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Parks & Lakes
January 22, 2024
Things to See & Do in Pinchot State Forest
Jonathan Davies
Writer
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Enjoy Nearly 50,000 Acres of State Forest Throughout 5 Counties

Pinchot State Forest spreads out over nearly 50,000 acres encompassing portions of the Pocono Plateau and the Susquehanna and Lackawanna River valleys. Nine forest tracts and three recreational areas can be accessed within Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wyoming, Susquehanna and Wayne counties. The forest started in 1902 as the Commonwealth began acquiring thousands of timber-harvested acres left barren by the early industrial revolution of the 19th century.

Pinchot State Forest was named after influential conservationist, former U.S. Division of Forestry Chief and former PA Governor, Gifford Pinchot. The early 20th century politician and conservationist, along with the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for over 200 million acres of forest land falling under the protection and management of the federal government. As Governor, Pinchot is also credited with inspiring the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps through his innovative forest work camps.

 

Moon Lake Recreation Area, Hunlock Creek, PA

 

Today, Pinchot State Forest has become a NEPA favorite for outdoor recreation. The forest features plenty of hiking trails, lakes and streams and waterfalls. There are over 16 miles of accessible gravel roads, opportunities for fishing and hunting, winter recreation and more. Pinchot’s Thornhurst Tract in Lackawanna County includes Spruce Swamp Natural Area. The designated natural area protects over 80 acres of glacial bog and several native plant species.

Like all of Pennsylvania’s state forest lands, PA DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry manages Pinchot State Forest. Each forest within the state system functions as a dedicated “working forest.” In that regard, PA DCNR protects and maintains state forest lands for a variety of different uses. Often, the PA DCNR utilizes state forest land for access to pure water, recreation, plant and animal habitat, responsible harvest of timber and natural gas among many more uses.

Recreation Areas

Seven Tubs Recreation area, Wilkes-Barre, PA

 

Endless opportunities for outdoor fun.

Pinchot State Forest also includes three popular recreation areas. The 537-acre Seven Tubs Recreation Area in Wilkes-Barre features 2 hiking trails. The Main Loop is a 0.3-mile trail that runs along the waterfalls and pools or “Tubs” of Wheel Barrow Run. The Audubon Loop Trail is a more adventurous, 1.8-mile trail that follows along Laurel Run. The Seven Tubs also includes plenty of parking.

*Note: Seven Tubs Recreation Area remains temporarily closed due to construction projects.

The 700-acre, Moon Lake Recreation Area in Hunlock Creek offers 18 miles of multi-use trails, a 48-acre lake, campsites and much more. Moon Lake has become a popular destination for mountain biking. It features well-maintained, single-track trails and 2 miles of administrative roads. Fishing and boating are also popular activities on Moon Lake. Only non-motorized craft, or electric motors are permitted. The recreation area also offers 12 rustic campsites that are available with a free permit.

 

Moon Lake Recreation Area, Hunlock Creek, PA

 

Manny Gordon Recreation Area in Thornhurst Township features the 26-mile Pinchot Trail. The moderate grade trail runs through dense forests, along bogs and wetlands and the famous Choke Creek Falls. There are several smaller side trails and loop trails throughout the Manny Gordon along with a marked, 28-mile snowmobile trail. The area also provides three rustic campsites and two picnic pavilions.

 

How You Can Enjoy Pinchot State Forest in NEPA

 

Seven Tubs Nature Area - Parks - Hiking - DiscoverNEPA
Seven Tubs Recreation area, Wilkes-Barre, PA

 

Hiking, sightseeing and more all year round.

Pinchot State Forest features a multitude of recreational activities. Most forest tracts offer several parking areas and proximity to nearby towns and amenities. In some locations, the forest also connects to adjacent PA State Game Lands, designated Natural Areas, and State Park land.

 

Moon Lake Recreation Area, Hunlock Creek, PA

 

Hiking, Mountain Biking & Horseback Riding

Pinchot State Forest features plenty of trails and roads throughout its nine forest tracts and three recreational areas. All trails within the forest are open to hiking. Three notable trails – the Pinchot Trail, the North Pocono Trail System and the Watres Loop offer longer excursions. You’ll also find plenty of shorter loop trails throughout the forest system.

Unless specifically posted, most trails and roads within Pinchot State Forest permit mountain biking. This includes the 26-mile Thornhurst Snowmobile Trail. Bikes are not permitted on Pinchot Trail, Watres Loop or within the Spruce Swamp Natural Area.

Horseback riding is allowed on 39 miles of shared-use trails and state forest roads with in the forest, including the Thornhurst Snowmobile Trail. Horses are not permitted on Pinchot Trail, Watres Loop or within the Spruce Swamp Natural Area.

Hunting & Fishing

With the exception of Moon Lake Recreation Area, Seven Tubs Recreation Area and Manny Gordon Recreation Area, hunting is permitted throughout all other areas of Pinchot State Forest. Common game pursued within the forest are deer, black bear, turkey, grouse, coyote, squirrels and more. The Pennsylvania Game Commission regulates all hunting activities within the state forest.

Anglers will find plenty of opportunities to trout fish in several creeks and streams throughout Pinchot State Forest. Moon Lake and Ceasetown Reservoir also offer the chance to angle for warm-water species like bass, panfish, pickerel and more. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulates all fishing activities within the state forest.

 

Seven Tubs Nature Area - Parks - Hiking - DiscoverNEPA
Seven Tubs Recreation area, Wilkes-Barre, PA

 

Picnicking & Camping

There are five picnic pavilions within Pinchot State Forest. Moon Lake Recreation Area offers three pavilions with picnic tables, grills and fire rings. Manny Gordon Recreation Area provides two picnic pavilions with tables, grills and fire rings. All pavilions operate on a first come, first served basis. Organized parties with more than 10 guests must apply for an authorization letter.

Pinchot State Forest allows for backpack camping, roadside camping and motorized camping at designated sites. Designated camping sites can be found at Moon Lake and Manny Gordon Recreation Areas. Please note that state forest camp sites are rustic and rely on a “pack in/ pack out” philosophy. Seven Tubs Recreational Area does not allow camping of any kind.

Boating, Kayaking & Canoeing

Moon lake Recreation Area Provides the most opportunities for boating, kayaking and canoeing within Pinchot State Forest. Ample parking and a designated boat launch area make for easy access to the 48-acre lake. Gas-powered motors are not permitted on the lake.

The Lehigh River can also be accessed via Pinchot State Forest’s Blue Ridge/Lehigh Tract.

Winter Activities

The Thornhurst Tract in Lackawanna County features 28 miles of marked snowmobile trails. The trail opens the day after rifle deer season closes and remains open until the end of March. The snowmobile trail also allows for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.