorporating a segment of the Appalachian Trail(; most of it on the Jersey side). The Water Gap Trolley (570-476-9766; closed Dec-late Mar; $6.50) shows you modest historic sights like the home of Captain Kangaroo's Mr. Greenjeans.

Driving north on Rt. 209, you'll pass the Pocono Indian Museum (570/588-9338;; $4) on your way to the area's biggest attraction, Bushkill Falls (888/628-7454 or 570/588-6682;; $8). Though they don't quite live up to the moniker "The Niagara of Pennsylvania," it's well worth a 15 minute stroll to the top--or the prettier 45-minute walk to the bottom—of the 100-foot main falls. I like the 2 1/2 hour hike that makes the rounds of all 8 falls in the park, including beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.

If that's not enough, further north on 209 lie Dingman Falls. To explore the river itself, rent from Kittatinny Canoes in Dingmans Ferry (80-/FLOAT-KC;; $26-$29 per person for canoe or raft, $31 for a kayak, includes transport upriver).

When Camelback Mountain isn't being used for skiing, in the summer its 1,306 acres become Big Pocono State Park (570/894-8336 or 717/894-8336;, with 10 miles of hiking trails and a scenic drive around the summit.

Where Rt. 80 hits the PA Turnpike lies the 15,500 acre Hickory Run State Park (570-443-0400;, with 40 miles of footpaths—or you can drive right up to the eerie National Natural Landmark called Boulder Field, a "lake" some 1,800 feet long, 400 feet across, and at least 12 feet deep composed entirely of large rocks created by the freeze/thaw action of glaciers 20,000 years ago.

The Pocono Heartland: Honeymoons & Ski Resorts

Those 1960s resort hotels dedicated entirely to honeymooners have become mega-splurges like Caesars Pocono Palace (800-233-4141; $250-$488), with Champagne-glass hot tubs and lounge shows boasting the biggest headliners in the area (to make up for the fact that gambling never got legalized here as they'd hoped), and Mt. Airy Lodge (800-441-4410; $143-$304).

But even budget travelers can take advantage of the skiing at resorts like massive Camelback (570/629-1661;; 32 trails, 12 lifts, night skiing); Shawnee (570/421-7231;; 23 trails, 9 lifts); and the now linked resorts (800/468-2442; of Jack Frost (570/443-8425; 30 trails, 8 lifts, the east mountain is best) and Big Boulder (570/722-0100; 15 trails, 7 lifts, holds dubious honor of first resort to use man-made snow).

In summer, Camelback becomes Camelbeach water park (, Shawnee opens its smaller kids' outdoor play park with waterslides, and Jack Frost/Big Boulder host Paintball skirmishes, mountain biking, and a motocross/ATV track.

Just south of Stroudsburg sits the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm (570/992-6161; closed Mon and Labor Day-June 20; $7), a recreated 19th century Pennsylvania German farmstead where the guides stay in costume and character as they demonstrate aspects of daily life 150 years ago.

And despite all this vacation activity, the Poconos are still relatively undeveloped, which remains the biggest part of their charm. Get on some of the back roads like Rts. 191, 447, or 402 and their tributaries just to tool around the forests, admire the many tiny lakes and streams (great trout fishing up here), and stop at local watering holes in small towns.

Pocono Pads

The vast majority of Pocono vacationers are either Philadelphians or New Yorkers with second homes here, or have come for the honeymoon or ski resorts. Budgeteers get left behind, with the notable exception of the rustic AYH Hostel, R.R. 2, 8 mi. north of Cresco on Rt. 191 (turn left on La Anna Rd.; 717-676-9076; $12 per person), with 40 beds in 7 dorms on 330 acres with a babbling brook; office 7-9am, 5-10pm.

Uninspired motels abound, especially around Rt. 80 exits and along Rt. 940. Among the cheapest: Paramount Motel, Rt. 209 Bus. in East Stroudsburg (570-421-2141; $45-$50); Tourist Village Motel, Rt. 206 in Milford (570-491-4414; $50-$60 summer, $38-$48 winter); Penn's Wood Motel & Cottages, Rt. 611 3 miles from Camelback in Tannersville (570-629-0131; $40-$60); and Hill Motor Lodge/Best Western, at exit 45 of Rt. 80 (570-629-1667; $45-$55).

Lakehouse Suites, outside Hawley on Rt. 6 on Lake Wallenpaupack (570-226-2929; offers mini-apartments (2 bedrooms, living & dining rooms, kitchen) at $95 in winter for 4 people, $125 in summer (up to 6 guests for $15 more).

Outside of camping, options are limited around Delaware Water Gap/Bushkill Falls. Water Gap does have the country-Victorian Shepard House B&B, 108 Shepard Ave., one block from the Appalachian Trail (570-424-9779; $79-$99), where 2 of the 3 rooms share a bath. The Water Gap Country Club, 3 miles south of I-80 (570-476-0300;; $60-$99), is an inexpensive golf resort.

On the edge of Stroudsburg sits Budget Motel, at exit 51 of I-80 (570-424-5452;; $55.90-$75.90). Downtown is the Best Western Pocono Inn, 700 Main Street (800-528-1234 or 570-421-2200;; $58-$74).

Pocono Pickin's

Delaware Water Gap offers both the Trail's End Cafe, 14 Main St/Rt. 611 (570-421-1928), serving deliciously eclectic sandwiches and pizzas for $4-$8 in a converted 1920s bus station (closed Sun to Tues, and dinner except Fri); and Watergap Diner, 55 Broad Street (570-476-0132), where the sandwiches start at $3.50 and they'll brown bag it for your hike.

Next door is a nameless bakery with a $1 special: a hot dog and a slice of homemade apple pie. For trail picnic supplies, there's a general store, little changed since 1800, just outside town along the back road to Shawnee.

A block across the street from the Tourist Office in Stroudsburg stands the lovely Everybody's Cafe, 905 Main St. (570-424-0896), in an Addams-Familyesque 1885 Victorian home with loads of style but only charging $3.95 to $4.95 at lunch for sandwiches, pizza, or entrees.

In the Pocono heartland, Effort Diner, Rt. 115 in Effort (610-681-4212), serves breakfast specials starting at $1.89, lunch from $2.95, and dinner from $4.95.

Piggy's, Lake Shore Drive off Rt. 115 (570-722-8493), has bargain breakfasts and sandwiches at lunch (sorry, no dinner) for $3.50-$7.25 in a cutesy little shack on Lake Harmony.

Robert Christian's, Rt. 940 in Pocono Lake (570-646-0433), has a nightly rotating entree (all-you-can-eat ribs Monday, steak Tuesday, all-you-can-eat shrimp Wednesday, seafood combo Thursday, etc.) that includes soup and salad for around $11.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

Related Articles



This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in May 2009.
All information was accurate at the time.

about | contact | faq

Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.