Anchored by thick forested peaks and known for its bounty of skiing and other cold-weather activities, Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains region is actually a prime place to visit any time of year.
Outdoor adventurers will love the scenic hiking trails and ample birdwatching, the area’s lakes and rivers attract boaters and watersports enthusiasts, and the resorts and waterparks dotting the region will appeal to families with kids of all ages.
Here’s our guide to the best things to do in the Poconos – from sipping craft beer to tasting farm-fresh cheese – all throughout the year.
Go ziplining in Kittatinny
Make like the bald eagles and peregrine falcons that call this area home and soar over the treetops on a zipline. The area is home to several places to hook on, including Kittatinny located near the Delaware River, which lets adventurers fly down a private mountain 150ft in the air at speeds up to 60mph.
The Treetop Adventure Course at Skytop Lodge, about 45 minutes from Scranton, PA, is over 3000ft of elevated bridges and challenging (but delightfully fun) obstacles. Open in the warmer months, check before booking for age and height requirements.
Glide down a mountain
Pennsylvanians come from all over the state each winter to queue up at lift lines and zip down the slopes at mountains such as Jack Frost and Big Boulder, Shawnee, and Camelback.
Each resort offers well-maintained trails, rental equipment and ski lessons, plus amenities like bars, restaurants and lockers for day visits. Novices can also book a lesson to learn the basics before heading out on the bunny hills. Some mountains, like Big Boulder, offer night skiing.
If you’re not a fan of skis and snowboards, some mountain resorts offer snow tubing, arcades and even waterparks.
Splash in wave pools at indoor water parks
Prefer your tubing to be a little warmer? The Poconos region has a slew of indoor water parks with wave pools, splash pads and water slides to zoom down with rafts or without – all in a balmy 84-degree winter oasis.
With its myriad slides, plus a lazy river, pint-sized pools, character breakfasts and a nightly pajama read-along for overnight guests, Great Wolf Lodge is ideal for families with younger kids. At Kalahari Resorts, try surfing or boogie boarding on the Flowrider five-foot wave simulator.
When the temperature rises, Camelback Mountain is also home to Pennsylvania’s largest outdoor water park, which opens each spring and summer.
Head to Lake Wallenpaupack for a day on the water
With over 150 lakes and several rivers, it’s easy to find a place in the Poconos to plunge in and paddle. Visitors who would rather go with a guide (or just need the equipment) will find plenty of adventure outfitters that offer a range of activities, from leisurely tubing and scenic kayaking or canoeing, to adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting.
Alternatively, BYOB (bring your own boat) and make for Lake Wallenpaupack, aka Lake Wally, with its six public recreation areas offering draws like public beaches, hiking trails, boat slips, and more. Jet skiers can seek out the lake’s Party Cove for a vibe that matches its name.
Roll the dice at the Mount Airy Casino Resort
There’s loads more on offer at the Mount Airy Casino Resort than placing bets, though there’s plenty of that too, from slot machines to a poker room.
The splashy Mount Pocono resort attracts couples, families, and groups of friends with its indoor and outdoor pools, golf course and spa.
Restaurants and a roster of live entertainment, from concerts to comedy shows are also a draw for visitors, whether they’re staying overnight or just in for an evening.
Go for a hike at Big Pocono State Park
The 1300-acre Big Pocono State Park has over eight miles of mountaintop hiking trails, with sweeping views of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania from its peaks. The park’s three picnic areas also have tables and charcoal grills, so pack provisions and enjoy lunch or dinner overlooking a beautiful forested panorama.
Horseback riding and mountain biking are also open on certain trails, and there’s plenty of fauna and flora – from blueberry bushes to mountain laurel and wildflowers – to admire. The park closes in the winter months and reopens in April.
The 400-acre Seven Tubs Recreation Area inside Pinchot State Forest gets its name from the potholes created by glacial meltwater. Hike one of two trails – the 0.3-mile main loop that takes you directly to the tubs, or the 1.8-mile Audubon Loop Trail that shows off a bit more of the surrounding streams and mountains.
Sample craft beer and sake!
Award-winning beers, a spacious brewpub, and a kids’ menu make Wallenpaupack Brewing Company in Hawley, Pennsylvania a supremely family-friendly spot. In the summer, the sprawling outdoor beer garden has lawn games and picnic tables. When it comes to the menu, try some of the creative offerings, like jalapeno cream ale, pink guava IPA, and fruited sour.
In Honesdale, visit Here and Now Brewing for an ever-changing selection of IPAs made in small batches using seasonal and local ingredients. Open in the summertime, visit Second District Brew Farm for microbrews with a verdant view.
Looking for something a little different? Sango Kura is Pennsylvania’s first and only sake brewery and is located in Delaware Water Gap. Order a bottle of dry-hopped sake with a bowl of spicy pork bone marrow ramen made with handcrafted noodles.
Visit Bushkill Falls and its eight waterfalls
Also known as the “Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania”, Bushkill Falls is actually a series of eight waterfalls, along with a web of hiking trails set amid lush woodland.
Trails range from easy – the green trail takes about 15 minutes and doesn’t involve climbing – to more difficult. The most arduous is the red trail, which takes about two hours to traverse about two miles, and shows off views of all eight falls.
Bushkill’s 300-acre recreation area also includes fishing and paddle boating on Twin Lakes, picnic pavilions and a sprawling kids’ playground – it closes in the winter and reopens in the spring.
Take a dip in the Delaware River
Delaware Water Gap is a National Recreation Area encompassing 70,000 acres around the Delaware River in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Besides hiking and biking trails, boating and fishing, swimming is a popular activity here, thanks to the area’s three accessible beaches.
On the PA side, Milford Beach and Smithfield Beach both have restroom facilities, boat launches and picnic areas (there are no grills, but you can bring your own).
From the beach, there’s easy access to Joseph M. McDade Recreational Trail, which has beautiful river views for hikers, bikers and cross-country skiers of all levels.
Go fishing for trout at Hickory Run State Park
Hickory Run State Park’s 400-by-1800ft boulder field attracts visitors from all over the state. Giant gray rocks 12ft deep (and some 26ft long) carpet the entire area. The landscape has stayed nearly the same for over 20,000 years.
But one of the park’s best draws is the trove of fishing spots. Some of its streams are stocked with brown and brook trout, and some have a native trout population. Hawk Run, for example, is classified as a Class A Wild Trout Stream.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has a calendar of events, too, which includes classes like introduction to fly fishing. The free class meets at the park visitors center, and includes all the gear and expert instruction on casting techniques, knot tying, and more basic skills to get you angling like a pro in no time.
Go for a horseback ride
The Poconos offer plenty of places to saddle up for a guided tour. Bushkill Riding Stables in East Stroudsburg offers 30- to 45-minute trail rides all year long.
Daisy Field Farm near White Haven offers family trail rides that bring together the whole crew for an outing accessible to any skill level. Wagon and sleigh rides are also on offer when there’s snow on the ground. There’s also a farm to enjoy with the kids.
Mountain Creek Riding Stables in Cresco cater to beginners and intermediate riders for its scenic, daily and year-round forest trails.
Explore the historic town of Jim Thorpe
Named after Native American Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe (from the Sac and Fox nation), the small town bisected by the Lehigh River is filled with history and charm.
Stroll Broadway and stop into shops like Somersault Letterpress to admire handcrafted cards and stationery made with vintage machines from the 1930s and 50s. At Wild Elder Wine & Cider Co., order a flight to sample sparkling Elderberry cider and native grape wines. Oh, and please don’t miss Donerds Donuts and their tasty handmade treats next door.
Trace the town’s history with a visit to the Asa Packer Mansion, a museum and former home of the railroad magnate and Lehigh University Founder. Docent-guided tours are available when the museum is open, from April to November.
Before leaving town, sit down for dinner at Notch Eight Craft House, where plates of smoked brisket tacos and cheesy tots are paired with Pennsylvania-made beer and booze.
Note: Although Thorpe is buried in Pennsylvania, his relatives have unsuccessfully long petitioned for his bones to be brought back to Oklahoma.
Sip locally made spirits
Several Poconos distilleries have tasting rooms where you can sample made-from-scratch spirits. At Silverback Distillery, a mother-daughter duo is crafting small-batch bourbon and citrus-infused gin. Visit the tasting room in East Stroudsburg for cocktail flights, and while they offer some snacks, you can also bring your own feast.
At Barley Creek Distillery in Tannersville, try small-batch spirits like vodka, whiskey and moonshine, and a line of ready-to-drink canned cocktails.
Sorrenti Family Estate is the oldest winery in the Poconos, but also makes spirits and wood-fired pizzas (try the Michaelangelo). Visit the tasting room, and on warmer days, sit outside on the veranda.
Shop for farm-fresh provisions
A bounty of farmers, bakers, and other makers offer a true taste of the region from roadside farm stands and small shops. Check out Village Farmer and Bakery in Delaware Water Gap for over 30 varieties of pies – including cherry, apple crumb and shoofly – made daily.
Pocono Organics in Blakeslee is North America’s largest regenerative organic-certified farm. Browse the market for farm-fresh groceries, and stay for lunch at the cafe for chef-crafted soups and salads.
At Calkins Creamery in Honesdale, meet the cows that supply milk for the cave-aged cheeses. Sample the varieties before stocking up on wheels of Noblette, a buttery brie-style cheese.