There are hundreds of waterfalls in Pennsylvania, but none may be better known than Bushkill Falls. Located in the Poconos Mountains on the edge of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in northeastern Pennsylvania, Bushkill Falls is one of the region’s most majestic waterfalls.
For decades this spot has been known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” While it’s truly a fantastic waterfall, don’t go expecting a wide waterfall set in an urban area. Instead, Bushkill Falls is hidden deep in the woods surrounded by cliff-hugging boardwalks. Even better, in addition to the main waterfall, there are seven other waterfalls on the grounds.
For many years, I didn’t visit Bushkill Falls because there were so many other great Poconos waterfalls that were totally free to visit. However, in my quest to do everything in Pennsylvania, I decided to take the time to visit Bushkill Falls.
So, is it worth paying to visit Bushkill Falls when there are so many other free waterfalls in the area? Read on to find out my thoughts.
Bushkill Falls has been privately owned since 1904, which predates the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area by 61 years. What started as a single path to the main falls as evolved into a series of wooden boardwalks and trails that pass by 8 waterfalls.
In the over 100 years that Bushkill Falls has been privately operated, they have also added a small history museum, a cafe, gift shop, putt-putt golf course, fishing lake, and much more to the area. All of these secondary attractions sit outside of the paid-admission area, though there is a separate charge for many of the activities.
However, no matter how much else is there, the focal point of the park is still the 100-foot Bushkill Falls. This is one of the tallest and most powerful waterfalls in the region and is an amazing sight to behold.
A fairly simple path descends the hill to several viewing areas overlooking the falls, while a series of interconnected trails take you to both the crest and the base of this impressive waterfall.
While some might balk at an admissions price for Bushkill Falls, it became obvious to me that the only way the gorge above and below Bushkill Falls could be tackled would be via these man-made paths. The sides of the cliffs are simply too steep for a regular trail to have been made here.
After taking the time to enjoy Bushkill Falls, make sure to save time to experience the other waterfalls and trails in the park. While you could certainly visit the main falls and simply turn around, there is a lot more to explore at Bushkill Falls, and the admission cost is the same no matter how much time you spend in the area.
During my visit, I opted to take the roughly two-mile hike that passes all eight of the waterfalls in the park. This hike starts from the top of Bushkill Falls, and I opted to hike it in a clockwise direction.
Start by hiking to the base of Bushkill Falls. Seeing this waterfall from above is impressive, but the best viewpoint, in my opinion, is from the boardwalk near the base of the falls. Once you’ve had your fill of Bushkill Falls (the trail circles back around to the top of this waterfall, so you’ll be able to enjoy it again at the end), start hiking down the steps along Little Bushkill Creek.
As you hike, you’ll pass above and along Lower Gorge Falls as it cascades down the mountain. While this waterfall is quite large in size, it features several drops, which makes it not as impressive as some of the others in the park.
The trail continues down the gorge towards the confluence of Little Bushkill Creek and Pond Run Creek.
While the area along Pond Run Creek isn’t nearly as high trafficked as the main waterfall, there are four beautiful waterfalls along this waterway, including three that are quite impressive. So don’t miss the chance to hike along this creek.
The trail crosses Pond Run Creek and follows it upstream on the left bank. The first half of the hike up the stream is along a rocky, but fairly easy dirt trail. While not as polished as the boardwalks around the main waterfall, this is a fairly easy trail for anyone that is used to hiking typical trails in the Poconos.
After about 10 minutes of hiking, the boardwalks return, which is your indication that the waterfalls on the creek are coming up.
The furthest downstream waterfall on Pond Run Creek is Bridesmaid’s Falls. This is a beautiful 20-foot waterfall that is viewed from the side.
Just above Bridesmaid’s Falls is Bridal Veil Falls. At approximately 30-35 feet in height, this is the tallest waterfall on Pond Run Creek. This waterfall can be viewed from further back, but a nice boardwalk also leads towards the base of the falls and offers fantastic views.
Continuing upstream is another 15-foot waterfall, confusingly also called Bridesmaid’s Falls. I’m not sure why there are two waterfalls of the same name in the park, but alas, there are. Confusion aside, the upper Bridesmaid’s Falls is quite striking as it is viewed head-on as it flows through a stone hollow.
The trail continues to follow Pond Run Creek. A bridge crosses the creek above the fourth waterfall on this creek, but it is not only hard to see but also seemingly unnamed. It can be best seen from the trail after crossing the stream, and I’d estimate it to be 10-15 feet in height.
After climbing Pond Run Creek, the trail turns to the right and follows a wide and flat path over the plateau towards Little Bushkill Creek.
Shortly after leaving Pond Run Creek behind, there is a split in the trail. Staying left will continue along the path I took and take you to Pennell Falls. If you are short on time, this is the one waterfall to skip, and you could turn right and head back towards the main falls, but you’d be missing several beautiful spots.
Continuing straight, the trail over the plateau is roughly half a mile long from Pond Run Creek to Pennell Falls. Along the way, this easy hike passes through a beautiful, but unremarkable forest landscape.
This trail meets Little Bushkill Creek at Pennell Falls. This waterfall is roughly 10 feet in height and at least as wide. It sits upstream of Bushkill Falls and drops almost directly below the trail. While a nice waterfall, this was my least favorite of the eight in the park.
From Pennell Falls, the trail follows the creek downstream towards Bushkill Falls. While there aren’t any features of note in this area, it’s still quite a beautiful spot and is one of the reasons why I highly recommend not skipping Pennell Falls when hiking at Bushkill Falls.
After a few minutes of hiking, the trail splits, with the shortest path to the park’s entrance heading up the hill and a series of boardwalks heading off to the right.
Without a doubt, take the path to the right as this leads to a remarkable area above Bushkill Falls. Here, the boardwalk crisscrosses the creek and offers fantastic views and photo opportunities. It is also here that you will find the eighth waterfall at Bushkill, Laurel Glen Falls. This is a 10-foot waterfall that falls near the boardwalk and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful sights in the entire park.
Just below this area, the trail returns to the top of Bushkill Falls. Take some time to once again enjoy the waterfall before returning to the park’s entrance.
While the route I listed is the longest in the park at roughly two miles and took me a bit over two hours to hike (while taking plenty of time for photos), I highly recommend doing it. If you are used to hiking in the region, this trail will provide little difficulty, but allows you to see all the beauty in the park.
So, is it worth it to pay to see Bushkill Falls?
I honestly have to say that it is. While there are dozens of other beautiful waterfalls in Pike County and the rest of the Poconos, including several that are larger (Raymondskill Falls and Dingmans Falls), the setting at Bushkill Falls is quite unique with the cliff-hugging boardwalks and the park is home to several of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region.
So, whether you are looking for things to do in the Poconos on your first visit, have been to all of the free waterfalls in the area, or are simply looking for a waterfall with easy-to-hike paths, add Bushkill Falls to your list.
Note: I was given free admission to Bushkill Falls to facilitate this review. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Hours: Hours vary. See website.
Cost: Adults: $17, Children: $10
Address: 138 Bushkill Falls Trail