Luke’s Falls, Pennsylvania

Luke’s Falls in June 2013

So one of the waterfalls I just recently posted about, Buttermilk Falls, is a very nice waterfall in east-central Pennsylvania in Lehigh Gorge State Park. Well, from the start of the trail, there’s another waterfall, and it’s in the opposite direction.

If you turn start walking to the left at the parking area, you will come to Buttermilk Falls. On the other hand, if you head right, you’ll find Luke’s Falls. Luke’s Falls wasn’t as impressive, and the likely cause was the dense green shrubs surrounding the falls. Not that I’m suggesting anyone cut down the shrubs, but it would be more impressive if a better view could be obtained. It’s still not as scenic as Buttermilk Falls, so if you’re pressed for time, I would skip this one. Even so, it’s not a long walk to the falls, and it’s along the rail trail anyway. The best views are probably to be had in the early spring before any trees have leaves.

Directions:

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 right to find Luke’s Falls. It’s no more than a 1/4 mile hike one-way (if that much).

Accessibility: 10/10 (very flat, gravel pathway)

Where in the World is Luke’s Falls?: map

Buttermilk Falls, Pennsylvania

Buttermilk Falls in June 2013

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. (Apparently, it’s closer to 60′.) 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!)

Directions:

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)
Height: 60′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Buttermilk Falls?

Glen Onoko Cascades, Pennsylvania

Glen Onoko Cascades in May 2009

In reality, the waterfalls in Glen Onoko are actually just one really, really big waterfall/cascade. Cave Falls, Onoko Falls, and Chameleon Falls are the major attractions in the Glen, though the entire hike up to see the falls includes many other beautiful, smaller waterfalls and cascades. The photograph on the right is one the larger and more photogenic of these smaller falls.

As I have mentioned before, the hike up to view the falls is not simple in any sense, though I do not personally believe it is as dangerous as others may say. I thought the hike was going to be fraught with danger, whereas in the end it was rather benign, though not necessarily fun.

Note: As of 2019, the Glen Onoko trail has been closed. I’m not sure when it will (or if it will) reopen.

Directions:

  1. From I-476, take exit 74.
  2. Take US-209 South toward the village of Jim Thorpe. Go for about 6 miles.
  3. Turn right onto PA-903. You will cross the bridge over the Lehigh River and go 0.4 miles to a stop sign.
  4. When you get to the stop sign, turn left. I remember the name of the road not being what I thought it would be (it was not Main Street, as expected).
  5. After turning left, head down that road, which will veer left again. Take that left. I think you now may end up on Main Street.
  6. After about 0.3 miles, you will take another left into the entrance to Lehigh Gorge State Park.
  7. Keep driving for a little less than 2 miles to the end of the road, which will be the parking area for the Glen Onoko trail head.
  8. From the parking area, you are going to follow the signs and head under the bridge to the trail head.
  9. From there, just try and follow the trail. The trail doesn’t seem to end. Cave Falls is the first major drop.

Accessibility: 2/10 (strenuous)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip (to see all falls)

Where in the World is Glen Onoko Cascades?

Onoko Falls, Pennsylvania

Onoko Falls in May 2009

There are at least two major falls in Glen Onoko. I’ve already mentioned Glen Onoko when discussing Cave Falls, so I’m not going to repeat myself. Cave Falls happens to be the waterfall that I liked more out of the two major falls. Even so, Onoko Falls is still very pretty.

If I remember correctly, Onoko Falls is taller, but it just wasn’t as exciting for me. It was also harder to photograph, as I happened to show up right as the sun was directly behind the falls. I can’t really prevent that, and I don’t have the ability to just show up whenever works best, so I just dealt with it. One cool aspect of this falls when I visited were the people rappelling down the falls.

Note: As of 2019, the Glen Onoko trail has been closed. I’m not sure when it will (or if it will) reopen.

Directions:

  1. From I-476, take exit 74.
  2. Take US-209 South toward the village of Jim Thorpe. Go for about 6 miles.
  3. Turn right onto PA-903. You will cross the bridge over the Lehigh River and go 0.4 miles to a stop sign.
  4. When you get to the stop sign, turn left. I remember the name of the road not being what I thought it would be (it was not Main Street, as expected).
  5. After turning left, head down that road, which will veer left again. Take that left. I think you now may end up on Main Street.
  6. After about 0.3 miles, you will take another left into the entrance to Lehigh Gorge State Park.
  7. Keep driving for a little less than 2 miles to the end of the road, which will be the parking area for the Glen Onoko trail head.
  8. From the parking area, you are going to follow the signs and head under the bridge to the trail head.
  9. From there, just try and follow the trail. The trail doesn’t seem to end. Cave Falls is the first major drop.

Accessibility: 2/10 (strenuous)
Height: 75′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Onoko Falls?

Cave Falls, Pennsylvania

Cave Falls in May 2009

When I read about Glen Onoko, I got the sense that there was a high probability of death. Everybody had warnings about the hike being dangerous, sometimes precariously close to cliff edges. And while you need to exercise caution when going to see the waterfalls in Glen Onoko, the hike didn’t seem nearly as dangerous as I expected.

That’s not to say that the walk isn’t difficult. It is a half-mile of consistently steep trail. Unlike the waterfalls of Ricketts Glen, which is sections of steep trail punctuated by sections of flat trail, in Glen Onoko, there are no flat sections! But what you are rewarded with is at least two very impressive waterfalls and an almost continuous set of cascades due to the nature of the Glen. Cave Falls is the first major drop on the trail, and while not the tallest of the drops, it was the most impressive to me. In order to get a good view of the falls, you do have to do some rock jumping.

Note: As of 2019, the Glen Onoko trail has been closed. I’m not sure when it will (or if it will) reopen.

Directions:

  1. From I-476, take exit 74.
  2. Take US-209 South toward the village of Jim Thorpe. Go for about 6 miles.
  3. Turn right onto PA-903. You will cross the bridge over the Lehigh River and go 0.4 miles to a stop sign.
  4. When you get to the stop sign, turn left. I remember the name of the road not being what I thought it would be (it was not Main Street, as expected).
  5. After turning left, head down that road, which will veer left again. Take that left. I think you now may end up on Main Street.
  6. After about 0.3 miles, you will take another left into the entrance to Lehigh Gorge State Park.
  7. Keep driving for a little less than 2 miles to the end of the road, which will be the parking area for the Glen Onoko trail head.
  8. From the parking area, you are going to follow the signs and head under the bridge to the trail head.
  9. From there, just try and follow the trail. The trail doesn’t seem to end. Cave Falls is the first major drop.

Accessibility: 2/10 (strenuous)
Height: 35′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Cave Falls?