Exploring Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County

Stametz Dam along the Shades of Death Trail at Hickory Run State Park.

Hickory Run State Park is a magnificent 15,990-acre recreational area in the western foothills of the Pocono Mountains.

Hickory Run Lake in Carbon County.
Hickory Run Lake.

Featuring more than 40 miles of hiking trails, picturesque waterfalls, unique natural areas, and spectacular scenic overlooks, Hickory Run State Park has a LOT to offer!

Springtime view of Hawk Falls at Hickory Run State Park
Springtime view of Hawk Falls.

Rather than try to describe EVERYTHING to see there, I’m going to describe the highlights of what you can comfortably see during a single day trip to Hickory Run State Park.

Looking out over a portion of the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park.
Looking out over a portion of the Boulder Field, a National Natural Landmark.

I know these sights can all be seen during a single day trip, because I recently did it!

Stametz Dam at Hickory Run State Park
Stametz Dam along the Shades of Death Trail.

Refer to the map below as I describe 7 must-see attractions at Hickory Run State Park, with GPS coordinates provided for each attractions.

Several points of interest at Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County.
Several points of interest at Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County.

7 Must-See Attractions at Hickory Run State Park

Hickory Run State Park sign along Route 534.
Park sign along Route 534.

1. The Visitor Center at Hickory Run State Park

I would highly recommend stopping at the Visitor Center first when beginning your day trip to Hickory Run State Park.

Hickory Run State Park Visitor Center and Park Office.
Visitor Center and Park Office.

Aside from picking up an official map and orienting yourself to the park, the Visitor Center is a wealth of information about the history of the park, with many excellent interpretive exhibits.

Informational display about the Boulder Field inside the Hickory Run State Park Visitor Center.
Interpretive exhibit about the Boulder Field inside the Visitor Center.

The 2,400-square-foot, self-guided exhibit space opened in 2020 and is definitely worthy of “must-see” status.

Artwork inside the Hickory Run Visitor Center.
Artwork inside the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center is located just off of Route 534 at GPS coordinates 41.02423, -75.68879 – look for the sign below along the road.

Hickory Run State Park sign at the park office entrance on Route 534.
Park sign at the Visitor Center entrance on Route 534.

2. Fireline Trail Vista

Located in the northwestern corner of the park, Fireline Trail Vista is one of the prettiest scenic overlooks at Hickory Run State Park.

Fireline Trail Vista at HIckory Run State Park.
Fireline Trail Vista.

The parking area is located along Route 534 at GPS coordinates 41.03325, -75.73311.

Fireline Trail parking area along Route 534 in Carbon County.
Fireline Trail parking area along Route 534 in Carbon County.

The hike to the vista is a half-mile long (one way), and follows an old forest road with very little elevation change (less than 100 feet).

Fireline Trail at HIckory Run State Park.
Fireline Trail.

Once you reach the Fireline Trail Vista (GPS coordinates 41.03174, -75.74041), you’ll have a commanding view of the Lehigh River, remnants of an old railroad bridge, and Lehigh Gorge State Park, on the opposite side of the river.

Fireline Trail Vista in the northwestern corner of HIckory Run State Park.
Fireline Trail Vista in the northwestern corner of the park.

3. Chapel Falls

Chapel Falls is a scenic man-made spillway along Hickory Run, directly in front of a chapel that is one of the few remnants of the ghost town of Hickory Run.

The chapel at HIckory Run State Park.
The chapel isa remnant of the ghost town of Hickory Run.

You can park directly across from the chapel, along Route 534, at GPS coordinates 41.02437, -75.71034.

Chapel Falls at HIckory Run State Park.
Chapel Falls.

If you walk downstream approximately 50 yards, you’ll encounter a bridge over Hickory Run and a view of a second spillway below the chapel.

Downstream view of Chapel Falls at Hickory Run State Park.
Downstream view of Chapel Falls.

4. Shades of Death Trail

Despite the ominous-sounding name, the Shades of Death Trail is one of the most enjoyable trails at Hickory Run State Park.

The Shades of Death Trail at Hickory Run State Park.
The Shades of Death Trailhead.

This rocky trail follows Sand Spring Run as it meanders through rhododendron thickets and unique rock formations.

The Shades of Death Trail at Hickory Run State Park.
The Shades of Death Trail.

Along the trail you’ll pass the remains of logging mills and dams dating back to the early 1800s.

Fall foliage around Stametz Dam at Hickory Run State Park.
Fall foliage around Stametz Dam.

The first European colonists named the area “Shades of Death” for the dark forests, numerous swamps, and rocky, unfarmable soil they encountered; the ensuing lumbering era resulted in that entire dark forest being clear-cut.

Reflections on the reservoir above Stametz Dam.
Reflections on the reservoir above Stametz Dam.

The Shades of Death Trail parking area is located directly across Route 534 from Chapel Falls, at GPS coordinates 41.02448, -75.70989.

Shades of Death Trailhead at Hickory Run State Park
Shades of Death Trailhead and bridge.

The popular Stametz Dam along the Shades of Death Trail is located approximately 500 yards west of the trailhead, at GPS coordinates 41.02457, -75.70524.

Stametz Dam Spillway along the Shades of Death Trail at Hickory Run State Park
Stametz Dam Spillway along the Shades of Death Trail.

5. Hickory Run Lake

Hickory Run Lake is located along Boulder Field Road, with roadside parking at GPS coordinates 41.04355, -75.68536.

Hickory Run Lake at HIckory Run State Park.
Hickory Run Lake.

A man-made lake, there is a attractive spillway below the breast of the dam.

Spillway at Hickory Run Lake.
Spillway at Hickory Run Lake.

6. The Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park

Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1967, the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park is touted as the best example of a boulder landscape in the eastern United States.

The massive Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park.
The massive Boulder Field is 1,800 feet long and 400 feet wide.

The Boulder Field is 400-feet wide, 1,800-feet long, and 10 to 12-feet deep.

Fall foliage at the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park.
Fall foliage at the Boulder Field.

During the last Ice Age, the combination of freeze-thaw cycles and and frost-heave broke-up sheets of bedrock, helping to form the Boulder Field.

History of the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park.
History of the Boulder Field.

You can learn more about the formation of the Boulder Field from informational signs near the adjacent parking area.

How the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park was formed.
How the Boulder Field was formed.

For me personally, the Boulder Field is the most fascinating sight to see at Hickory Run State Park, because it is so unique in the eastern United States.

A lone tree standing in the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park.
A lone tree standing in the Boulder Field.

You can find the Boulder Field parking area at GPS coordinates 41.05080, -75.64584.

Hickory Run Boulder Field National Natural Landmark plaque.
Hickory Run Boulder Field National Natural Landmark plaque next to the parking area.

7. Hawk Falls

Hawk Falls is a breathtaking 25-foot tall waterfall named after the Hawk family that once farmed the land near the Hawk Fall trailhead along Route 534.

Hawk Falls at Hickory Run State Park in October, 2021.
Hawk Falls in October, 2021.

The Hawk Falls parking area is located at GPS coordinates 41.01073, -75.63397.

Map to Hawk Falls at Hickory Run State Park
Map to Hawk Falls.

The hike to Hawk Falls covers roughly a half-mile (one-way), and follows a yellow-blazed trail which runs parallel to Hawk Run, crossing over the stream via a bridge just above the falls.

Bridge along the Hawk Falls Trail at HIckory Run State Park.
Bridge along the Hawk Falls Trail.

You can read my in-depth article on Hawk Falls HERE.

Hawk Falls at Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County, PA.
Hawk Falls in Carbon County, PA.

So there you have it – directions to 7 must-see attractions at Hickory Run State Park, making for an action-packed day trip or weekend adventure!

The Boulder Field on an October afternoon at Hickory Run State Park.
The Boulder Field on an October afternoon.

Nearby Attractions

Riding the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the landscapes of the Lehigh Gorge.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe, PA.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe, PA.

Departing from Jim Thorpe, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway takes you north through the Lehigh Gorge, crossing the Lehigh River and into the heart of Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Passing over the Lehigh River on the fall foliage train out of Jim Thorpe.
Passing over the Lehigh River on the fall foliage train out of Jim Thorpe.

The Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe is a steep but easy-to-follow trail leading up Mount Pisgah to a pair of fantastic Carbon County vistas.

The Lehigh Gorge Overlook at the top of the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.
The Lehigh Gorge Overlook at the top of the Mount Pisgah Trail in Jim Thorpe.

Buttermilk Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park is a cascading waterfall along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail, 1/4 mile north of the Rockport Access to the park and rail trail.

Buttermilk Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Buttermilk Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Luke’s Falls at Lehigh Gorge State Park is an easy 1/4 mile hike/bike ride south of the Rockport Access along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail.

Fall foliage around Luke's Falls in October, 2021.
Fall foliage around Luke’s Falls in October, 2021.

Turn Hole Tunnel is an abandoned railroad tunnel located near the Glen Onoko access to Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Looking through the Turn Hole Tunnel at Lehigh Gorge State Park towards the north portal.
Turn Hole Tunnel at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

And directly above Turn Hole Tunnel you’ll find Moyer’s Rock Overlook, offering a commanding view of the Lehigh Gorge.

Moyer's Rock Overlook on an October afternoon at Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Moyer’s Rock Overlook on an October afternoon at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Tobyhanna Falls is just minutes east of Hickory Run State Park, in neighboring Monroe County.

Tobyhanna Falls in the PA Pocono Mountains
Tobyhanna Falls in Monroe County.

Tobyhanna Falls is an easy 0.4 mile hike (one way) along the Tobyhanna Creek in the Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area.

The trail to Tobyhanna Falls in Monroe County Pennsylvania
The trail to Tobyhanna Falls in Monroe County.

Tank Hollow Overlook in Carbon County offers visitors a stunning view of a bend in the Lehigh River in the western Poconos.

Panoramic view of Tank Hollow Overlook in the Lehigh Gorge.
Panoramic view of Tank Hollow Overlook in the Lehigh Gorge.

27 Must-See Waterfalls in the Poconos will introduce you to more majestic waterfalls in the area, including the two tallest waterfalls in Pennsylvania!

Raymondskill Falls in Pennsylvania
Upper and middle tiers of Raymondskill Falls in Pike County, PA.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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