The 15,990-acre Hickory Run State Park, Carbon County, lies in the western foothills of the Pocono Mountains. This large park has over 40 miles of hiking trails, three state park natural areas and miles of trout streams. Boulder Field, a striking boulder-strewn area, is a National Natural Landmark.
A large picnic area is near Sand Spring Lake which has a swimming beach, disc golf and orienteering. There are hundreds of picnic tables, restrooms, playground equipment, drinking water and trash containers. A picnic pavilion may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. If unreserved it is free on a first-come, first-served basis.
A sand beach at Sand Spring Lake is open from late May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Please read and follow posted rules for swimming. Swim at your own risk. A snack bar has sandwiches, drinks, ice cream and snacks.
Anglers find excellent sport in many of the streams and lakes within the park boundaries. Some streams are stocked with brook and brown trout. Mud Run is a delayed harvest, artificial lure only stream. The lower 2.9 miles of Hickory Run, from near the Saylorsville Dam to the Lehigh River, is a catch and release fishing only area.
Fishing is discouraged in Sand Spring Lake and is prohibited in the swimming area.
The Lehigh River, which flows along the western boundary of the park, has warm-water game fish, trout and panfish. Francis E. Walter Dam, about 20 minutes north of the park, provides boating and angling for trout and warm-water game fish. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply.
Hiking: 44 miles of trails
Every trail in the park can be hiked. Explore Trails for trail descriptions.
Blue-blazed trails allow cross-country skiing. Orange-blazed trails allow snowmobiling.
The trails lead through areas rich in historic and scenic interest. This is especially true from mid-June until mid-July when the mountain laurel and rhododendron are in bloom and again in mid-October at the height of the fall foliage.
Biking is prohibited on all trails at Hickory Run State Park, but is permitted at nearby Lehigh Gorge State Park on the rail-trail.
A 19-hole disc golf course is in the Sand Spring Day Use Area. The course is flat, moderately wooded and has crushed stone tees, basket holes and is about one mile in length. Please be cautious of picnickers when playing the first ten holes.
The three permanent orienteering courses in the park are a joint venture of the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association (www.dvoa.org) and the Pocono Orienteering Club (www.dvoa.org). The beginner course in the Sand Spring Day Use Area takes at least an hour to complete. An advanced course begins near the Saylorsville Dam and takes about four hours to complete. Detailed maps are available at the park office.
In this high tech treasure hunting game a Web site lists hidden containers called geocaches that players using GPS devices locate outdoors. Park staff and individuals have placed many caches in the park. Brochures on several educational caches developed by the park are available at the park office. Geocachers interested in placing a new cache within the park must contact the park office. www.geocashing.com
Stay the Night
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
The large tent and trailer camping area has modern restrooms with warm showers, a sanitary dump station, a forested section and a grassy, more open section. A camp store has general camping supplies, ice, firewood and food.
The campground has modern facilities from the second Friday in April until the third Sunday in October when the dump station and all facilities with running water close for the season. Rustic camping continues until mid-December. Pets are permitted on designated sites.
Attention All Campers: Because of an active bear population, overnight guests are required to store all food and any scented items such as toothpaste, deodorant, and dish soap in their vehicle while away from their site. This includes when leaving the site for even a short period of time, day or night. Park staff will enforce these rules and failure to comply may result in a citation.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 2 host positions
The campground host site amenities include 50-amp electric service and an allowance of one pet site. Hosts are required to assist park personnel for 40 hours per week, which includes weekends. A three-week minimum stay is required. Contact the park office for additional information and availability.
Three cottages in the campground feature wooden walls and floors, windows, porch, electric baseboard heat, lights and electric outlets. Each cottage sleeps five people in a single bunk and single/double bunk.
Organized Group Tenting:
Nonprofit adult and youth groups can rent one or more of the 13 group sites. Across PA 534 from the campground, this rustic area is open year-round and has picnic tables, fire rings, non-flush toilets and water spigots.
Organized Group Cabin Camps:
Camp Daddy Allen holds 124 people and Camp Shehaqua holds 149 people. The camps are open from the second Friday in April through the third Sunday in October. Located in a wooded setting with adjacent play fields, the camps share a swimming pool that is open from about June 1 to Labor Day. Groups must supply their own certified lifeguards.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
The 14 miles of designated trails are marked with blue blazes.
The 21 miles of designated trails are marked with orange blazes.
When conditions permit, Sand Spring Lake is available for ice skating. Ice thickness is not monitored.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Diverse habitats and forest types, extensive wild areas and unique geological formations make Hickory Run an excellent outdoor classroom. From March to November, an environmental education specialist conducts hands-on activities, guided walks and presentations on the natural and historical resources for school groups, scouts, civic organizations and the general public. Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Group programs must be arranged in advance by calling the park office. Teacher workshops are available.
About 20,000 years ago, a giant sheet of ice at least one mile thick straddled Hickory Run. The western part of the park, including Hickory Run Lake, was underneath the glacier. The land to the east is higher and was not covered by the glacier, but was greatly affected by the cold climate. Boulder Field was created in this unglaciated area.
The western side of the park is covered in the end moraine of the glacier. Like a giant bulldozer, the glacier scraped the land, and rocks, sand and other debris was pushed along and frozen to the glacier. When the glacier melted and retreated, this debris was dropped, making a landscape of bogs and glacial till called a moraine.
The rocky soil of the area is called glacial till. The steep valleys of the western side of the park were carved by the billions of gallons of water that streamed away from the melting glacier. To see the change in the landscape, observe the terrain and trees as you drive Boulder Field Road. The boundary is at Hickory Run Lake on the way to Boulder Field.
The eastern side of the park did not escape the melting glacial water. Before the glacier, Hawk Run and Mud Run probably gently flowed together. But, Hawk Run drains the highlands of the unglaciated side of the park. Mud Run drains glaciated land from east of the park. The floodwaters from the melting glacier eroded Mud Run quicker than Hawk Run, creating the spectacular waterfall, Hawk Falls.
The habitats of the glaciated side of the park are characterized by sphagnum moss bogs, evergreen trees and thin, moist soil. Blackburnian warbler, red-breasted nuthatch and northern waterthrush are common to this habitat. In the spring, spotted and Jefferson salamanders and wood frogs migrate to the bogs to breed.
The habitats of the unglaciated side of the park are characterized by beech and chestnut oak trees on predominantly flat land. American redstart, red-eyed vireo and scarlet tanager are common to this habitat.
At the campground, that straddles the two areas, you can hear six species of thrush-American robin, wood thrush, hermit thrush, Swainson’s thrush, veery and eastern bluebird.
In early May, before any trees have leaves, the serviceberry trees flower. In mid-June, the plentiful mountain laurel blooms, followed in late June to early July by the rhododendron. In mid-July, the highbush blueberries bear fruit, providing a feast for bears, birds and many other animals.
Hickory Run has three state park natural areas, one of which is also a National Natural Landmark. A state park natural area is an area within a state park of unique scenic, geologic or ecological value that will be maintained in a natural condition by allowing physical and biological processes to operate, usually without direct human intervention. These areas are set aside to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.
This rocky landscape is a National Natural Landmark and state park natural area. Boulder Field appears striking because of its flatness and the absence of vegetation over the large area of 400 feet by 1,800 feet. Some of the boulders are 26 feet long.
This remote, emergent wetland is dominated by spruce trees and is a good example of a habitat more common in boreal areas.
This remote, nearly pristine mountain stream is lined with rhododendron and eastern hemlock. The stream has a viable native brook trout population.
The Bear Truths
Many Pennsylvania state parks are habitat for black bears. Although they appear cute and cuddly like a teddy bear, black bears are wild animals.
A black bear can scramble up a tree like a raccoon and sprint as fast as a race horse. Bears use their claws to tear apart rotting logs to find food, and those claws also work well to open garbage cans and coolers. The size and strength of a black bear is astonishing.
Black bears have poor eyesight and fair hearing, but an excellent sense of smell. Aromatic scents coming from your personal items can attract a curious and hungry bear from a great distance. Bears are attracted to the smell of toothpaste, deodorants, air fresheners, food and even the clothes worn while cooking. Store all such items inside a vehicle. At primitive, walk-in campsites, suspend food between two trees, ten feet in the air and three feet from either tree.
Black bears normally avoid people, but bears dependent on eating human food can become aggressive when people get between them and food.
If you come in contact with a black bear, try chasing it away by making loud noises like yelling, honking a car horn or banging a pot. Notify a park employee if you have difficulties with bears.
Never approach a bear and be especially wary of mother bears and cubs.
Devastation and regrowth is the history of the land that would become Hickory Run State Park. The last ice advance halted in the park, covering half of the park in ice and making an arctic-like climate. The glacier eradicated most life present at the time and left as its legacy a region of poor, rocky soil that is almost impossible to farm.
The first humans to the area found dark forests of evergreens and seemingly bottomless swamps and bogs. Hickory Run became territory claimed by the Lenni Lenape, Susquehannock and the Iroquios Nation, but no known American Indian settlements occurred in the area. The first colonists named the area “Shades of Death” for the dark forests, numerous swamps and rocky, unfarmable soil.
After the American Revolution, the government encouraged settlement by giving away land for free, in warrants of about 400 acres. Cuthbert, Ord, Cist and Decatur were some of the original land grantees. Most did not settle in the area, but sold their warrants. Robert Morris purchased land in 1794. Morris is known as the “financier of the American Revolution” and signed all three important early American documents.
In 1838, the Upper Grand Section of the Lehigh Canal was completed on the Lehigh River and ushered in the boom time for the region. Enterprising men like David Saylor and Isaac and Stephen Gould erected mills on the streams. In 1839, there were six mills on Hickory Run and two mills on Mud Run, then called Muddy Run. A town arose on the banks of Hickory Run and boasted one of the earliest post offices in the county.
A stagecoach road between Allentown and Wilkes-Barre was built through the area and the town of Saylorsville arose, just upstream of Hickory Run. The hotel in town could sleep 150 people. The road has become Stage Trail, and foundations are all that remain of the town.
Loggers clear-cut the forests but did no replanting, which contributed to flooding. In 1849, several dams broke on Hickory Run, flooding the towns of Saylorsville and Hickory Run. At least seven people died and most were buried in the small cemetery near the park office. The blacksmith, Jacob West, lost four of his children and his wife, yet survived them for 40 years until being buried alongside them.
The flood, one of many, only slowed the removal of the trees. Forest fires became a problem on the cleared land. In 1875, the Great Fire began near Mud Run and smoldered for several days before sweeping north to Monroe County. The fire destroyed many mills and houses and damaged cut and standing timber. The population began to dwindle.
The park office, the Manor House, a residence, a barn and the Chapel are all structures that remain from the old town of Hickory Run. Other traces of the town include a cemetery, foundations and roads.
Little is known of the time between the 1890s and 1918. Forest fires raged and floods carried away the soil. Not since the glacier had the land been so devastated.
In 1918, Allentown millionaire General Harry C. Trexler began buying land. Trexler began his career as a clerk, but soon branched into logging and other industries, becoming a wealthy businessman and philanthropist. Trexler purchased the land at Hickory Run for one purpose:
“I would like to see Hickory Run developed into a state park where families can come and enjoy wholesome recreation.”
-Lehigh County Historical Society, The General and His Captain, 1984
Trexler opened his land to public hunting and fishing. One thousand acres were fenced off to propagate game animals and a fish hatchery was established. Wardens patrolled the propagation area, and part of the path they walked has become Gamewire Trail. Trexler died before his plans could be completed.
In 1935, the National Park Service purchased Hickory Run to create a national recreation demonstration area. These areas were placed near large urban centers to provide fresh air recreation for lower class urban dwellers. In 1936, Works Progress Administration workers arrived and began building roads, trails, fire roads, water lines and the group camps. In 1939, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established Camp NP-6. The CCC camp was adjacent to the current campground by the CCC Dam. A playground and open field now occupy the site where 200 young men had their camp.
In 1945, the Hickory Run National Recreation Demonstration Area was transferred to Pennsylvania and became Hickory Run State Park.
Why Hickory Run?
Run is a colloquial name for a stream. Most of the local streams are called runs, but why Hickory Run when there are so few hickories in the area?
A logical theory is that when settlers arrived in the area they found many hickory trees. The logging era could have removed the trees, but there are very few hickory trees in the park today. If there once were many trees, there should have been a good seed base to regrow the hickories. This theory cannot be proven unless logging records can be discovered.
The other theory for the name is based on a story from the early inhabitants of the town of Hickory Run. They say that the first explorers up the stream valley found a huge hickory tree surrounded by pine trees. This unique tree formation inspired the name. Recent explorations of the lower reaches of Hickory Run have failed to discover the huge hickory tree or the pine grove, but the story and name live on.
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