Written & photographed (except where noted) by Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.

One hundred miles from New York City (and ~125 from Philadelphia) lies Promised Land State Park. Located in the Poconos region, famous for its natural scenic beauty and 150 lakes, this somewhat-undiscovered gem of a park boasts 50 miles of hiking trails, winding country roads and a new boutique hotel that’s completely upped the game in the local hospitality scene. 

Promised Land State Park boasts nearby 3,000 acres — but its vast wilderness is expanded by the 12,464 acres of Pennsylvania’s Delaware State Forest that surrounds it. Lake Wallenpaupack (say it with me, “wallen-paw-pack”) serves as somewhat of an anchor for the region that embraces the simple life. Quaint, historic towns offer time-capsule theaters, thrifty secondhand and antique shops (but also a shiny new fly fishing store); throwback diners, off-the-beaten-path eateries & breweries; and even a famous tattoo shop that draws visitors from all-over-the-place.

Read on for our guide to Promised Land State Park, and the Poconos area surrounding. This guide was created in collaboration with PoconoMountains.com; all views and recommendations are our own.

Where to Stay in Promised Land State Park, Poconos: Newly Opened Boutique Hotel, The Rex

Interior of the Rae Cabin at The Rex, whose main bedroom has a picture window overlooking the woods.

Although its name comes from the 18th and 19th century settlers who sarcastically called it the “Promised Land” (a reflection of their disappointment after failure to tame and exploit the landscape) — Promised Land State Park lives up to its name. After generations of of lumbering that wreaked havoc on the woodlands, in 1902, the land was acquired by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who worked tirelessly to re-establish the surrounding forest. In 1905 it became Pennsylvania’s fourth state park, ever, and their efforts since have preserved this special region. These days, natural beauty is everywhere, with towering pine trees, numerous lakes and rivers, and loads of ways to get out and explore the outdoors.

With that in mind, Joanna and Brian Linton — who are also notably the founders of United By Blue — saw opportunity to create something here and opened The Rex. The beautifully designed boutique hotel offers ten rooms with access to the outdoors just beyond the doorstep. Within 20 minutes of the hotel, there’s opportunity to hike, kayak, paddle board, mountain bike, snowshoe, snowmobile, cross country ski, and fly fish. (More on all that below.)

This nature-driven experience offers ten rooms, each unique in size, layout and design, allowing repeat guests a chance to experience something new each time they visit. (We recommend the two-bedroom Rae Cabin, with its own cedar hot tub.) All rooms feature Brooklinen bedding, Smeg appliances, and their own Solo Stove to roast marshmallows for mandatory post-hike s’mores. Bathrooms feature cozy linens, rain showers, and Public Goods beauty products.

Rates at The Rex begin around $120, with a two-night stay minimum (as of 10/1/2021.) Most rooms are dog friendly; inquire within.

What to Do in & Around Promised Land State Park, Poconos: Hiking, Fly Fishing, Brewery Tours and Axe Throwing

A scene on the Little Falls Trail in Promised Land State Park, Poconos PA.

The tiny community surrounding Promised Land State Park isn’t much more than a few bars and shops (plus a seemingly infinite places that sell firewood) but no worries: you’ll keep plenty busy. With about 50 miles of hiking trails in Promised Land State Park and the surrounding state forest, scenic spots are both easily accessed, and enjoyed.

In summer, make best of all the water features, with sandy beaches for swimmers and even boat rentals (including row boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboat) from Memorial through Labor Day. There are two beaches: the main beach is in the Day Use Picnic Area, and the other is located at Pickerel Point. Beaches are open from late May to Mid-September.

Fishing is a popular activity year-round with anglers trying to hook largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel, muskellunge, yellow perch, sunfish and catfish. Lower Lake is also stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout. To stock up on fishing gear (or want to check out the coolest new shop in the region) check out the newly opened Housefly Fishing in nearby Hawley, PA.

Hiking is superb all year round, with options for different skill and time-commitment levels. For a leisurely stroll, look no further than the aptly named Conversation Island, about 5 minutes from the Rex. The 1.5-ish mile loop begins at the parking lot, and over a bridge before looping around the island. The trail is beautiful any time of day, but especially at sunrise and sunset, where hikers can catch the first and last rays of sun, glimmering over Promised Land Lake.

The most popular trail is likely the Little Falls Trail, which clocks in at about 2.5 miles, depending on the route you choose. It’s gentle path follows a pleasant brook with multiple (namesake) little waterfalls before reaching a bridge with an overlook. Though the signage at this fork in the trail seems menacing (“trail ends here! Turn back if you have no cell service!”), if you cross the bridge and follow the blue blazes up the other side of the brook, you’ll follow the loop portion of the trail for a slightly more interesting experience than the out-and-back. Regardless, download a map before you go; cell service is spotty at best, and you don’t want to ruin vacation by getting lost in the woods. Those menacing signs didn’t appear just for fun.

For those looking for more of an adventure, the Boundary Trail is a 6.3 mile point-to-point (read: not a loop, so it’s ~13 miles if you haven’t arranged transportation from the other side). It does, however, connect to a trailhead at the Rex, which the staff can help visitors plan – we recommend doing the 8 mile portion that takes hikers to a picturesque lake, accessible only by trail.

Rainy day? No problem. The region has plentiful outdoors-meets-indoors activities: test your lumberjack skills throwing axes at Poconos Axe Works (yes, you read that right – and it’s also BYOB); or pretend you’re outside on a beautiful sunny day at the newly opened Wake Zone, where virtual golfing (and other games) share a building with the Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. taproom. Both involve alcohol, loads of fun, and various pop-up events… enjoy responsibly.

Where to Eat & Drink Around Promised Land State Park, Poconos: The Best Restaurants, Breweries and More

Grant’s Woods offers a unique private dining experience at the Settlers Inn in Hawley, PA.

Each room at the Rex has a kitchenette including a mini-fridge; we recommend bringing breakfast for simplicity’s sake, but also because Rex is stocked with delicious coffee from local roasters Black & Brass Coffee. In the immediate 10-minute radius, there’s a spattering of bars and diner-type restaurants; most notable is the Promised Land Inn, whose dining space is clad with taxidermy, neon beer signs and features a meat-heavy menu. It’s also a great spot to sample local beers, and best of all, just two minutes from the Rex when you’re ready for a nightcap.

About 20 minutes up the road, the quaint town of Hawley has a much wider selection of food. The best meal in town is at Settlers Inn, whose lovely outdoor spaces including a breathtaking garden, and beyond to Grants Woods, a woodsy bonfire area lit by sparkling string lights with private dining cabins. Speaking of spectacular settings, Glass, located in the Ledges hotel, offers Tapas-style dining overlooking a waterfall. Reservations are recommended for both.

For something more casual, the menu at Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. offers classic burgers and sandwiches, plus loads of shareable dishes that are brewery-friendly like wings, pub fries and pretzels… plus delicious beer. Check their event calendar for things like live music, Octoberfest, Trivia Thursday and Growler Fill Fridays. Not terribly far from there is the Hopping Eagle Brewery, who doesn’t have food but also boasts some pretty good beer. Last, speaking of all this booze, Three Hammers Winery is about 15 minutes from Hawley and offers a beautiful setting for sampling handcrafted, small-batch wines. It’s conveniently located just 1 minute from one of our favorite spas, the Lodge at Woodloch — so if a little indulgence is on your itinerary, consider your getaway planning done.