The Poconos, a wondrous gasp-inducing expanse mostly in Northeastern Pennsylvania, is a nature playground that often dazzles and delights the senses of first-time visitors. This region features beautiful rolling hills, several misty lakes, and other elements that make the landscape delightful and dramatic. Overlooking the scenic Delaware River and Water Gap to the east, the Poconos are dotted with several small towns that can serve as bases from which to experience one of nature’s most expressive sceneries. Read on to discover the small towns in the Poconos ranked among US favorites — Jim Thorpe, a Pocono eye candy named for one of the greatest American Olympians of all time, is a top highlight.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Once called "Mauch Chunk," translated as "Bear Place" in the Munsee-Lenape Native American language, Jim Thorpe is in Pennsylvania’s Black Bear Country about 30 miles northwest of Allentown (120 miles west of New York). The town sits on the picturesque Lehigh River, a 109-mile-long tributary of the Delaware River — and one of the most scenic waterways in the United States.
How Mauch Chunk eventually became Jim Thorpe is as colorful as the landscape that encircles this Pennsylvania stunner. As the story goes, Jim Thorpe, an Oklahoma Native American, was the hero of the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. When he passed away, his widow was not amused that Oklahoma could not erect any kind of memorial for her late husband. Pennsylvania’s Mauch Chunk — keen to revive its dwindling economic fortunes — quickly seized that opportunity and offered to rename itself after the departed hero. Today, however, Jim Thorpe’s fame has more to do with the natural beauty that encircles it and its unique blend of historic architecture — than with its evocative name.
One of Milford’s claims to fame is that it is the Birthplace of America’s Conservation Movement. This is in reference to Grey Towers, once the summer abode of the James Pinchot family and later the primary home of Gifford Pinchot. Gifford Pinchot, a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and a member of his informal "Tennis Cabinet," was the founder and first Chief of the US Forest Service. Pinchot coined the term "conservation ethic," especially as it relates to natural resources.
Today, Grey Towers is among Milford’s popular attractions. First-time visitors can relive historic moments at this stunning mansion, embark on a landscape tour — or hike the property’s two scenic trails. If you are looking for a place within town where you can sit outside and relish a phenomenal meal — while enjoying the sound of water, Waterwheel Café, Bakery & Bar is a delicious must-do.
Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a 70,000-acre outdoor paradise that, according to many publications including Conde Nast Traveler, is the most beautiful place in the Keystone State. Delaware Water Gap, however, is one of three river towns nestled at the southern edges of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This town is special in several ways. For starters, it is the only Pennsylvania town that provides full Appalachian Trail through-hiker support. Then again, this speck of a town plays host to the awesome Deer Head Inn, reputed to be the oldest continuously running jazz club in the United States.
There are many things that have made Hawley, a reclining small town that sits at the northernmost edges of Lake Wallenpaupack, a mindblowing Pocono favorite. Hawley, for instance, is home to the Hawley Silk Mill. The Hawley Silk Mill is the largest building constructed of bluestone — not in the Poconos — but in the world. A staple of the town since the 1880s, and located conspicuously above the Paupack Falls, a surreal shimmering water wonder and one of Hawley’s star attractions, the Silk Mill was an innovative masterpiece in its time. It used to channel water from the Paupack Falls through its basement basement to generate electricity — days before Thomas Edison would light up the streets of The Big Apple. To drink the mesmerizing beauty around this fall and mill, you may want to book a room at Ledges Hotel, conveniently located right on this picturesque spot.
Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania
Set in a cool, alpine atmosphere that is sure to banish any whiff of turmoil from your soul, Dingmans Ferry is a Pocono favorite named for a pioneer Dutch settler known as Andrew Dingman. On arrival in the area around 1735, this enterprising settler soon saw the need for reliable transportation across the Delaware River, which was, at the time, the western frontier of the American Colonies.
Using his own hand axe, Andrew Dingman constructed a flatboat around 1750, which he thereafter used as a ferry, hence, Dingmas Ferry. However, a bridge replaced the ferry many years later and breathed even more life into the town. Today, the picturesque Dingmans Bridge is arguably the last privately owned toll bridge on the Delaware River — and one of the few remaining ones in the United States.
If you need a break from the noise of New York City or Philadelphia — and from their ceaseless whirl of cars — Stroudsburg is a nature-wrapped Pennsylvania charmer that should help you regain your sanity. Stroudsburg is easy on the eyes and is a convenient 75 miles from the Big Apple, a driving distance of just about 90 minutes.
One of Stroudsburg’s beloved features is its walkable and attractive downtown. It is also set in a peaceful, bucolic environment, perhaps the reason Travel & Leisure has previously ranked it as among the "10 Best Small Towns To Retire In The US." While the town boasts an impressive menu of attractions, including its well-preserved Colonial architecture, the Sarah Street Grill is a must-do, especially if you are the type who enjoys good food in a nice laid-back atmosphere.
Originally known as "Dyberry Forks," the charming town of Honesdale once served as the terminus of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which, in its time, was arguably the most expensive privately-funded venture in American history. In 1829, and in a move that was more in tandem with its heritage as the “Birthplace of the American Railroad,” the town was renamed for Philip Hone, the maiden president of the D&H Canal Company.
This Pocono treasure sits in a spectacular spot in northeastern Pennsylvania where the Lackawaxen and Dyberry Rivers meet. If you are a first-time visitor, expect to be blown away by the town’s Victorian-style architecture and the heart-ravishing natural scenery that encircles it — and which is best inhaled at Irving Cliff in Gibbons Park.
Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania
While Mount Pocono is not as famous as Jim Thorpe, there are several reasons it strikes the right chord with seasoned vacationers. For instance, once called "Forks" because of its location between two turnpikes, Mount Pocono is home to the Pocono Mountain Carnival, the largest and oldest carnival in the Pocono Mountains region. Every July since 1926, crowds swarm this tiny town looking to tap their feet to live music, sample a tongue-tingling culinary landscape, or, for some whirlpool of adrenaline, enjoy the more than 20 amusement rides suitable for various age groups.
This town also features a decent array of shopping, eating, and outdoor options, including the Mount Pocono Campground. The star of the show, however, and the one property Mount Pocono is perhaps most known for — is the Mount Airy Casino Resort. From the elegant decor, the electrifying waterfall, the ambiance, and the heart-ravishing views, it is just hard to find fault with this iconic, adults-only hotel and casino, whose amenities include a fitness center, a spa, and a stunning waterfront golf course.
This Pocono Mountains town will meet the demands of rest and relaxation on one side — and that of heart-pounding adventure on the other. While the environment around Tannersville is pretty and bucolic and exhibits a suburban feel, complete with a romantic look, it boasts several attractions perfect for vacationers who will want to dabble in some action.
With Camelback Mountain Resort on the town’s doorstep, there is never a dull moment at Tannersville. Camelback is the largest outdoor waterpark in Pennsylvania and the second-largest snow tubing park in the world. The former distinction will enthuse summer adventurers — while the latter will pique the interest of snow bums, as it is among the few year-round ski resorts in the country.
Narrowsburg, New York
Another Pocono favorite that will sweep you off your feet is Narrowsburg, a cute, tiny town sandwiched between the Catskills and the Pocono Mountains. With such a movie-like setting, Narrowsburg is enough evidence that when it comes to beauty, size does not matter. Whether you will want to slow down a bit — or effectively press the pause button, Narrowsburg fits the bill. Because this town sits on the Delaware River, you will enjoy delicious waterfront scenery and spellbinding offerings in a surreal, out-of-this-world ambiance.
Reputed to be one of the hottest-hippest towns in the area, Narrowsburg plays host to a vibrant art community. If you are an art enthusiast, the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, for instance, should be among your first ports of call. But if you want to burn your legs a little — or delight your eyes — Tusten Mountain Trail, located minutes from town, is home to an excellent short hike that leads to a scenic overlook of the Delaware River.
Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania
True to its name, Lake Harmony will teleport you from the jangling discords you are escaping from — to a sweet symphony of ethereal bliss. The landscape that defines this charmer features cascading hills, shimmering glacial lakes, and beautiful, lush forests. The air within Lake Harmony and its environment is clean and crisp, and a far cry from the teary soot you are most likely tired of.
Dotted with state parks and ski resorts, and the serene, eponymous reservoir that lends the town its name, the natural scenes around Lake Harmony are ever-sanguine and buoyant. While you can embark on a 45-minute tour of Lake Harmony’s scenery with the town’s relaxing cruises, ensure you first sate your food cravings at the Terra Cottage Cafe and Gifts, a homey eatery that comes with on-deck seating and gorgeous waterfront views.
Sandwiched between the Susquehanna River to the west and the Hudson to the east, Plains is another Pocono town often ranked among US favorites. The residential neighborhoods within this Pennsylvania gem are quiet and friendly, while the downtown area is vibrant but enticingly slow-paced. The town is bounded by centuries-old farms on one side — while on the other — lies one of the largest economic districts in the Poconos. While you will want to dance the night away at the town’s many nightclubs, Mohegan, Pennsylvania, boasting two casinos and the largest indoor planetarium dome in the world, is one of the most amazing entertainment venues in the area.
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
While the town of Stroudsburg may meet all your expectations and make you feel there is nothing more to explore in the area, you should keep your eyes peeled for East Stroudsburg, a town of about 10,100 located just two miles from Stroudsburg. One of the town’s defining institutions is the East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. This public university was founded in 1893 and therefore, has been a staple of the town for an incredible 130 years. This makes East Stroudsburg a college town and a destination popular with the young at heart. And if you love movies, Pocono Cinema & Cultural Center, a feature of the town since 1884 — and the first of its kind in Monroe County — is worth checking out.
Bushkill is a Pocono US favorite whose backyard features several enticing outdoor attractions. These include the eponymous falls that lends the town its name. Bushkill Falls has been called the "Niagara of Pennsylvania" and plays host to scenic hiking trails and up to eight tumbling waterfalls. This nature-wrapped treasure, because of its rustic beauty, often plants a smile on the face of first-time visitors. One reason for this town’s sprightly look is that it sits within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a surreal setting that imbues the town with a tasty, picture-perfect appearance visitors often fall in love with. While it does not boast giant malls or glitzy skyscrapers, Bushkill is cozy, peaceful, and enticingly secluded. To the north of the town sits Poconos Park, an all-season 10,000-seat amphitheater that often stages time-stealing shows from some of the finest artists in the state.
The Poconos Mountains region is a vast eye candy that features some of the most dramatic, majestic, and wondrous landscapes in the United States. To explore this beautiful, heart-melting expanse is to inhale captivating scenes and improbable backdrops fit for award-winning movies. From Jim Thorpe, whose postcard-perfect beauty often earns it a coveted spot among America's favorite small towns, to Narrowsburg, one of the hippest towns in the area, the Pocono Mountain region is dotted with a delightful array of small towns, several of which are the favorite vacation getaways in the United States.