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5.06.2015

Glen Onoko Falls, Carbon County Near Jim Thorpe, PA

For starters, Lehigh Gorge State Park, the town of Jim Thorpe, and the surrounding areas are absolutely stunning. If you go to Glen Onoko, be sure to check all of the awesome attractions in the area. They call Jim Thorpe the Switzerland of America. I have never been to Switzerland, however, the feel of this town and area reminds me quite a bit of Durango, Colorado. They even have a vintage passenger train, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad. Glen Onoko is a tremendously different waterfall from any other that I have seen in the state of Pennsylvania. It is a huge series of waterfalls and cascades, with at least ten documented falls and cascades. The largest of these falls reaches roughly 50 feet tall. The string of falls lasts for a distance of over a mile and has an elevation change of 874 feet down a giant cliff in Lehigh Gorge. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century a large resort was erected. One could take a three hour, 90 mile train ride from Philadelphia to Glen Onoko, or a four hour 120 mile train ride from New York. People would spend a week here, exploring the falls, which at the time were nearly as much of a draw as Niagara Falls. They also had amenities for outdoor recreation like Tennis, and people would go to Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) to ride the Switchback Railway, the gravity powered coal train that was ridden by passengers when it was not hauling coal. 



This was considered to be the first roller coaster, setting off a building spree that continues to this day. 

The falls are technically in State Game Lands, so if you go during hunting season, be sure to wear either orange or go on a Sunday. Because these falls are located in State Game Lands, the trail is not maintained. The trail is well worn, but expect to be gripping some rocks, roots, and branches to help your way up. When I ascended the gorge I zig-zagged a bit crossing some large rocks across the creek.
One of the railroad bridges has been reclaimed and turned into a vehicular and pedestrian bridge. 
Here you can see the bridge piers from a removed railroad bridge. I will delve further into that in a later post. 
The Lehigh River, and surrounding tributaries are all excellent trout fisheries. Lots of fisherman were out on this beautiful day.
The bridge that we just crossed has an identical twin next to it that is still utilized by rail traffic.
Now onto the Falls Trail. DO take heed of the following warning sign. 
You are responsible for your safety means that you need to wear legitimate hiking boots. You need to be prepared. This is an undeveloped trail, hiking as it was meant to be done. While this was not the most difficult hike that I have ever done, this was definitely up there. You need to take notice of these things. On average, several people die a year climbing these falls. Even the naming of the falls is supposedly linked to the death of someone. The myth is that a Native American girl was being courted by a much older European settler, and that the girl's mother pushed the man off of the falls. The other legend says that the girl went to her mother and was told that she could not marry the man, and that she committed suicide. Gruesome legend, but the death is said to have happened at 9:15 AM, and it is said that the ghost of the girl "the spirit of the mist" appears at that time every day at the falls. Odd story, but the idea of death within the stories applies quite well to this set of falls and serves as a warning to be mindful of the terrain.

These falls are not for the faint of heart, and also not for the unprepared. I would also recommend some sort of a hiking stick in addition to decent hiking boots.
Now embarking on the hike. Here is the bottom of the old repurposed railroad bridge.
The trail starts off gentle enough. Not a super easy trail, but pretty manageable. 
Wow! Now that I look at this after the fact, that is some serious hiking!
Now onto the first falls. There are more than a dozen documented waterfalls/cascades within the Glen Onoko Gorge: Entrance Cascade, Crystal Cascade, Pulpit Rock Cascade, Laurel Cascade, Fawns Leap, Spectre Cascade, Rainbow Cascades, Sunrise Point Cascade, Chameleon Falls, Onoko Falls, Terrace Cascade, Cave Falls, and Stairway Cascade. The further you progress up the gorge, the greater the elevation change and the larger the falls. We start off with these small cascades.
I believe that these are the first two cascades.
Third cascade
Working my way up. I have never seen a gorge quite like this. 
Here is a compilation of the cascades and smaller falls
There are occasional breaks within the creek where it flows normally, not many places like this though. 
The falls are surrounded by the state flower, the Mountain Laurel
Getting steeper
First decently sized set of falls. I believe this is Fawn's Leap
Looking downwards at our progress so far
A pretty little waterfall

Climbing up the gorge after Fawns Leap. Don't worry, the trail was not as steep as that. This shows the serious elevation change on the trail.
Another small cascade
I am thinking that this is Rainbow Cascades
Lots of people out on a beautiful Sunday. I am thinking that this is Sunrise Point Cascades
The falls are so beautiful. I had to cut it short at this point because I was on a tight schedule, but I highly recommend checking this place out. Be sure that you are prepared for a hike like this. Follow the safety precautions laid out between that sign, my recommendations, and any other precautions that one should take when doing serious hiking. This is not to be taken likely, especially since there is not a developed trail and that it flows down an abrupt gorge. 

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