I think the Lehigh River Gorge is one of PA’s crown jewels, and probably its greatest canyon. It is also, in many ways, a best-kept secret. Yes, the gorge is famous for its whitewater and bike trail. But without the access to vistas and trails as found at Pine Creek, its wonders have remained largely hidden. The Lehigh Gorge is home to a world that few see. A world that once attracted John James Audubon. I’ve long wanted to explore more of this place.
The Lehigh stands apart in the state for its vast and rugged gorge. Tiers of cliffs and ledges adorn the steep slopes as the sound of rapids fill the air. There is no other place like in in the state. From these cliffs are countless vistas. Even more remarkable are the side streams as they flow through incredible gorges with rapids, waterfalls, pine and hemlock forests, and rhododendron jungles. Jeans Run and Glen Onoko are known for their beauty.
I decided to try to unlock the beauty of the Lehigh Gorge.
My goal was, at first, simple-to see Tank Hollow Vista. I parked at a game lands parking area and followed a gravel road. The gated road was open, but I decided to walk it in anyway. The road was in good shape. The sun was hot and bright. I looked ahead to see a black mass- a bear. She looked back at me and then I saw several cubs bouncing through the undergrowth. I stopped, hoping they would move deeper into the woods. They didn’t. The bears promptly climbed a tree right next to the road I was walking. Oh great, I thought. The dexterity and strength of these bears were amazing. Even the large mother climbed the tree with ease, as the cubs hung onto the top branches, looking at me. I walked around them in the woods, giving them a wide berth and returned to the road. The mom looked at me anxiously. I quickly walked away on the road.
The road passed another gate and descended. I then noticed a wide, obvious trail to the right. I took it. The level trail explored scenic woodlands as it headed northwest. The forest became more beautiful with pine and rhododendron. I noticed a well-used trail to the right. I continued straight into a jungle of rhododendron that soon opened up to a cliff and vista. The vista was stunning as it looked down onto a sharp bend in the river with views both up and down the Lehigh. I could see and hear the rapids. The gorge was rugged, wild, untamed. I sat there to take in the beauty. Cliffs were along the rim with gnarled, twisted pine trees. I could look down into Tank Hollow Run, to hear the roar of its hidden waterfalls. The sunset would be amazing here.
I retraced my steps. The hike to the vista was easy, so I was looking for a reason to extend the hike. I saw a trail to the right (or on the left if walking to the vista). This trail crossed a creek and went through the woods. It was fairly well-established, but didn’t go anywhere from what I could tell. I returned to the main trail. Nearby was the side trail I passed previously, now on my left. I took it since I’m never one to pass up on a trail when I don’t know where it goes to. My hope was that it led down to Stony Creek, where I knew there was a waterfall. The obvious trail descended through the woods, passed above a talus slope and entered thick rhodos. Here, the trail seemed to disappear, but with a little effort, I found it again as it dropped steeply across rock slopes and under huge hemlocks. I passed a cliff dripping with springs and reached the bottom of the gorge at the railroad. Powerful rapids were in the Lehigh. The gorge was as beautiful from the bottom as it was from the top. I walked upstream an soon reached Stony Creek. An obvious trail was on the south side of the creek. The beauty was stunning- a deep gorge with rapids, boulders, cliffs, and pools. The creek flowed over waterslides and I soon reached a gorgeous 20 foot falls. Nearby was an abandoned dynamite shed embedded under a cliff. The obvious trail continued upstream, through rhodo tunnels and under large pine and hemlock. The scenery was non-stop. Cliffs and talus slopes covered the gorge. The trail crossed the creek over two trees. I turned around, retracing my steps and enjoying the incredible beauty of Stony Creek.
I returned to the railway and headed downstream to Tank Hollow Run. I walked a little ways up the creek to see massive, slanted bedrock slabs with non-stop cascades. It was beautiful. I could only imagine what was further up the creek in the jungles of rhodos.
I climbed the steep trail back up, which was easier to follow. I reached the original trail that went to the vista and retraced my steps, impressed by the incredible beauty of the Lehigh Gorge.
More photos and videos.
Map of Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Location of the vista on Google maps.
Location of Stony Creek Falls on Google maps.
The hike to Tank Hollow Vista is easy!
- Park at the large game commission parking area on Behrens Road. N 40 56.502 W 075 40.350
- Walk the road for about a mile and a half to an obvious trail on the right. N 40 56.740 W 075 41.513. If the gate is open, you can drive to this trail, the road is in good shape.
- Follow the unblazed trail for about a half mile to Tank Hollow Vista. N 40 56.918 W 075 41.982. The view is spectacular. Be careful along the cliff, the pebbly conglomerate can be slippery when it is wet.
Want to go to Stony Creek and Tank Hollow Run? This hike is much harder, but worth it.
- At this trail intersection, only about 800 feet east of the vista, follow this obvious, unblazed trail north. N 40 56.906 W 075 41.873
- The trail makes a gradual descent through the woods. The trail steepens, crosses the top of a rock slope and enters rhododendrons, where it can be harder to find the trail.
- At this large tree, turn left and cross the rock slope.
- At this double tree, the trail turns right. N 40 57.227 W 075 41.979
- Go through the rhododendrons on a trail, you will see some cut branches. The trail gets steeper. Reach a large hemlock, where the trail turns left. N 40 57.257 W 075 42.050
- Trail is steep down a rock slope, turn right at large hemlock. Continue descent beneath a cliff with dripping springs. Continue to steep descent to railroad. N 40 57.219 W 075 42.079
- To see Stony Creek, head north to N 40 57.291 W 075 42.126.
- Turn right onto an obvious trail along Stony Creek, enjoy the superb scenery with waterfalls, rapids, pools, and extensive rhododendron tunnels. The trail follows the south side of the creek. I turned around where the trail crosses the creek on two logs. N 40 57.369 W 075 41.732
- To see Tank Hollow Run, return to the railroad and hike downstream along the Lehigh River. Tank Hollow Run is at N 40 57.062 W 075 42.133. Follow trails a short distance upstream to see massive, tilted bedrock slabs and many cascades.
- Retrace your steps back to the car.
The hike is about 4 miles to the vista alone, and about 7 miles if you include Stony Creek and Tank Hollow Run.