Bear Creek Preserve is located south of Wilkes Barre, along PA 115 and is owned by Natural Lands. The preserve covers almost 3,600 acres and features miles of hiking trails. Bear Creek Preserve is a part of a network of protected lands that now covers 150,000 acres across the Pocono region. Over the years, it has become a popular outdoor destination with its overlook, cascades, waterfalls, and large rocks. The highlight is beautiful Shades Creek and its rapids, cascades, pools, giant hemlock and pine, rhododendron jungles and a swinging bridge.
All the trails at the preserve have a certain color. My favorite loop is one that follows the yellow, green, red, and gray trails. From the parking area we went up the hill along the yellow trail and followed a road for a short distance. We then veered right off the road into the woods with hardwoods and laurel. The terrain was rolling and enjoyable to hike. Where the yellow trail split, we turned left and hiked to a nice view from some rock ledges. The view looked over the valley of Shades Creek. The trail followed the top of the rock ledges and then met a green trail, where we turned left. The green trail descended and met the red trail, where we turned right and hiked to a small stream with a footbridge and a nice cascading waterfall just downstream.
The red trail explored hardwoods with laurel and rock outcrops. We descended to rhododendrons along Shades Creek and turned left onto the gray trail. We crossed the swinging bridge and followed the gray trail up along the creek with excellent scenery. There were waterfalls, cascades, deep pools, giant hemlock and pine, and extensive rhododendron jungles. The streamside hiking was exceptional. In places, the forests were stunning with the large trees, moss, and the pristine creek. Shades Creek flowed along ledges with pools and stairstep cascades. The trail moved away from the creek and into hardwoods, but then returned to more rhododendrons.
We reached a side trail that led to a view across Shades Creek of a 15 foot falls formed on a tributary. The trail climbed up through the jungles of rhododendrons above the creek, passing more large hemlocks, and a seasonal stream with a cascade. We crossed a log footbridge, turned right on the red trail, and returned to the car.
Bear Creek Preserve is a truly beautiful place to explore. The trails are in good shape, well marked, and most stream crossings have bridges. Some areas are wet, and you can miss some trail junctures if you are not paying attention. Take time you go hiking, be sure to check out Bear Creek.
We parked at 41.182291, -75.704073. The loop is about 4-5 miles long.