Pocono Mountains (PA)

From walking along the Delaware River to hiking a mountain top trail with extremely steep and rough grades, this region offers a variety of hiking experiences.

Many in the New York City metropolitan area know The Poconos only for its resorts, hotels, golfing, whitewater rafting, camping, water parks and romantic weekends.  But the Pocono Mountains, located in northeastern Pennsylvania, share a physiographic province with the rugged mountains of the Catskills.  Like the Catskills, they offer a large number and great variety of possible hikes.

According to the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, the Pocono Mountains are spread across four counties from Wayne County in the northeast corner, then south along the western bank of the Delaware River to Pike and Monroe Counties, and finally southwest to Carbon County. [See map]   This "official marketing organization" [since 1934] provides helpful, if rosy, information for hikers.  From its home page follow the links: "Things to Do/Outdoor Adventure/Hiking Trails" [and/or State, National and Local Parks].  You can find more than two dozen parks and hikes listed with contact information.

"Landforms of Pennsylvania", produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resource [DCNR] is another valuable resource. This interactive map shows the diversity of physiographic provinces that run through the counties and, by implication, indicate the variety of hiking experiences that exist. Click on map sections to access additional maps and further details and descriptions, including State Parks and State Forest Natural Areas, within each section. The sections below relate most closely with the Poconos.[Many of the parks in each section will be out of the immediate Poconos region].

  • Glaciated Low Plateau Section [elevations 440 to 2690 feet]  -- Rounded hills and valleys
  • Glaciated Pocono Plateau Section [elevations 1200 to 2320 feet] -- Broad, undulatory upland surface having dissected margins
  • Blue Mountain Section [elevations 300 to 1680] -- Linear ridge to south and valley to north; valley widens eastward and includes low linear ridges and shallow valleys

The hiking area in the Poconos closest to the NYC metropolitan region is in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which straddles the Delaware River on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sides from I-80 north to I-84.  It is in the "Glaciated Low Plateau Section" identified above. Several detailed descriptions of hikes on the Pennsylvania side can be found on the Trail Conference's "Find a Hike" page [Sort on the "Region" column, scroll down to Pocono Mountains (PA)].  

The DCNR divides the state into its own system of regions and within each, maintains a list of parks.  Parks in the Pocono Mountains [not identified as such] are included in the Northeast Pennsylvania Mountains Region

Finally, the entire state is divided into "State Forests," by the DCNR's Division of Forestry.   These divisions appear to be both administrative units and parcels of lands set aside for public use. The most relevant is the Delaware State Forest [use link above], whose web page lists four State Parks nearby and six Wild and Natural Areas.   It appears on a Google Map as a checkerboard straddling Route 402 northwest of the Delaware Water Gap.  Delaware State Forest is home to the Thunder Swamp Trail System, a 45-mile loop trail.  Parts of the Lackawanna SF and Weiser SF include, respectively, Wayne County and Carbon County. 

Hunting: Every Day But Sunday

Hikers should be aware that there are hunting seasons throughout the year in Pennsylvania. The regulations are complicated, except that hunting is NOT permitted on Sundays. It is safest to hike only on Sunday. Avoid areas identified as Game Lands [there are ten in this four-county Poconos Mountains region], but hunting is also allowed in many state parks and [all?] state forests.  Read this list carefully about hunting in DCNR parks in its Northeast Pennsylvania Mountains Region.   From the "Recreation" tab of the Delaware State Forest web page is this statement [warning? invitation?]: "Other than a few safety zones around buildings and picnic areas, hunting is permitted throughout the state forest."   Finally, hunting is permitted in the National Park Service's Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area [on both sides of the river subject to Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws, regulations and seasons].