The Poconos is one of the most beautiful vacation spots in North America. Encompassing about 2,400 square miles, the area features more than 250 miles of hiking trails – plus waterfalls, lush green woods and meandering rivers. It’s a haven for outdoorsy types and Instagrammers, not to mention hundreds of natural wildlife species.
Pennsylvania is home to three official wildlife refuges, including one Poconos location that recently got a big boost. In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially announced the creation of the state’s third wildlife refuge at Cherry Valley in the Pocono Mountains. “This refuge contains many critical ecosystems in the valley, and its protection will provide the greatest opportunity for wildlife preservation, public use and scientific research,” U.S. Congressman Charles W. Dent said in a press release following the announcement.
The Wildlife Service hopes to eventually acquire around 20,500 acres of land. Currently, the project comprises about 2,000 acres of land including a new parcel that was recently purchased for $1.7M. In November 2016, after closing for the winter season, owners of the Cherry Valley Golf Course sold their 193-acre course to the Nature Conservancy for use in the refuge project.
By May of this year, its fairways and greens were already transforming into a home for native birds and small mammals. A new hiking trail system will be plotted through the land, and the existing clubhouse will likely become a visitor’s center for the park. According to the Nature Conservancy, “plans also include transforming greens and fairways into native habitat to attract species found within the broader refuge including bats, bald eagles and other birds of prey, fresh water mussels, wildflowers and migratory birds.”
The transformation of Cherry Valley Golf Course is expected to take several years. In the meantime, visitors are encouraged to explore the marshes and riparian habitats of the existing Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The wetlands here are home to 20,000 migrating raptors, as well as federally protected bog turtles. Nature lovers can also hike the nearby Lacawac Sanctuary at Lake Wallanpaupack and Skytop Lodge luxury resort to experience the pristine beauty of the Pocono Mountains region.
Skytop guests have exclusive access to hiking paths on 5,500 acres. Choose from 14 trails ranging from an easy, family-friendly shoreline walk along the lake to challenging hikes up the steep embankments and switchbacks of Skytop and West Mountains.
One of our favorite moderate trails is the 7.5-mile trek on Goose Pond Road. It’s especially photo-worthy in late summer and fall, when the foliage begins to blaze bright red and yellow. Book a guided hike with your stay or birdwatch the area’s 175 species on your own. Whether you’re vacationing here for two days or two weeks, you’ll surely be impressed by the abundance and diversity of wildlife found in the Poconos.