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Swiftwater Forest Preserve


Where: Trailhead is off cul-de-sac on Donaldson Road, off Lower Swiftwater Road, Paradise Township, Swiftwater, Pa.

Trailhead GPS coordinates: 41-06.144N, 75-17.625W

Trail information: A moderate, family-friendly, 90-minute walk of about 2.5 miles. Though of moderate difficulty, stretches of the trail are steep. Trails have not been blazed, though they have been flagged.


  • Be considerate of neighboring private landowners.
  • No motorized vehicles, including ATVs.
  • Dogs are welcome; owners must clean up and carry out pet waste.

Swiftwater Forest Preserve: A natural neighborhood sanctuary

By Carol Hillestad

Al Johnson, long-time Paradise Township resident (and, with his wife, Carole, proprietor of Pocono Cheesecake Factory), recently relocated in Paradise to the Swiftwater Valley. His place backs up on Swiftwater Forest Preserve – 98 acres of woodland that Paradise Township purchased in 2015 with open space funds approved by the township’s taxpayers.

“Living near open, undeveloped land was appealing to us,” Al said. “Since living here, I’ve hiked in the preserve a few times. But really, just knowing it’s there — that’s an asset and a pleasure.”

Swiftwater Forest Preserve protects peace and quiet for hundreds of families in this rural residential area of Monroe County. It provides free outdoor recreation, too — hiking, birding, photography, cross-country skiing, and picnicking.

Moreover, not far away the land is heavily built up — sewage treatment plants, a casino, retail and manufacturing businesses, and schools are all upstream. So the preserve is also an essential buffer that protects the water of its two namesakes, Forest Hills Run to the north and Swiftwater Creek to the south. Both streams join Paradise Creek a short distance downstream, to help form the beautiful Paradise Valley and feed Brodhead Creek and drinking water supplies downstream. From Paradise Valley, the wooded hills of the preserve rise 350 feet.

To hike the preserve, Al Johnson can just head out his back door. For the rest of us, the trailhead is on Donaldson Road, at a cul-de-sac just before the road turns private. Here, a steep old woods road leads uphill through a mixed hardwood forest, passing the chimney and fireplace of a rustic, backwoods cabin that was dismantled and moved a decade ago. Long before that, much of this land was farmed, and this stretch of the walk features beautiful old dry-laid stone walls and corners.

Along the path in spring, last fall’s leaf litter may flash with the brilliance of a red eft – the land-lubber juvenile stage of the aquatic red-spotted newt. Pale blue Quaker ladies and other wildflowers may be underfoot as well, and oaks, maples, and birches will show their fresh spring-green leaves. A bend in the trail opens onto a surprising natural bonus — a miniature pine barren, complete with pitch pines, scrub oaks, and rocky outcroppings.

The trail, which is still being laid out and has yet to be blazed, continues uphill and down, making a loop (flagged with surveyor’s tape) through pines and hemlocks and other familiar habitats of the Poconos.

The sense of isolation from the workaday world is so complete that, at trail’s end, it is almost shocking to reach the blacktop of Donaldson Road, in view of the houses and driveways of people fortunate enough to live right here. A few minutes more and the cul-de-sac is back in sight.

Many studies of human reactions to time spent outdoors suggest that physical and mental benefits arise from a walk in the woods. Reduced stress, increased creativity, a sense of contentment and well-being, even a stronger immune system and a feeling of being “outside of time” are some of the effects.

“I know that keeping the land in its natural state is great for water and wildlife,” Al Johnson says. “I wonder how many people know that it’s great for them, too?”

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

Comments from other hikers:

JOHN: “Wonderful hike! Thanks!”

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