After attending a board meeting for the Keystone Trails Association this weekend at PEEC, I decided to visit a place that had long been on my list- Stairway Lake. Tucked deep in the Delaware State Forest, high above its namesake river, I knew a hike there would be worthwhile.
It was another sunny, spring day as I drove up Cummins Hill Road. I found a parking area with several other cars, so I presumed it must have been the trailhead. I was soon on the trail, hiking fast, since it was late afternoon. The trail was rolling and easy under hardwoods with many pine saplings. Off to the left was a large meadow. The trail gradually gained elevation, reached an old forest road, and soon thereafter, a trail junction. I kept straight as the trail descended into a small valley with hemlocks, a small stream, and large ledges. I passed a family and asked if the lake was ahead; they said it was.
It was odd to hike up to the lake. I heard cascading water off to the right- Stairway Falls. I soon reached the end of the gradual climb, and there it was, sublime Stairway Lake.
I was immediately impressed by this serene lake, surrounded by pine, tamarack, and spruce. The sun lit across the calm waters, reflecting the clouds in the sky. An odd sight were several daffodils growing in the woods. The area around the lake used to be quarried for bluestone, but little evidence remained of that enterprise.
The lake is unique in that there is a view nearby. I walked over to it to see a group of guys camping for the weekend. They seemed relaxed and friendly, enjoying this special place. Their conversation was subdued in a reflective way. I was a little jealous, wishing I could camp along the shore, and to be free for a few days from a world of stress. But my respite would only be for a few hours, and the lake surely provided it. The guys offered me some of their food and a piece of steak, but I declined. Sunlight was fading on this quick hike and I had to keep moving.
The view was very nice, as it looked down the narrow, winding Delaware River valley into New York.
I returned to the lake and walked part way around it, bushwhacking through lowbush blueberries. One of the guys warned about ticks and he was right; I pulled one off my leg. I reached the shore where there was a beaver path and several chewed trees with an hourglass shape. The views across the lake were breathtaking.
I retraced my steps to the falls, which were not that significant. They tumbled down a series of moss-covered ledges. The ledges appeared to have been quarried, as they were perfectly straight. You won’t find many lakes with a view and falls.
I hiked back up to the lake and walked on the peninsula that juts into it. On it, under a large pine tree, was another campsite. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful one. The campsite was surrounded by the lake and the warm afternoon glow of the sun.
I retraced my steps to the car. Stairway Lake is a gem in the Poconos, and unique in that it is one of the few lakes that can only be reached by hiking in Pennsylvania. Combined with its isolation, natural beauty, a falls, and view, this is truly a unique and special place. As always, please treat it with respect.