With the end of summer here, the autumn months will soon be upon us. One thing we miss about living in Pennsylvania during this time of year is the fall foliage in the Poconos. It’s a beautiful area of our home state that features rolling hills, state parks, waterfalls, hiking trails and the most beautiful foliage forests. The Pocono Mountains are a truly gorgeous part of the entire country, and just a two hour drive from the city it’s one of the best day trips from Philadelphia and even better for a weekend getaway.
A leaf peeping adventure in the Poconos is an ideal way to explore the region. So much so that we decided to break down the best places to see the changing leaves in northeast Pennsylvania. Whether you’re planning a family day trip or a romantic weekend getaway to the Poconos, here is how to view the leaves this fall.
Where Are The Pocono Mountains?
The Poconos are a swath of northeastern Pennsylvania made up of wooded peaks with valleys and lakes in between. It’s a popular ski area in the winter with countless resorts for couples, families and vacations home to rent. On the eastern edge of the Pocono region is the Delaware Water Gap, a popular destination for boating, tubing and white-water rafting in the summer. Trails wrap around the area with some incredible state parks.
The two population centers in the area are the cities of Wilkes-Barre (America’s only hyphenated city) and Scranton. The area is easily reached from locations in southeastern Pennsylvania via the PA Turnpike as well as neighboring states New York and New Jersey. If you’re flying into the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley Airport is the closest international airport and there are several local airports in the area. If you’re driving to the area, you can expect a 2-2.5 hour drive from Philadelphia or New York City.
Where To Stay in The Poconos
Where you stay in the Poconos depends on your type of travel. There are, of course, plenty of hotels all over and the towns of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton will have the most. These are the best cities to find a hotel and you can easily pick lodging close to the highways from which to launch your leaf viewing trips.
If you’re traveling as a family or even a group of friends you can look into renting a vacation home. The Poconos are full of homes to rent and they range from rustic cabins to luxury forest lodges. Glamping and camping are also options for those who prefer a true outdoor experience.
The Best Road Trips to See Fall Foliage in the Poconos
One way to peep the leaves in the Poconos is from your car. The area is full of backroads for a lazy drive to enjoy the countryside. In the autumn, the leaves surrounding the roads make every drive memorable and beyond enjoyable. Frequent overlooks and places to pull over for photos add to the experience and here are the best roads to travel for fall foliage in the Poconos.
Pennsylvania Route 6
If our word isn’t enough, National Geographic have also named Rt. 6 as one of the most scenic drive in the United States. The historic roadway traverses the entire state of Pennsylvania from Lake Erie to the Delaware River. It bridges the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and cuts through the Poconos.
We suggest you drive around 50 miles from Scranton to the Delaware River at the town of Milford. It bends north in an inverted “U” shape and touches the east shore of Lake Wallenpaupack, another amazing stop for fall foliage in the Poconos.
Pennsylvania Route 507
Also known as Lake Wallenpaupack Road, this scenic drive in the Poconos will give you water views with bright leaves as a backdrop. It’s a brilliant stretch of roadway and the best way to travel it is driving from Highway 84 to Rt. 507 and heading to the town of Hawley.
Pennsylvania Route 209
The scenic Route 209 is a drive that takes you from the Delaware Water Gap, a popular boating destination near Stroudsburg, north to the town of Milford. The beauty of this drive is the combination of mountain peaks, bright leaves and the river road tracing the Delaware. It’s full of places to stop along the drive including Bushkill Falls and the Pocono Environmental Education Center.
The Coolest Hiking Trails For Fall Foliage in the Poconos
While you can certainly make use of the scenic highways and backroads around the region, there are great hiking trails too. These are countless spots to get up close and immerse yourself in the autumn leaves in the Poconos.
The list of state parks, game lands and natural attractions in the Poconos is long. Still, we were able to boil down a small list of the best places and many are near our recommended drives. Here’s our favorite spots for hiking through the fall foliage in the Poconos.
Seven Tubs Nature Area
Seven Tubs Nature Area is one of my favorite places in all of Pennsylvania. I’ve visited”the Tubs” with my family as well as my friends for years. The glacial rock formations and the streams that run through them are simply stunning. Over 12,000 years ago the melting glacier water carved seven tub-shaped depressions in the sandstone and today a snow melt stream runs through the seven tubs.
The publicly accessible natural wonder can be reached off of Route 115 between the PA Turnpike and the city of Wilkes-Barre.
Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the best natural attractions in Pennsylvania. It’s over 13,000 acres of pure beauty. There are miles of trails and a series of wild waterfalls. Ricketts Glen has 22 named waterfalls and the tallest is Ganoga Falls at 94-feet (28.5 meters).
The best way to experience Ricketts Glen State Park is to hike the Falls Trail. It’s a hike of moderate difficulty looping nearly 7 miles around the main waterfalls of the park. To reach the trail, drive to the parking area along Route 118.
Bushkill Falls is known as The Niagra of Pennsylvania and one of the most visited and beautiful places in the entire state. The scenic destination is incredible during the fall and features a two-mile hiking trail of moderate difficulty. Plan to spend about two hours hiking the trail and of course leave time for photographs and gazing at the eight awe-inspiring waterfalls.
There is an entrance fee for the park – $14.50 during the week and $17.50 on weekends for adults. The entrance fee for children is $8.50 daily.
Delaware State Forest
Delaware State Forest is a beautiful stretch of park land along the Delaware River. One of its best features is the Thunder Swamp Trail System, 45 miles of hiking and biking trails. From mid-October it’s an ideal destination for viewing the autumn leaves in the Poconos.
The best place to enter the park is the town of Dingman’s Ferry and if you’d like to explore the park by car you can drive PA Route 402.
Big Pocono State Park
Big Pocono State Park is a fantastic fall foliage destination in Pennsylvania. It encompasses and is maintained by Camel Back Mountain, one of the states best ski slopes. The state park is about 13,000 acres of lush forest and the brilliant changing leaves are out by early October.
The park entrance is best accessed in the town of Tannersville along PA Route 715. Once you reach the summit there is a 1.4 mile scenic drive or walk waiting for you. From the paved trail you have sweeping views of the river, and portions of New York and New Jersey.
Fall Festival Towns and Other Pocono Fall Foliage Attractions
Pocono Environmental Education Center
The Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) is an education and community non-profit with a mission to educate visitors on nature and sustainability. It’s located in the Delaware State Forest near Dingman’s Ferry and also has 12 miles of trails with various levels of difficulty.
The facilities include educational programs for schools, scouts and all visitors. It’s open daily and there are even overnight options available.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania is one of the states best autumn destinations. The small town feeling of Jim Thorpe is reason enough to visit, but the fall foliage in the Lehigh River gorge is fantastic. The first three weekends in October the city throws a Fall Foliage Festival to celebrate the changing seasons and leaves.
One of the coolest ways to view the leaves in Jim Thorpe is by taking a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. It’s a steam locomotive that runs from Jim Thorpe through the Lehigh River Gorge. The train ride is 45 minutes long and including an informative narration of the history of the area.
Tickets are $17-20 for adults and $9-10 for children and the train runs through the first week in November. Read more information HERE.
Shawnee Mountain is most known as a ski resort and winter destination, but there’s so much to offer during the autumn months. For starters, it’s an incredible destination for fall foliage and the leaves are brilliant. Shawnee Mountain is also a popular festival destination with many weekend events like the Autumn Timber Festival.
There’s no bad time of the year to visit Lake Wallenpaupack but you can count on a wonderful visit in the autumn. The lake has 52 miles of forested shoreline surrounded by brightly colored hues of red, orange and yellow foliage.
One of the best parts of visiting Lake Wallenpaupack is the reflection of the leaves on the lake itself. Whether you’re boating on the lake or hiking the shoreline, it’s an unbelievable site, especially around sunset.
Add a scenic drive to your trip and hop on PA Route 590 northeast of the lake. It’s a lazy country road that will take you all the way to the Delaware River tracing the Lackawaxen River, one of its tributaries. Stop for photos near the Delaware when you reach the iconic Zane Gray Bridge.
Now You're Ready to Visit The Poconos and the Fall Foliage
With these destinations in mind, you’re ready to plan your trip to the Poconos for fall foliage viewing. Whether you’re planning to go hiking, biking, boating or driving – the Poconos are unbeatable for viewing fall foliage. Plan your stops, and enjoy the colors and events of the fall season in Pennsylvania’s gorgeous landscape.
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