“Oh, the sky will be blue,and you guys’ll be there too
When I finally do what frozen things do in summer.”
From the Disney film Frozen
A picnic basket stuffed with deli delights, a park map offering miles of well-marked trails for all levels of hikers, and a nap on a warm boulder in the sun—all make for a perfect Pocono summer day. An outdoor vacation day can cost as little as the sandwiches in your backpack. Try any of these “editor’s picks” for a variety of options that rival any amusement park.
Leisure, Laurel and Learning
Promised Land State Park
Photo submitted by Anna McWilliams
Start your morning at Promised Land State Park by picking up a map at the park office and enjoying an early hike on any of the 50 miles of clearly marked, family-friendly trails. In the early weeks of June, the 1800 Trail is an easy one that weaves through a sea of blooming mountain laurel. After a picnic lunch by the sandy beach and a swim in the lake to cool off, bike the six-mile paved loop around the lake. Stop off to explore Conservation Island. Towards the end of the loop, enjoy an ice cream cone at the lake store. Afterwards, pop into the Masker Museum, one of the largest Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museums in the state and learn the story of the park’s development. Rent a canoe for a late afternoon paddle before dinner at the Old Ranger Inn. Then slip on a fleece jacket and head to a park ranger’s evening nature presentation by the campfire.
Ride a Pony
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Photo by Monroe County Transit Authority
Hikers, bikers, and boaters in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area can all hop on board the free shuttle service called The Pocono Pony, which also hauls boats, bikes and gear along numerous stops of the McDade Trail from May 24 to Sept. 1. The 32-mile trail along the Pennsylvania side of the park passes through forested areas and farm fields and past views of the river and cliffs. Terrain varies from rugged foot trail to wide gravel paths. This trail is for everyone; trailheads provide access every 0.5 to 5.3 miles. The Pony provides service from the Delaware Water Gap Borough to Downtown Milford with stops at many destinations in between. For those paddling the Delaware River, boat portage is available at these boat launches: Smithfield Access, Bushkill Access, Dingmans Access and Milford Beach.
Hickory Run State Park
Both man and nature designed a delightful playground at Hickory Run. After picking up a park map at the office on route 534, start with a morning stretch to Hawk Falls, a .6 mile trail that crosses a footbridge and winds through a tunnel of native rhododendron, which burst into bloom in early July. After a morning of meditation gazing at the 25 foot Hawk Falls, head to the Sand Spring Lake area for a 19-hole game of disc golf, where you traverse along a mile-long path through the woods, while aiming your Frisbee-like disc at metal mesh baskets. Then, take a dip in the lake before your picnic lunch. After a nap in the shade, it’s time to tackle one of the three orienteering courses in the park, or embark upon a geocaching treasure hunt with your GPS. Be sure to leave time to play at the park’s National Natural Landmark: the Boulder Field. Park at the lot next to the edge of the field so you can save your energy for scrambling through the 16-acre expanse of boulders, which nature cracked apart over 20,000 years ago. The geological history of the area will set your mind reeling as you head off to Louie’s Prime Steakhouse in Lake Harmony or Murphy’s Loft in Blakeslee for dinner.
It’s All Downhill
Lehigh Gorge State Park
Photo submitted by Whitewater Challengers
Whether you choose to bike, boat or hike, you’ll be dazzled by lush forests, sparking rapids, breathtaking rock formations, and majestic waterfalls along over 25 miles of the scenic and well maintained D&L Trail within Lehigh Gorge State Park. Either tackling the whole trail or half, be assured that if you start north and head south, it really IS “all downhill,” as the trail is built on an abandoned railroad grade (Arrange a shuttle to take you and your bikes back northward). Rockport is the mid-point, so you can step down the distance by doing the 10 miles from White Haven to Rockport or the 15 miles from Rockport to Jim Thorpe as you explore the remains of the former Lehigh Canal and the legacy of the railroad. Whitewater Challengers (whitewaterchallengers.com) provides bike shuttles and rental bikes—or will shuttle your own bikes. Whitewater Challengers can also ratchet up the action with their rafting adventures. The weekend dam releases stir up the thrills for all ages. By dinnertime, you’ll be ready for a big platter from the Powerhouse Eatery in White Haven or a leisurely café meal in the charming, historic town of Jim Thorpe.
Not Just for Kids
Kettle Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and
Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm
Photos submitted by Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm
The outdoors is a delightful, living classroom, and a day split between the Monroe County Environmental Education Center at Kettle Creek in Bartonsville and Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm in Stroudsburg can have learners of all ages hooked on wanting to know more. Begin the day at Kettle Creek, with an indoor center featuring animal displays and hands-on activities including a touch-tower, a buzz board, leaf puzzles and live bee hive. Then exit to the 2.5 miles of self-guided, maintained, and kid-friendly trails that loop and weave through the 166 acre preserve. Stop for lunch at Pipolo’s Italian Eatery on Rt 611 in Stroudsburg before heading a little south and back in time to Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm. Quiet Valley has preserved a Pennsylvania German farm homestead dating from 1765. As farm activities and presentations go on throughout the farm, you can talk with costumed staff talk about life 150 years ago, meet the farm animals, and explore the 14 buildings, both original and reconstructed, where the German family and its descendants live and worked form 1765 to 1913.
Zip, Climb, Slide and Wobble
Pocono TreeVentures, Zip Racer, and Blue Lightning Tubing
The whole family will love the thrill of swooping the zip lines, balancing on rope challenges, and tubing down a mountain—all in the four-season adventure courses at Fernwood Resort. Start the day high up in the trees as you climb and balance and through 66 elements of the Pocono TreeVentures course and soar the Pocono Zip Racer. The outdoor aerial forest adventures include two 1,000 feet racing zip lines and offer five suspended courses of varying levels of difficulty. Wear comfortable clothing and closed toe shoes as you maneuver aerial tightropes, swinging log steps, moving platforms and rope net climbs. Then, experience the thrill of the all-season tubing park. Ride the Magic Carpet lift; then slide down either of the two 400-foot tubing lanes. You’ll be gliding on Neveplast runs that allow tubing without snow or water. Still ready for more action? Fernwood offers horseback riding and paintball.
You can always go downtown!
Tour Downtown Stroudsburg
Escape to downtown Stroudsburg for a day of meandering, munching, and architectural ogling. If you are Burg-bound on a Saturday, you can sample area wine, cheese and breads at Monroe Farmers Market at Courthouse Square as you stuff your shopping sack with local produce. Then head to Kitchen Chemistry on Main Street for a Saturday lesson on crafting gourmet cupcakes. Scoop up some tickets to the evening performance at the historic Sherman Theater, which opened in 1929 as a venue for vaudeville acts and now hosts a full menu of live performances. A tour of the Stroud Mansion can prepare you for a walk through the Academy Hill Historic District, which includes the neighborhoods along Sarah, Thomas, and Scott streets, where you will marvel at the Queen Anne, American Foursquare, Craftsman and Colonial Revival architecture. Your afternoon might include a treatment at Shear Design Day Spa, and it will certainly include shopping at the specialty shops housed in the 19th and early 20th century preserved buildings along Main Street, including The Apple Tree, Dunklebergers, and Ready Set Run. Just don’t leave town without picking up a book at Carroll & Carroll Booksellers, an independently owned shop with both new and used titles. A good book in bed is a perfect ending to a day in a classic county seat town.