A shimmering blue jewel set in the midst of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, Lake Wallenpaupack has enticed vacationers for nearly a century. Created in the 1920s, this 5,700-acre reservoir is the second largest body of water contained entirely within the Commonwealth, offering plenty of space for paddlers and anglers to spread out and enjoy the water. With 52 miles of shoreline, there's lots to discover on land as well!
Flanked by Wayne County to the north and Pike County to the south, Lake Wallenpaupack is more than just a water playground. You'll find charming small towns filled with shops, dining and history, like Hawley and Honesdale, located a short distance from the shores. Keep reading to check out eight of the best things to do at the ‘Big Lake.’
1. Spend a Day on the Water
Whatever summer splash activities are on your dream lake day list, you're sure to find them at Lake Wallenpaupack. Pack a picnic and head for the family-friendly Palmyra Township Public Beach to spend a day swimming and soaking up the sun along the sandy shoreline.
Rather get out in a boat? Paddle the lake in a canoe or kayak, or give stand-up paddleboarding a try. The serene water is ideal for first-time paddleboarders and kid-friendly kayaking trips. With so much acreage to explore, Lake Wallenpaupack has plenty to offer seasoned paddlers as well. Find public launch points at Mangan Cove or pay a small fee at the access areas at Caffrey, Ironwood Point, Ledgedale and Wilsonville.
Local outfitters providing boat rentals, sales and scenic tours are conveniently dotted all along Lake Wallenpaupack's shores. Choose your vessel and take a trip with Sterling Marina in Lake Ariel, The Boat Shop in Tafton, Pine Crest Marina or Pocono Action Sports at Lighthouse Harbor Marina in Greentown, or Wallenpaupack Scenic Boat Tours & Rentals or Rubber Duckie Boat Rentals in Hawley. From family-friendly patio and pontoon boats to fishing boats to jet skis and high-speed boats perfect for water skiing, you'll find a wide variety of watercraft to captain for the day.
2. Hit the Trail
Don't feel like getting wet? Explore one of the area’s scenic hiking trails! Stay in sight of the water on the Wallenpaupack Lake Trail, accessible from the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center. The trail traces the lakeshore for about three miles, offering the chance to glimpse bald eagles and other birds of prey, before merging with the half-mile Wallenpaupack Creek Trail. For a longer trek, head to Promised Land State Park about eight miles from the Big Lake. Perched on the Pocono Plateau, the park features nearly 50 miles of paths to wander and two lakes of its own. Hikers and runners can also branch into the extensive trail system in adjacent Delaware State Forest.
3. Drop a Line
Lake Wallenpaupack is known to harbor exceptionally hefty smallmouth bass, but there are plenty of other types of fish lurking beneath the surface as well, including largemouth bass, yellow perch and channel catfish. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks the lake with walleye, striped bass and brown trout. If you're introducing your youngsters to fishing for the first time, Lake Wallenpaupack is the perfect place to go.
Looking to hook a legendary lake catch? Get some tips from local experts! Troll On Guide Service and Ray’s Charter Guide Service specialize in bass fishing, with outings for pros and first-time anglers alike. If planning your own fishing expedition, don't forget a valid fishing license is required for anglers 16 years old and up. Short-term tourist permits are available for visitors and can be purchased online.
4. Explore the Region’s Rich History
From the first Native American inhabitants to the early Dutch and English settlers of the 17th century; from the industrialists of the 1850s to the honeymooners of the 1950s, the area surrounding Lake Wallenpaupack has a rich history, and there are many local museums that bring the Poconos' past alive for present-day visitors.
With displays in three difference locations, the Wallenpaupack Historical Society preserves the history and heritage of the lake and the region. The Wayne County Historical Society has its home base in Honesdale, where the showpiece of the main museum is a reproduction of the Stourbridge Lion which once ran on nearby tracks, the first commercial locomotive operated in the United States. Just north of Hawley, the 16-acre Delaware and Hudson Canal Park showcases the 108-mile engineering marvel that was used in the nineteenth century to transport coal from Pennsylvania to New York, with historical structures to explore like Daniels Farmhouse and Canal Lock 31
The historic Hawley Silk Mill was built in 1880 and has been re-imagined several times over the years. Today, you can trace the building's past while you browse a collection of boutiques, art galleries and a cozy coffee house. In White Mills, the Dorflinger Glass Museum highlights another area industry and exhibits the beautiful cut crystal fashioned by the factory from 1852 until 1921.
5. Grab a Bite to Eat
When you're starting to feel hungry, there's no need to worry. You'll find a plethora of different eateries close to the Big Lake, many offering panoramic views along with delicious dishes.
The Dock on Wallenpaupack was a bustling roadhouse in the 1940s, and more than a half-century later, the space is a full-service waterfront restaurant with both indoor seating and deck dining. Part of Silver Birches Resort, a historic property which has graced the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack for nearly a century, the Dock offers everything from surf and turf to brick oven pizza.
The Boat House Restaurant in Hawley is another storied lakefront spot. The restaurant originated as a cozy ice cream stand, in the 1950s and today serves up a range of comfort food classics, like burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. Also in Hawley, Gresham’s Chop House features both indoor and outdoor dining, and a menu loaded with steaks, seafood and traditional Italian fare. Stop by Gresham's Ice Cream Shoppe for a sweet treat after your meal.
Eager to sample regional craft beer? Head to the Wallenpaupack Brewing Company. This trendy brewery pours everything from stouts to specialty sours and serves tasty bites to munch like burgers and cheesesteaks.
6. Go Treasure Hunting
Take a break from the heat and duck out of the sun and into local shops! You'll find hidden gems in abundance in nearby boutiques and antique stores. Start at the nonprofit Wayne Pike Sullivan Antique Dealers Association, which has been fostering appreciation of antiquities and art for over 50 years, regularly hosting antique shows and sales.
Got a sweet tooth? Penny Lane Candies & Candles in Hawley is teeming with delectable goodies. The boutique also stocks a wide array of candles and other gifts, including toys, cards and award-winning hot sauces. Lake Art offers unique home decor, apparel and gifts perfect for finding souvenirs to take that lake vibe home with you.
7. Try Something New
While time-tested, classic water activities are a must at Lake Wallenpaupack, there are also lots of out-of-the-box adventures to check out. The brand new Soarin' Eagle Rail Tours recently opened in nearby Hawley, offering visitors the chance to take a scenic cycle right on the railroad, winding along the Lackawaxen River. If the day turns rainy, maybe it's time to give ax throwing a try! Pocono Axe Works is a great place for some friendly competition for guests 14 and older.
8. Wally Lake Fest
Scheduled for August 27-29, 2021, this annual event epitomizes summer on Lake Wallenpaupack, Wally Lake Fest is a celebration highlighting everything that is great about the season. Enjoy lake-based activities, boating demos and watersports, as well as land-based fun including live music performances and open-air markets. There are also plenty of tasty eats, from BBQ to farm-to-table cuisine.