Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike

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This Lacawac Sanctuary 5-mile hike covered sections of 8 different trails. The trek showed many of Lacawac’s best areas and included two lakes, two ponds, a beaver, ducks, and an active osprey nest.

Lacawac Sanctuary is over 500 acres of preserved land in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA) and contains diverse features for visitors to explore. A glacial lake, undeveloped shoreline on Lake Wallenpaupack, ponds, forests, and wildlife viewing opportunities abound at Lacawac.

Lake Lacawac - a glacial lake gem
Lake Lacawac – a glacial lake gem

Key Facts: Lake Lacawac 5-Mile Hike

Mileage and time

4.92 miles with a start and endpoint at the Visitor Center. This hike lasted 1 hour and 56 minutes, which included a short break and stops for pictures and filming (23:46 pace per mile).

Lacawac Sanctuary 5 Mile Hike Details
Lacawac Sanctuary 5 Mile Hike Details


Easy to moderate for this Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike. There is one decent uphill section from the bottom of the Big Lake Trail, and there are a few rocky sections with roots. Wearing waterproof hiking shoes makes a few wet areas a breeze to navigate.

Notable trail sections

I think all of Lacawac Sanctuary is notable. If I have to prioritize a few, it would be the active osprey nest on Heron Pond, small waterfalls gushing towards Lake Wallenpaupack in Spring, beautiful forests, a historic lodge, and the “pièce de résis​tance” for me is always Lake Lacawac. Lake Lacawac is one of the southernmost glacial lakes in North America and is home to preservation efforts, scientific research, and some fantastic views for hikers.

Lake Lacawac
The Lake Lacawac shoreline.

Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike Map

Lacawac Sanctuary Hiking Trail Map
Lacawac Sanctuary Hiking Trail Map (Lacawac.org)

Family Friendly

The Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike is on family-friendly trails at Lacawac Sanctuary. This preserve has many intersecting trails which provide options to modify your hike to see interesting areas, some within s short distance. Water features, wildlife, and even interactive displays (e.g., the Deagan Chimes near the carriage house, wildlife displays in the Visitor Center, and QR codes on trails) for young and old alike.

Hiking with your Dog

Lacawac’s trails are dog-friendly. Just keep your pet on a leash, and please pick up after them. Lacawac even holds an annual trail race that has a dog walking section.

Parking areas

Park at the Visitor Center for this Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike. The Visitor Center parking provides access to most trails within a short walk. The road proceeds past the Visitor Center; however, this road is closed to the public.

Wildlife at Lacawac

I have been fortunate to see bald eagles, osprey, a golden eagle, owls, heron, deer, ducks, and various birds and small mammals. It’s possible to see coyotes, bobcats, and bears. I have hiked Lacawac’s trails many times and am still waiting for one of those three to show themselves…from a distance.

Trail Tips

  1. Check out Lacawac’s Visitor Center if it is open. Outside there are Porta Potty, and inside there are kid-friendly exhibits. Also, pick up a map in the foyer.
  2. If hiking this recommended route, get your camera ready to approach Heron Pond. The Osprey nest is your side of the trail, and you can snap a picture if you are quiet and ready as you approach. You will see the nest from the Osprey trail on the return trip, but you will be farther away.
  3. At the bottom of the Big Lake Trail (towards your right if looking at Lake Wallenpaupack), a short side trail takes you past a sign and then down to the lakefront. This is a nice spot to take a break and view the lake.
  4. After turning on the Osprey Trail, you will see Heron Pond again on your left. If you are quiet and walk slowly, you may see a beaver by the beaver lodge.
  5. Lacawac maps show the Warbler trail ending in the woods. They have extended the trail, which now ends at the Lakeside Trail. Turn left on the Lakeside Trail for this route. If you want to add a half-mile to your hike, turn right on the Lakeside trail and take it to the end to see more of Lake Lacawac.
  6. Be sure to walk out on the stone patio where the Lakeside Trail meets the Carriage Trail. Take some time and enjoy the views.
  7. After hiking some on the Lake Lacawac trail, take a short side trail that ends at a viewing deck.
Lacawac Sanctuary's Visitor Center
Lacawac Sanctuary’s Visitor Center

Visitor Center Start – Lacawac Sanctuary 5 Mile Hike

Take St. Mary’s Church Rd. to Lacawac Rd and turn on Sanctuary Rd. You will drive on the narrow gravel for a while. After going through the stone gates, the Visitor Center is on the right. Parking is on the right side, and you will see the Porta Potty there.

Check out the Visitor Center before your hike. There are trail maps and more information about Lacawac Sanctuary in the foyer and interactive exhibits in the room to the right. You can also buy Lacawac branded items in the center.

When ready to hike, walk on the right branch of the Visitor Center loop driveway and turn right. You will briefly be on a gravel road that is closed to public vehicle traffic. This gravel road is also the Great Camp Trail. Soon you will see a sign to the right for the Big Lake Trail. Take the Big Lake Trail.

Big Lake Trail

You may have guessed that the Big Lake is Lake Wallenpaupack. Just remember that there is so much to see between the start of the trail and Lake Wallenpaupack.

After a nice walk in the woods and passing the Arthur Watres Trail to the left, you will arrive at Heron Pond.  It’s very likely that you can see some or all of heron, osprey, ducks, and beaver at this pond.

Big Lake Trailhead sign
The start of Big Lake Trail.

Heron Pond

As you approach Heron Pond, have your camera ready and walk quietly. You will come up to a clearing, and the Osprey may see you before you see them, and they could fly away. Walk quietly and lookup. You may just get to see an Osprey, or see two, as I just did on this hike. By the time I took my first picture, one had already flown away.

Osprey Nest at Heron Pond, Lacawac Sanctuary
Osprey Nest at Heron Pond, Lacawac Sanctuary

There is another reason to approach Heron Pond quietly if you are able to. Heron Pond is home to at least one family of beavers. I didn’t see any when on passed by on the Big Lake Trail on this hike but I did see one from the Osprey Trail which is located on the other side of the pond.

Hikers are able to see a heron at this pond and, if you approach the shoreline in summer, you will see just how many frogs call this body of water their home.

Click here for a short, relaxing YouTube Video that shows Heron Pond in summer.

Golden Pond

Proceed on the Big Lake Trail. A trail will branch off to the right, one to the left after Heron Pond, and then another to the right. Stay on the Big Lake Trail and you pass a smaller pond to the left. This is Golden Pond. This is a quiet spot and has the potential to see more wildlife on your trek.

Golden Pond at Lacawac Sanctuary
Golden Pond at Lacawac Sanctuary

As you pass Golden Pond on the Big Lake Trail, you will be headed downhill. Yes, you will be returning on this trail, so what goes down must also go back up. There will be rock ledges to your left as you walk through this section of the forest. In winter and early spring, you will be able to see the big lake off in the distance to your right. But there are still things to see before arriving at the Lake Wallenpaupack shoreline!

Small, Seasonal Waterfalls

The Big Lake Trail has a loop towards the bottom of the hill. Take the right branch and you will return on the one to your left. Now you will be walking through the forest and, if you hike after rain or in springtime, you will get to see many small creeks rushing towards Lake Wallenpaupack.

A small creek at Lacawac Sanctuary
A small creek at Lacawac Sanctuary

Check out all of the rocks and the variety of trees in this section. I especially like to see Beech Trees in winter or spring when they still have the orange/brown leaves on them. While there are many things to see on this section, my favorite is the small cascades and waterfalls that come to like at certain times of the year.

Lake Wallenpaupack – Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike

Eventually, you will arrive at the lowest elevation of this hike near Lake Wallenpaupack. If you hike this trail when the trees have no leaves, you will have seen the lake for some time now. Once you get to the bottom and the trail turns left, running parallel to the big lake, there is a chance to get right to the shoreline. Before turning left on the Big Lake Trail, there is a short side trail to the right.

After a very short walk, there will be a sign on the left. Take the trail down to Lake Wallenpaupack. Just past some old docks in the woods, you will see a way to walk right down to the shoreline. This is a super place to hang out and have a snack. During the offseason, you can view a very quiet lake. If you go in summer, be ready to see and hear a lot of boat traffic. Either way, it’s a great place to see the big lake!

Lake Wallenpaupack
Lake Wallenpaupack

After spending some time on the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack, you will get back on the Big Lake Trail. Walk parallel to the big lake and pass by more small creeks before turning left to start your climb back up the hill. Pass by Golden Pond on the right side of the trail and look for the Osprey Trail to the right.

The Osprey, the Great Camp, and the Warbler Trails

Before reaching Heron Pond again, you will take the Osprey Trail to the right. This leads you to the other side of Heron Pond and gets you close to the beaver lodge. As you crest the small hill, it’s best to stay quiet and have your camera ready. You may get another view of osprey at this point on the trail. Also, on this very hike, I crested the hill, and a small beaver was on the side of the trail. He or she went unnoticed until it jumped into the water. Fortunately for me, I was able to have my camera ready when the beaver surfaced (see the picture below).

A beaver on Heron Pond
A beaver on Heron Pond.

Take the Osprey Trail past a section of Heron Pond. You will see the beaver lodge on the pond’s shore through the woods. The Osprey Trail splits at Lacawac’s Environmental Educational Center. Take the trail to the right, which leads to a gravel road. Take a right on the gravel road, the Great Camp Trail.  After passing bathrooms (or maybe stopping at them) and the Carriage House on the left, you will see the start of the Warbler Trail on the right. Note that the Carriage House is one of the historical buildings in the “Great Camp” area, including an Adirondack-style lodge.  You can walk through this area now or later from the Lakeside Trail.

Proceed on the Warbler Trail, which winds its way through the woods and continues down to the Lakeside Trail. Watch carefully for trail signs, as there are a few spots where the trail is harder to follow in the winter or early spring.

When you arrive at the Lakeside Trail, this hike goes left. If you want to add a half-mile or so to the hike, take a right and proceed to the end, where you will get a super view of the far end of Lake Lacawac.

The Lakeside Trail on the Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike

I will say upfront that the Lakeside Trail is my all-time favorite section of Lacawac…and I like everything about Lacawac! This trail starts at the Lake Lacawac stone patio (a short spur goes to the lodge) and walks along this glacial lake until you reach the far corner in a place that most people don’t ever see. This is a short hike and worth every step. I liked it so much that I made a YouTube video of the Lakeside Trail hike.

On this hike, you will turn left on the Lakeside Trail and hug the edge of Lake Lacawac through a beautiful forest of hemlock, rhododendrons, and a variety of hardwood trees. You will emerge from the forest at a small boathouse where there are canoes on a rack. Sorry, you can’t take a canoe out, but this is a nice viewing point. One or two times a year, Lacawac offers guided canoe trips per year, but they fill up fast. If you are interested, check the events page at Lacawac.org in the spring to sign-up.

After passing the side trail on the left that goes to the lodge, you will arrive at the end of the Lakeside Trail. To your right are the Lake Lacawac stone patio and research dock. I never miss a chance to visit the stone patio, sit on a bench and enjoy one of Northeast Pennsylvania’s amazing natural resources.

The Rhododendron Trail and the Lake Lacawac Trail

After spending time on the stone patio, head back and walk straight on the Carriage Trail, a gravel road. After a short walk, turn right on the Great Camp Trail (gravel road) and hike on. You will pass the other end of the Arthur Watres trail on your left before arriving at the start of the Rhododendron Trail.

As the name suggests, there are many Rhododendrons on this trail which ends at the Lake Lacawac Trail. The Lake Lacawac Trail is a circuit trail that starts and ends just across the gravel road from the Visitor Center. Kids (and many adults) will love the eastern red salamanders that seem to congregate on the trail in Autumn. This is a great hike if you are looking for a shorter route and is the first hike my family and I did at Lacawac many years ago.

Proceed to your right when arriving at the Lake Lacawac Trail from the Rhododendron Trail. After a short walk through the woods, take a short side trail on your right that leads to a viewing deck at Lake Lacawac.

Lake Lacawac from the viewing deck.
Lake Lacawac from the viewing deck.

After seeing the viewing deck and proceeding to the right on the Lake Lacawac Trail, you will come to some wetlands areas that provide excellent forest photography opportunities. Thre are also a few rocky sections of the trail between the wetlands. Enjoy the final stretch of your hike as soon you will come to the Lake Lacawac trailhead and can proceed to your car at the Visitor Center.

This is a very manageable hike if you take your time and enjoy all of the sights and sounds of the natural world at Lacawac Sanctuary. If I could only do one hike at this location, if would be this Lacawac Sanctuary 5-Mile Hike.

Happy Trails!

Please visit the Lacawac Sanctuary website for more information about the beautiful natural resource in Northeast Pennsylvania.

A video of this hike (Lacawac Sanctuary 5 Mile Hike)

This YouTube video shows the sights and sounds of the 5-mile hike at Lacawac Sanctuary described above. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed hiking and filming it!


By Charlie Anderson

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