Just a few hours from Center City, Philadelphia and New York City, Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountain region is a year-round draw for its ski slopes, hiking trails, quaint towns and scenic highways and byways.

Pack up the car and hit the road to see glacial lakes, historic homes and bridges, and epic views from a mountain summit.

Whether you have a few days or a few hours, here are five road trips to best explore the Poconos.

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Scenic Route 6

Best drive for exploring charming towns

Start – Honesdale; End – Milford; Distance – 35 miles

Route 6 runs through some of the Poconos region’s most charming destinations. Take your time on this 35-mile stretch, starting in the town of Honesdale.

While it’s the birthplace of the American railroad – the first steam locomotive ran on commercial tracks back in 1829 – the town has become a bit of a hot spot in recent years, with the emergence of home-grown coffee shops, boutiques and breweries.

Start at Black & Brass Coffee Co. for a dark roast and gluten-free muffin surrounded by rotating works from a featured artist. If you’re there a little later in the day, don’t miss Here & Now Brewing Company for craft beers and a menu of pizzas, sandwiches and desserts, all made from scratch in-house.

On the way to the next town, stop at the Dorflinger Glass Museum, showcasing the largest collection of cut lead crystal Dorflinger glass in the owner’s original home. (Pieces of the glass have been used in the White House.) Stop into the museum’s gift shop to peruse handmade pieces, from paperweights to jewelry.

About 10 minutes down the road, the next stop is Hawley, Pennsylvania. Situated just north of Lake Wallenpaupack, the town is known for its local beaches and a bounty of lakeside activities like swimming, fishing, and boating.

Visit Main Avenue and its surrounding side streets and stroll through antique shops before hitting the lake. Rent a vessel at Wallenpaupack Scenic Boat Tour & Rentals and spend a few leisurely hours on the water before making your way south on Route 6.

The town of Milford – on the Delaware River on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey – is the north gate to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. There’s plenty to do for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts, including hiking, ziplining and kayaking. Make time to stop in the historic Hotel Fauchere, which housed one of the country’s first in-hotel restaurants.

Best places to swim in the Poconos

Lake Drive

Best drive to see fall foliage

Start – Lake Wallenpaupack; End – Promised Land State Park; Distance – 19 miles

Take Route 507 around the south side of Lake Wallenpaupack, aka Lake Wally. While the waterfront area is jumping during the warmer months, make sure to visit in the fall – especially mid-October to early November – to see the region’s burst of changing leaves.

In addition to pulling over at various lookout points along the route, one of the best ways to see the colors is from a canoe or kayak on the lake. Wallenpaupack Scenic Boat Tour & Rentals has single and tandem kayak rentals, as well as pontoon boats.

Continue on about 10 miles southwest along Route 507 to Greentown, where you can stop at the roadside Greentown Grill. The cozy family-owned spot has indoor seating and picnic tables on an outdoor deck where you can order from the menu of burgers, salads, seasonal barbecue and ice cream.

About eight miles away, make your final stop at Promised Land State Park. After fueling up at lunch, visit the 3000-acre forested park to take in more dramatic fall foliage, and stay for a leisurely hike on one of its trails surrounding creeks, rustic cabins and a glacial lake.

The boardwalk and stairs through Bushkill Falls canyon
Make a stop at Bushkill Falls and explore the beautiful scenery on the network of boardwalks and stairs © Shanshan0312 / Shutterstock

Route 209

Best drive for hiking and family fun

Start – Milford; End – Stroudsburg; Distance – 36 miles

Start in the supremely charming town of Milford – a resort town since the Gilded Age located on the upper Delaware River. Stroll the historic downtown, stopping into boutiques and cafes. The town hosts festivals throughout the year, including a music festival in the summer and a film fest in the fall.

Even the quicker and easier trails among them can lead you to beautiful vistas that show off the surrounding mountains. (In the fall, the area is also known to have some of the best fall foliage views in the country.)

A little over 12 miles down Route 209, find the town of Bushkill, home to Bushkill Falls. The series of eight scenic waterfalls has trails that range in difficulty, but the easiest among them have boardwalks and stairs so even the youngest travelers can get a good look at the majestic surroundings.

Stop in the village of Delaware Water Gap for a bite to eat at the Victorian Era Zoe's Café & Ice Cream Emporium at the historic Castle Inn. While you’re in town, visit the Antoine Dutot Museum & Gallery for a peek into the town’s history, housed in an 1850s-era schoolhouse.

Finally, break off Route 209 and head west on Route 611 toward Stroudsburg. The town is equal parts hip and historic, with several wineries, breweries, and distilleries, plus shops and eateries.

Crafty kids will love walking the aisles at the American Ribbon Factory after feasting on empanadas at the family-friendly A Taste of Brooklyn. Don’t miss the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, which offers an interactive look at a 19th-century Pennsylvania German farmstead.

Two friends in yellow helmets laugh and scream as their raft travels through rapids
Take a break from the road and tackle the rapids in Lehigh Gorge State Park © Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

Route 903

Best drive for spring and summer adventures

Start – Jim Thorpe; End – Hickory Run State Park; Distance – 43 miles

The town of Jim Thorpe, named for the Native American (of the Sac and Fox Nation) gold medal Olympian, is well worth a visit on its own – especially during May when festivities celebrate Thorpe’s birthday.

Make one of the local B&Bs your home base, and carve out time to explore the town’s historic sites, including the Old Jail Museum and the Asa Packer Mansion, the eponymous home of coal and railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh University.

Set out north to Lehigh Gorge State Park, where you’ll find over 6000 acres filled with waterfalls, hiking trails, fishing and white water rafting. Tackle class I, II, and III rapids on the Lehigh River with an outfitter like Adventure Center at Whitewater Challengers. The local guide offers a range of options, including the three-hour “easy whitewater rafting in the Poconos” for ages four and up.

In the late afternoon, continue on to Hickory Run to hike over the cool and unique boulder field within the 15,990-acre state park.

Finish the day with dinner at Roadies Restaurant and Bar for live music and views of the mountains from the outdoor patio.

Roebling Suspension Bridge Spanning the Delaware River with Pennsylvania in the Background
Take in the stunning views from Roebling Bridge before heading south to Camelback Mountain © Boogich / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Bridge and Summit

Best drive for history and scenic views

Start – Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct; End – Big Pocono State Park; Distance – 50 miles

The oldest existing suspension wire bridge in the country is located in the Poconos. Start the day at Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct, also called Roebling Bridge, which was once one of four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canal starting in 1847.

The bridge is named after the architect who designed it, John A. Roebling, who would later engineer the Brooklyn Bridge. One car at a time can traverse the one-lane bridge that connects Minisink Ford, New York and Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, but it’s better to park and walk across the pedestrian walkway to take in the views of the Delaware River.

On the way to Camelback, take route 390 south and stop for a burger and local craft beer at the Taproom at Skytop Lodge, a historic lakeside hotel.

Continue another 18 miles south to Big Pocono State Park, where you can drive to the summit of Camelback Mountain. The 1306-acre park has 8.5 miles of hiking trails that lead to stunning panoramic views of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.

But a 1.4-mile paved road also takes you to the top, encircling the mountain, and makes for a perfect end to a scenic afternoon drive.

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