I first went in search of Pennsylvania waterfalls back in May 2009, and had a chance to visit Lehigh Gorge State Park. I had limited amount of time before I needed to arrive back at PHL, so I chose a strenuous hike up Glen Onoko! It wasn’t nearly as awful as advertised, and saw a number of lovely waterfalls including Cave Falls and Onoko Falls. I had a chance to visit the area again in June 2013, and discovered that there were a number of other waterfalls in the park. I had expected there would be, but I don’t remember if the main book I use had these falls… It might have required some additional searching.
There are at least two waterfalls in the park, though they are about 15 miles driving distance from Glen Onoko. A very enjoyable rail trail runs along the Lehigh River, and as you’re enjoying a stroll, you will come across these two falls. Instead of hiking much of the trail, I drove to a parking area which allowed very easy access to these two falls. If you are in a rush, these two are the quicker visits.
One of the falls, Luke’s Falls, is partially shrouded by shrubbery in summer. The other waterfall, Buttermilk Falls, is much more photogenic, and I found it to be much more interesting than I had expected. I am a very bad judge of height, but I expect this is about 40-50′ tall, with two visible drops. The two drops make the falls visually interesting. The falls seem to drop to the left, and then veer to the right, almost as an optical illusion. And even though there wasn’t an insane amount of water flowing, it seemed like just the right amount to create the wispy effect.
(Oh, if you’re trying to find another Buttermilk Falls in Pennsylvania…it’s a very popular name for waterfalls in the region. There’s a Buttermilk Falls in Monroe County along the Delaware Water Gap. There are also Buttermilk Falls in New York, New Jersey, and Ohio!)
There are at least two ways to get to the falls, depending on the direction your arriving from:
Option 1: If coming from I-80, take exit 273 and head south along PA-940. After just a few miles, veer left onto PA-2055 (N Lehigh Gorge Drive). (This may turn into PA-4010 at some point in time.) Turn left onto PA-4014 (Rockport Road), and head to the end of the road, where you’ll find the parking area.
Option 2: If you’re coming from I-476, you’ll want to take exit 74 onto US-209. Head west along US-209, going through the towns of Lehighton and Jim Thorpe. You will see signs for Lehigh Gorge State Park for Glen Onoko, but continue on a short ways until you get to PA-93 (Hunter St). Turn right onto PA-93. After a few miles, turn right onto Brenkman Drive, and go into the town of Weatherly. Find E Main Street, and continue heading northeast out of town. This will turn into PA-4010. Turn right onto PA-4014 (Rockport Road), and head to the end of the road, where you’ll find the parking area.
Option 2 is more complicated, but if you’re coming from the south, it might be quicker. Lehighton and Jim Thorpe can become very busy on weekends and nice summer days, so be prepared for “delays.”
From the parking areas, head to your left to find Buttermilk Falls. It’s no more than a 1/4 mile hike one-way.
Accessibility: 10/10 (very flat, gravel pathway)
Where in the World is Buttermilk Falls?: map