There are many beautiful waterfalls and natural areas in northeastern Pennsylvania, but if you are looking to get outdoors near Wilkes-Barre and Interstate 81, you might not think there are any options. Fortunately, you’re wrong. In fact, just a few miles from downtown Wilkes-Barre and just a stone’s throw from the interstate is the beautiful Seven Tubs Recreation Area.
Seven Tubs Recreation Area is a 500-acre tract of land in Luzerne County. Now managed as state forest land by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Seven Tubs offers visitors the chance to explore several beautiful streams, the forest land surrounding them, and two little-known waterfalls.
Note: Seven Tubs Recreation is closed until the end of 2023 for construction.
From the parking area for Seven Tubs off of Route 115, it’s a short walk to the start of the trail at Seven Tubs. The trail passes a small picnic area (do not go down the gated road), and quickly comes to a wooden footbridge over the creek. To this point, the trail is handicapped accessible.
From this beautiful wooden bridge, it’s possible to look both upstream and downstream to see the amazing stone-lined gorge carved into the forest below.
From the bridge, the Seven Tubs nature trail extends both upstream and downstream along the curiously named Wheelbarrow Run. While this is a beautiful stream, the highlights are along the few hundred feet upstream of Wheelbarrow Run’s confluence with Laurel Run.
If you’re short on time, you can explore this area in just a few minutes. However, if you have the time, I highly recommend taking the roughly 2-2.5 mile hike through the Seven Tubs natural area.
Start by heading upstream along Wheelbarrow Run. Along the way, you’ll pass along the deep and narrow gorge that makes up Seven Tubs. Make sure to use extreme caution along the edges, as it can be tempting to look over the edge, but a fall into the tubs would be painful.
After hiking for a few minutes, you’ll come to the top of the Seven Tubs section of the creek. Here, a nice waterfall falls into a large pool. Just downstream, the water begins to cut its way through the bedrock.
The trail continues above the waterfall for a short distance and Wheelbarrow Creek flattens out. Up ahead, you’ll see a tunnel that carries railroad tracks over the waterway. Just before the tunnel and near a footbridge over the creek, you’ll see the trail turn to the right and head uphill.
This blue-blazed trail travels over the hillside and through a beautiful section of Pinchot State Forest. While not a challenging trail, there are some places with large roots covering the trail, and it could be marked a bit better. However, it’s a fairly straightforward hike.
After crossing the hillside through the forest and one power-line cut, the trail reaches Laurel Run. The trail then follows its banks downstream until it returns to the confluence of Wheelbarrow Run. Along the way, this waterway slides down a few small drops and is quite pleasant in its own right.
The best view of Seven Tubs is from below the wooden bridge, at the confluence of Laurel Run and Wheelbarrow Run. Looking up Wheelbarrow Run, it’s amazing to see how this glacier runoff during the last ice age gouged its way through the landscape and created this amazing site.
Seven Tubs Recreation Area is quite popular, especially on warm weekends, and it can be hard to find peace and quiet in the area around the creek. If you want to have the tubs to yourself, it’s best to either visit on a cool day or early in the morning.
When I visited, I arrived about an hour after sunrise and had the place to myself until just before I left a few hours later.
It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of visitors stick to the creeks, so if you head away from them on the hiking loop, you are likely to find a bit of peacefulness no matter the time of your visit.
Before you leave, don’t miss the two hidden waterfalls that few know about.
To see them, walk up the roadway towards the entrance to the park. Directly across from the overflow parking lot you’ll notice some trails leading into the woods. Head into the woods and turn right, following the trail as it runs parallel to the road.
After a short distance, the trail will turn steeply down away from the road. Follow this trail to the bottom of the hill. From here, these two hidden waterfalls will be a short distance to the right.
These two waterfalls are located where two streams meet at the base of the hill. One of them is only about 10 feet in height and flows out from a culvert under a road a short distance above the falls.
The second waterfall is a good deal higher and falls down the hill from the roadway that goes to the Seven Tubs parking area.
Sadly, there is a bit of trash in the area of these two waterfalls, so please make sure to pack out what you pack in and don’t contribute to the littering problem.
Without a doubt Seven Tubs is one of the most unique natural sites in northeastern Pennsylvania. Capturing the beauty of the Seven Tubs nature area in photos is near impossible.
How to get to Seven Tubs nature area:
Seven Tubs Recreation Area is located off of Route 115, a short distance southeast of downtown Wilkes-Barre and Interstate 81. A sign marks the entrance to the park and a roadway leads to several parking areas near the trailhead. The park can be found at the following coordinates: 41.235641, -75.810199.
As noted, this site is very popular throughout the year, but especially so on warm weekends. If visiting during this time, you may have trouble finding a parking spot. Arriving as early in the day as possible is recommended.
If you are looking for other waterfalls nearby, don’t miss Choke Creek Falls, Little Shickshinny Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and Falling Springs Falls. And check out our top things to do in Wilkes-Barre.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]