Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains is packed with summer adventures. From lazy lake days to aerial adventure courses to historic railroad trips, there’s something to suit families of all ages. While the region is loaded with crowd-pleasing adventures, here are a few of the best family-friendly summer activities in the Poconos.
The woodlands and wild spaces of the Poconos are adorned with an exceptionally high concentration of waterfalls, and the region is home to the two loftiest cascades in the state. For hikers, local waterfalls provide an enticing reason to hit the trails, and for those who aren’t as into hiking, many regional cascades are easily accessible without too much legwork.
Tucked away in the Lehigh Gorge, 50-foot Buttermilk Falls is easily visible from the Lehigh Gorge Trail, located just 0.3 miles from the Rockport access area. And, if one waterfall just isn’t enough, Luke's Falls is a 50-foot waterfall is situated less than half a mile down the trail from Buttermilk Falls. At Hickory Run State Park, 25-foot Hawk Falls is another impressive yet easy-to-reach cascade, requiring only a 0.6-mile trek along the Hawk Falls Trail.
While the other falls are beautiful, the crown jewel of the Poconos is Bushkill Falls. Appropriately referred to as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls actually consists of a series of eight tumbling cascades, accessible via a network of hiking trails and panoramic bridges, and the highest falls have a drop of nearly 100 feet. The 300-acre property offers a number of other family-friendly amenities, including miniature golf and paddle boats. For hungry hikers, there is even an onsite fudge kitchen offering hand-dipped ice cream and other tasty treats.
2. Walk on the Wild Side
Get up close and personal with exotic creatures from every corner of the globe at the Claws 'N’ Paws Wild Animal Park, located just outside Hamlin. The family-friendly park’s resident wildlife includes multicolored macaws, wolves, ring-tailed lemurs, and even a personable giraffe named Jethro. There are also plenty of big cats to admire, like African lions, jaguars, snow leopards, and even a Bengal tiger named Kiera. For a more hands-on experience, the park also features lori parrot feeding, a Dino Outpost for budding paleontologists, and a petting area with goats, sheep, and deer.
3. Ride the Rails
Plan a sightseeing adventure through the Pocono Mountains on one of the region’s scenic and historic railways. In Jim Thorpe, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway takes riders on an out-and-back journey along the Lehigh River and into the Lehigh Gorge State Park in vintage train coaches built during the early part of the 20th century.
In Honesdale and Hawley, visitors can also hop on the historic Stourbridge Line for a scenic journey along the Lackawaxen River, in train cars providing passengers a glimpse of railroad travel in the decades from 1920 to 1950. This summer, The Stourbridge Line is even offering an ice cream express, leaving from the Honesdale station on Friday nights.
4. Aerial Adventures
Spend a day in the canopy, getting a birds-eye view of the Poconos—and a thrill—at one of the area’s aerial adventure parks. Offering features like ropes courses, panoramic zip lines, and climbing towers, visitors have plenty of ways to test their acrobatic ability and strength.
Choose from area adventure courses like the treetop Adventure Center at Skytop Lodge, the Summit Aerial Park at Blue Mountain Resort, Camelback Mountain Adventures, or Gorilla Grove Treetop Adventures at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions.
5. Saddle Up
In addition to exploring the Poconos on foot, by boat, or on a bike, visitors can experience the region on horseback. A scenic trail ride offers a different perspective of the Poconos, and the chance to mingle with local wildlife, like wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. Several local stables offer outings geared toward youngsters and riders. Near White Haven, the Deer Path Riding Stable offers hourly outings for first-time trail riders, while the nearby Daisy Field Farm also arranges guided trail rides along with sleigh and wagon rides.
6. Hit the Beach
Craving a day in the sun? Find a spot to lay a towel at one of the region’s kid-friendly swimming beaches. Near the town of Jim Thorpe, Mauch Chunk Lake Park offers a sandy swimming beach along Mauch Chunk Lake in the shadow of Flagstaff Mountain. Spread over the Pocono Plateau just north of Skytop, the 3,000-acre Promised Land State Park also features two sandy beaches along massive Promised Land Lake, along with fishing, flat water boating, and nearly 50 miles of hiking trails.
Besides the region’s idyllic lakes, some of the most inviting beaches in the Poconos are strewn along the Delaware River—and the best spots for swimmers are located at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Approximately 40 miles of the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River threads the 70,000-acre recreation area, and there are two family-friendly river beaches in the Pennsylvania portion of the park: Milford Beach and Smithfield Beach. There is a $10 fee per vehicle for up to seven people to access these two river beaches.
7. Raft a River
The Pocono Mountains is a paddler’s paradise. The area offers a range of experiences for river runners, from leisurely tubing trips to exhilarating whitewater adventures. On the rapid-rippled Lehigh River, whitewater enthusiasts can tackle Class I, II, and III rapids while enjoying a breathtaking mountain backdrop. Outfitters like Pocono Whitewater and Whitewater Challengers cater to all sorts of paddlers, providing everything from family-friendly rafting trips to exhilarating dam release rafting adventures for more seasoned paddlers.
There are also plenty of options for more leisurely paddlers. The Delaware River meanders lazily through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, providing paddlers a 40-mile stretch of water to explore. Outside the recreation area, the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River also offers flat water paddling with a breathtaking backdrop, as the waterway winds through leafy woodlands and lush countryside. Several local outfitters provide kayak, canoe, raft, and tube rentals, along with transportation for paddlers on the Delaware River, including Edge of the Woods Outfitters, Chamberlain Canoes, and Adventure Sports.
8. Make a Splash
In the Poconos, even rainy days can be spent in the water. In addition to the region’s sprawling lakes and scenic rivers, the Poconos is home to a variety of amenity-filled indoor waterparks. Complete with exhilarating waterslides, lazy rivers, toddler-friendly lagoons, and even over-sized jacuzzis, the region’s waterparks have something to entice every member of the family. Area offerings include Great Wolf Lodge, Split Rock Resort & Golf Club, the Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, and the 220,000-square-foot indoor waterpark at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, the largest in the country.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha.