If you're looking for an escape to nature, you'll find it in the Pocono Mountains. Just a few hours drive from big cities like New York and Philadelphia, winding country roads lead to peaceful parks with hiking trails, biking paths, waterfalls, water recreation plus local history to discover.

For over two hundred years, visitors have come from all over to experience the natural wonders of the Poconos region. Keep reading to discover eight national and state parks in the area that are free to visit and packed with outdoor adventure and relaxation.

Beltzville State Park

Encompassing over 3,000 acres of Carbon County's beautiful forests and hills, Beltzville State Park harbors a sprawling, 949-acre reservoir with almost 20 miles of shoreline. The sandy beach is perfect for soaking in some summer rays, while boat launches at Pine Run East on the northern shore and Preachers Camp on the southern shore offer water access for most types of recreational boats (maximum boating speed is 45 mph). A boat rental is open throughout the summer months, or you can bring your own vessel (with current state registration) to enjoy a spring or autumn fishing trip; the waters are stocked with warmwater and coldwater game fish and panfish.

If you'd rather stay on land, 15 miles of hiking trails skirt around Beltzville Lake and branch off along tributaries like Wild Creek, Pohopoco Creek and Sawmill Run. Pay a visit to the beautiful Harrity Covered Bridge, originally built in 1842, which was relocated to its present location near the boat rental when the dam was under construction.

 


 

Big Pocono State Park

While visiting the Poconos, you have to get to Big Pocono State Park for a panoramic view of the region. Drive through Tannersville and wind up to Rim Road to enjoy the view from 2,706 feet. The vista stretches across three states: Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Enjoy a picnic on the peak, or challenge yourself on miles of mountainous trails. Looking for hikes you can bring your dog along for? Big Pocono is pet friendly. On the other side of Camelback Mountain is Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, home to a ski area, adventure center, indoor and outdoor waterparks and more.

 


 

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Known as the gateway to the Poconos, the borough of Delaware Water Gap is also the southern gateway and namesake for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Delaware River is the flowing heart of these 70,000 acres which extend north all the way to Milford and are managed by the National Park Service. Take a hike or bike ride along a portion of the McDade Recreational Trail, discover a hidden lake, or visit the two tallest cascades in the state, Raymondskill Falls and Dingmans Falls.

You can find gear as well as rentals and river trips with Edge of the Woods Outfitters. Public boat launches are available at Smithfield Beach, Bushkill Access, Eschbeck Access, Dingmans Ferry and Milford Beach. While there is no charge to enter the National Recreation Area, there are expanded amenity fees to access Smithfield Beach, Bushkill Access, Dingmans Ferry and Milford Beach April through October.

 


 

Hickory Run State Park

Journey to Hickory Run State Park to witness a part of the world which has remained relatively unchanged for 20,000 years. Stones of all sizes stretch towards the horizon at striking Boulder Field, an archaeological wonder which has been designated a National Natural Landmark. Learn more about how it formed and discover the history of the area at the beautiful, immersive visitors center along Route 534, then head out on a hike to scenic Hawk Falls. There's a 19-hole disc golf course is in the Sand Spring Day Use Area, which also features a lake where you can enjoy the beach and go swimming in the summer or try ice skating when the water freezes in winter.

 


 

Lehigh Gorge State Park

The rocky cliffs and lush mountainsides north of Jim Thorpe are a hub of recreational activity today, but this Carbon County landscape was once a hub of industrial activity. The rich Anthracite coal deposits in the hills were mined in the 1800s, and locks and canals were added to the Lehigh River for the transportation of the coal. While some remnants of the past can still be seen, like Turn Hole Tunnel, the 6,107-acre Lehigh Gorge State Park is a great place to reconnect with nature. Hikers and bikers will find waterfalls dotted along the D&L Trail which runs through the park along the river, and whitewater rafting trips with local outfitters like Jim Thorpe River Adventures and Whitewater Rafting Adventures are also popular. When snow covers the ground during the winter months, portions of the Lehigh Gorge Trail are open to snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

 

 


 

Upper Delaware Recreational River

An unspoiled stretch of winding water managed by the National Park Service, the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River is another park in the Poconos that once bustled with the transportation of natural resources. The Delaware & Hudson Canal operated along this part of the river and commissioned construction of the Roebling Aqueduct, the oldest existing wire suspension bridge in the US, designed and built by the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. Nearby is the Zane Grey Museum, home of the writer who penned Western classics like Riders of the Purple Sage

There are public river boating access points along both the Pennsylvania and New York sides of the Delaware, and you can book canoeing, kayaking or whitewater rafting trips with local liveries like Kittatiny Canoes or Lander's River Trips. Known as an excellent spot for angling, the Upper Delaware is home to many different species of fish. The park is home to many animals, making it a great spot for wildlife viewing, and bald eagles are often spotted in the area in winter months.

 


 

Promised Land State Park

Promised Land State Park was one of the earliest state parks officially designated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It opened in 1905 with a campground for visitors to stay at while they enjoyed the forests and lake. In the 1930s, as part of recovery from the Great Depression, facilities and roads were added to the park by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Masker Museum, offering free admission, shares their story with visitors today, as well as natural history displays, a native plant garden and bird observation area.

Stop by the museum or the park office to learn more about the family fishing program which makes loaner poles, bait, and tackle available. You'll find a boat rental concession off of PA 390, just south of the Day Use Area, open Memorial Day through Labor Day, as well as a combined total of five boat launches on the main Promised Land Lake and the Lower Lake. Note that the two lakes are not connected for boat traffic, and electric motors only are allowed. If you're looking to enjoy some sun and sand, the main lake has two beaches at the Day Use Area and Pickerel Point. Explore 50 miles of hiking trails, including the loop around Conservation Island as well as the Bruce Lake Trail, leading to a natural glacial lake. After a full day in the fresh air, refuel with a hearty meal at Promised Land Inn Bar & Restaurant.

 


 

Tobyhanna State Park

On the northern end of Monroe County, Tobyhanna State Park's 170-acre lake glitters invitingly against the surrounding forests and hills of the Pocono Plateau. Circle the shore with a hike or cycle along on the 5.1-mile Lakeside Trail, or get on the water to do some fishing and paddling. Common species in this warm water fishery include bass, pickerel, yellow perch, catfish and sunfish, with stocked brook and brown trout. Splash and swim on the sandy beach during the summer, or enjoy ice skating, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling in the winter.

In all four seasons, a Poconos getaway isn't complete without taking time to breath in the fresh mountain air and soak in the great outdoors. These eight only scratch the surface: be sure to browse even more national, state and local parks in the area. Search our hiking and biking trails as well as wildlife viewing, water recreation and boating and fishing locations. Whatever the time of year, you'll find relaxation and adventure alike waiting for you in the Pocono Mountains.