When thinking about taking a mountain vacation, people often consider going to the Poconos or the Catskills. But are they the same thing? Are the Poconos part of the Catskills?
While the Poconos and the Catskills are both part of the Allegheny Plateau, they are distinctively different places. The Catskills are located in New York State and are higher and more rugged. The Poconos are located in Northeastern Pennsylvania and have a more aged, refined feel.
So, where are the Poconos and the Catskills? Is it nice in the Poconos? What airport is best for the Poconos? In the following sections, you will discover the answers to these questions and more.
The Poconos and the Catskills
The Poconos are a mountain chain located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Covering more than 2,500 square miles, the Poconos encompass four separate counties. Geologically, the Poconos are considered to be part of the Allegheny Plateau, which is an offshoot of the Appalachian Mountains. The Allegheny Plateau is enormous, extending into New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
Like the Poconos, the Catskills are part of the Allegheny Plateau. However, the Catskills are located Northeast of the Poconos, in New York state. The Catskills are higher and more rugged than the Poconos: the highest peak in the Poconos is only 2,215 feet in elevation, but the Catskills have more than 30 peaks that rise above 3,500 feet.
So while the Poconos and the Catskills are both part of the Allegheny Plateau and are relatively close together, they are not the same mountain chain or region. And while the Catskills are great, they are not part of the great Keystone State – so we’re going to focus on the Poconos from here out.
Resorts in the Poconos
The Poconos have long been a famous and popular vacation destination. In fact, resorts have existed in the region since 1901, when rival Quaker factions (yes, those Quakers) built competing resorts. They discouraged fancy dress and did not allow guests to consume liquor or dance, but as time went on and competitive pressures increased, the resorts became more accommodating of modern pleasures.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: The Poconos were once known as the Best Honeymoon Destination in the world. In fact, the first heart-shaped tub in the world – and the first champagne-glass-shaped tub – were both built in the Cove Haven Resort in 1968.
One of the best resorts in the Poconos is The Lodge at Woodloch. This adults-only resort is designed to cater to the relaxation needs of busy modern adults. With world-class spa services, high-end cuisine, and a diverse offering of classes and activities, it’s hard to imagine a more relaxing and pampering environment than this top-tier resort.
If you prefer to bring the kids along on your retreat, the regular Woodloch resort property offers a more family-friendly atmosphere and includes plenty of great activities for the kids.
Another excellent family-friendly resort is Skytop Lodge. Beautifully appointed and situated on a scenic hillside, Skytop Lodge is tasteful fun for adults mixed with real-life fun for the kids. You can bask in the luxurious feel of the resort and feel posh while still enjoying s’mores or even a competitive round of paintball with the kids.
As much fun as the luxury resorts are, some of us prefer to be more frugal. In addition to the luxury resorts, there are plenty of excellent hotels and fun Airbnbs in the Poconos. And if you’re a camper, plenty of RV and tent sites are available.
Things To Do in the Poconos
One of the biggest attractions to the Poconos is golf. There are dozens of golf courses in the Poconos, many of which are famous for their classic designs and beautiful scenery. In fact, some of the golf courses in the Poconos were designed by renowned course architects like A.W. Tillinghast, Jack Nicklaus, and Donald Ross.
Wonderful as the golf scene is, many visitors to the Poconos come for the fabulous hiking. Forty-five miles of the Appalachian Trail wind through the Poconos; if you want to hike on this legendary path, you should consider the Mount Minsi loop, a 5-mile trail with sweeping views.
Another excellent destination for hiking, sightseeing, camping, and watersports is Promised Land State Park, which offers more than 3,000 acres of pristine Pennsylvania wilderness for visitors to explore.
If you like a more adrenaline-pumping experience, try whitewater rafting in the Poconos! You can embark on half-day or full-day adventures, or even take rafting trips. If you’re traveling with the family, you can even take family-friendly rafting trips on less aggressive rapids.
For an offbeat stop, head to the No. 9 Coal Mine & Museum. This historical site was an operational coal mine until 2002, when it was shuttered and converted into a museum and tourist attraction. You can walk deep into the mountains and even see the 900-foot-deep elevator shaft that conveyed people, equipment, and coal to the surface from deep within the mine.
Are the Poconos Nice?
The Poconos are renowned for their beauty. Not only will you enjoy the breathtaking vistas and rolling landscapes, but you’ll also enjoy the quaint mountain culture, the engaging adventure courses and waterparks, and the endless outdoor activities.
During the fair-weather months, you can hike, canoe, or raft; during the cold months, you can ski and enjoy the Winter Wonderland of Pennsylvania.
What else is there in the Poconos? Just about anything! Whether you love birdwatching, golfing, parasailing, or fishing, you’ll find plenty to love in the Poconos.
What Airport Do You Fly Into for the Poconos?
The closest airport to the Poconos is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, which is about 40 miles from the Poconos. While it’s not the biggest airport in Pennsylvania, it is served by several major airlines, and it does have basic concessions, including car rentals, so you can hop off the plane and drive right up into the mountains.
If your preferred airline doesn’t serve Wilkes-Barre, you can also fly into Lehigh Valley International Airport. The Lehigh Valley Airport is about 54 miles from the Poconos and is also served by many major air carriers, as well as several car rental companies.
If you prefer to fly to major airports and don’t like riding on regional jets, you can also fly into LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Unfortunately, this airport is about 107 miles away from the Poconos, and getting to the mountains from LaGuardia will require you to drive through the urban traffic around New York City. And while LaGuardia is a much larger airport than Wilkes-Barre or Lehigh Valley, it is also notoriously prone to delays.
What is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Poconos?
The best time of year to visit the Poconos depends on your personal preferences. Many people choose to visit the Poconos during the winter months to engage in activities like skiing and snowshoeing. The region generally gets between 10 and 15 inches of snow per month during the winter, so it’s an excellent destination for winter sports.
During the winter months, the average temperature in the Poconos is in the high 20s, so you’ll need to bring proper winter weather gear. Bring good boots, warm socks, a good jacket, gloves or mittens, and a hat. Dressing in layers is a great way to help keep the cold weather at bay.
After the snow melts, the Poconos really open up. There are many excellent hiking trails, driving tours, golf courses, and other activities that will let you get outside and enjoy the balmy spring weather. However, the spring months are still quite cool, with mean temperatures of about 45 degrees in April and 55 in May. June begins the summer season, and mean daily temperatures climb up into the sixties.
Daytime highs in the summer can approach the 80s. To beat the heat, many visitors to the Poconos engage in watersports. Rafting or canoeing down the rivers and swimming or boating on the lakes are all excellent ways to enjoy the summer weather and take in the scenery of the Poconos. The beautiful summer weather attracts a lot of visitors; June through August is the peak of the tourist season in the Poconos.
As summer rolls into the fall, the temperatures begin to dip back into the 50s on their way back to the winter chill. The dipping temperatures bring on the beautiful colors of Pennsylvania’s fall foliage. The glorious colors of the changing leaves add a pop of color to the crisp Pennsylvania air and make an excellent backdrop for photographs. All in all, the Poconos are a great place to visit year-round: it just depends on what you’re looking for.
The Poconos: Definitely Not the Catskills
While the Poconos and the Catskills do belong to the same major geological feature, they’re distinctively different regions. The Catskills are a more rugged mountain chain located in New York State. The Poconos are a rolling run of mountains in Pennsylvania. More importantly, the Poconos is home to some of the best resorts in America, excellent outdoor activities, and a thriving cultural scene. The Poconos are definitely the best vacation destination in the region!