Glen Onoko is a very popular hiking destination located near the beautiful town of Jim Thorpe. The glen is located near Lehigh Gorge State Park, but much of the hike is in the game lands. As a result, the trails are not really maintained or blazed well. However, due to the heavy use, the pathway is generally obvious, although steep and eroded in places.
Glen Onoko was once the site of a hotel in the late 1800s. While the hotel is long gone, a lot of the stonework along the trails remain. The waterfalls along Glen Onoko were, and remain, a prime tourist attraction.
This special place is formed where Glen Onoko Run descends steeply down the side of the Lehigh River Gorge, carving its own glen with waterfalls and cascades over ledges and large boulders.
We followed a path under the road and railroad along the scenic Lehigh River. The trail climbed and leveled off along one of the hotel’s old trails. This took us into the glen with large rock outcrops, boulders, and rhododendrons. The creek roared down the steep gradient. We crossed the creek near a large boulder split in half and continued up among cascades and clear pools. The trail crossed the creek again and we were faced with a steep and eroded section. This brought us to the base of Chameleon, or Glen Onoko, Falls. A gown of cascading water formed a veil over slick rock.
Our climb continued to the larger part of the falls as it descended from a large cliff. The trail continued the steep climb over ledges, boulders, and under rhododendrons. This brought us to the top of the falls with a nice view towards Jim Thorpe. My favorite section followed as the trail tunneled under the rhododendrons only to suddenly bring you back to the creek to see two more waterfalls.
We reached the top, passed an open area with a stone fire ring, and reached a gravel road. The plan was to hike the road out to a stunning vista of the Lehigh River Gorge, but we were running out of time. I had heard there was an easier way down via another trail, to form a loop. I had never hiked this trail, but we found it at the stone fire ring, and it gradually descended back down. It appeared to be another old trail from the hotel era and it featured some nice stonework. It is a far better option then descending along Glen Onoko. The trail soon returned us back to the Lehigh River, where kids were jumping in the water from old railroad trestles under the towering cliffs of the gorge.
This is a beautiful place that is worth hiking, even with the crowds. The next time you visit Jim Thorpe, take some time to explore Glen Onoko and the Lehigh River Gorge.