Go Poconos


Chestnut Mountain Nature Preserve


Where: Trailhead is on the east side of Route 191 in Barrett Township, marked by a sign and kiosk. From Mountainhome, Pa., where Routes 191/390 split near Mountainhome Diner, take 191 north for 4.3 miles. Trailhead is on right. The gate is generally locked, but several cars can be parked along Route 191.

GPS coordinates: 41.211407, -75.307811

Trail information: The 2.8-mile blue trail is one of two main blazed trails. The red trail is a loop extension that adds 1.2 miles to the blue trail. There is a 400-foot elevation change. Difficulty is moderate, with some steep areas, rocks underfoot, and wet areas.

Hike leader Carol Hillestad discusses rock formations at Chestnut Mountain

• The view at Chestnut Mountain Nature Preserve



• Open to the public, dawn to dusk.
• These are natural areas with abundant wildlife, including black bears and timber rattlesnakes. Don’t remove any natural material, including flowers, feathers or pinecones.
• Hike safely: Take maps and water, dress for the weather, and tell someone where you will be and when you will return.
• No trash containers or other facilities. Pack out whatever you pack in.
• Leashed dogs allowed. Owners must pick up and carry out waste.


Click here for information about our "Chestnut Mountain revisited" hike.



Put spring in your step at Chestnut Mountain

By Carol Hillestad

The drive up Route 191 past Buck Hill Falls in Barrett Township is a favorite of fall leaf peepers. In early spring, the view is very different — the trees that crowd the road wear just a haze of new growth, so I can see the folds of the terrain on either side, highlighted by lingering patches of snow. Dark grey masses of sandstone boulders and rocks are everywhere.

At about 1,940 feet, cool air greets me at the Chestnut Mountain trailhead. When the gate is open, there is parking for dozens of cars, in a flat, grassy area surrounded by decomposing logs and tree roots. After plans to build townhouses here failed, the new owner chose to timber the land — and what is now the trailhead was the staging area for logging.

It took the Buck Hill Conservation Foundation almost 20 years of persistent negotiation and fundraising to acquire these 479 wooded acres. Finally, in 2012, Chestnut Mountain Nature Preserve opened to the public.

The blue-blazed trail leads me off toward the east, following a rugged woods road through large stands of old native rhododendron. It may take 50 years or more for the forest to recover fully from the logging and re-create the healthy mix of stately sugar maples, beech, oak, and ash trees of a healthy Pocono woodland.

But there is pleasure to be had in every stage of a woodland’s life. At first, the trail is mostly level, but soon starts downhill, past a large, bear-clawed beech tree. After a mile, the trail bottoms out and a green carpet of moss leads up to a small table-land overlook. It is a sweet circular view that includes a privately conserved tree farm, along Pocono Plateau to Spruce Mountain, Mount Wismer and Skytop’s West Mountain beyond.

Down below, Griscom Creek winds through a narrow valley on its way to joining Buck Hill Creek, the Middle Branch and Leavitt Branch to form Brodhead Creek, one of the finest trout fisheries in the nation. This nature preserve protects these waters from pollution and helps keep them pure as they flow toward the great Delaware River, providing drinking water for millions of people as it flows to the Atlantic Ocean.

Like much of the surrounding woods, this overlook is littered with glacial till — native rocks and boulders of all sizes, eroded, plucked up and dropped helter-skelter by the last glacier, 12,000 years ago. The glacier dropped large non-natives here, too: boulders studded with nuggets of pink and white quartz, carried for hundreds of miles to their new home on the Pocono Plateau.

The trail makes a steep descent from the overlook and then circles back uphill to the trailhead — a loop of 2.8 miles. I walk these woods, hearing the calls of cardinals where the whine of chainsaws so recently filled the air, and a hopeful thought rises: People do value natural beauty and wildness — and will pass it on.

Carol Hillestad is a hike leader and writer for Get Outdoors Poconos, a grant-funded series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.


Photos and videos by Nancy J. Hopping


Loggers thinned the forest at Chestnut Mountain Nature Preserve.  


A “traveling" rock is a glacial erratic, which is a rock or boulder that is not native and was carried here in the last glacier, dropped and left behind when the glacier retreated. Glacial erratics are often conglomerate — a base rock that is studded with “clasts” or nuggets of another kind of rock or mineral, like quartz.  
A traveling rock feels the effects of time.  

Glacial erratics, whole and split.


Bear claw marks decorate a few trees at Chestnut Mountain Nature Preserve.

The beech shows evidence of beech bark disease.


Hiking companion Little Bear peeks into a fallen tree.  


From atop Chestnut Mountain.  



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