PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pocono Mountains have developed a unique ability to change faces almost overnight. Not too many months ago, skiers and snowboarders were blazing down the steep slopes of Camelback Mountain. Virtually overnight as winter dressed for spring, those snow-covered trails turned green and sprouted water slides, troughs and pools alongside an island themed Tiki bar and a boardwalk style grub hub. Then there’s the revitalized Alpine slide, zip lines, treetop challenge courses and a bustling indoor water park at the center of a sparkling new hotel of suites, bars, lounges and eateries. The Pocono Mountain’s largest winter playground is now a mountain for all seasons. Let’s take the tour.
Approaching the mountain, skiers always get excited with that first glimpse of early birds swinging down ribbons of white and chairlifts running from base to summit. But now in the warmth of summer, the image is the green and white of beach umbrellas, and the water slides and tubes that march their way up the mountain and stop just before the headwalls. From kids to adults, if you’re over 4 feet tall, the tab for an all day tag is $42 to ride, swim, splash, challenge the wave pool and lounge to your heart’s content. Seniors and younger children get a ten buck break. Here’s a look at all the prices and discounts.
Boardwalk style cafeterias are clustered in a convenient setting with poolside seating. The eateries serve up familiar fast food from pizza and burgers to fries and barbecue. Stalls that line a walkway between food hub and the water action tap out soft ice cream cones along with finger snack favorites. Many families arrive at the park with picnic basket to keep a check on the budget. Tables are available in a dedicated location, but it is best to reserve one to avoid disappointment. Check out the prices and picnicking suggestions here.
A colorful and friendly Tiki bar is located smack in the middle of the food hub. It’s a handy refuge for parents of energetic teens who are more than capable of navigating the pools and slides on their own. I chatted here over a beer with older parents, staying on the property at the Camelback Lodge and with a couple of 20 somethings who spend both winter and summer on this mountain, going from skis and boards to swimsuits and tubes.
There’s a dizzying array of challenges as you move east along the mountain. Camelback Mountain adventures take you over the slopes on a pair of lightning fast zip lines. Then there’s the obstacle course through the treetops that combine the tests of navigating cargo nets, and rustic suspension bridges. A coaster and an alpine slide provide the rush of winter toboggan runs from summit to base. The Alpine Slide is a newly opened version of an old favorite that I had the thrill of riding on its 1977 opening day. The latest incarnation is a new and improved slide that launched just this season. Take a chairlift ride to the summit and feel the wind on your face as you drive the chute from turn to turn back to the base.
Camelback lodge is a long-awaited addition that turned a winter ski area into a truly four-season family resort. Over 450 rooms and suites support “Aquatopia”, a dynamic indoor water park with hints of an Amazon Adventure and features water slides that soar to glass ceilings, pools and challenging surfing chutes. The surfers show off their ability to take the man made waves in Hawaiian Style, learn new surfboard skills or hone the ones you already have. The Neptune bar overlooks the water park in nautical fantasy lighting and backdrops. Light dining options from Sushi to comfy with cocktails are the way to go here. Breakfast and dinner buffets are signatures at the Heritages Restaurant. For a lively pub that serves up burgers, flatbreads, steaks and fin food, head for the Trails End. A stay at Camelback Lodge gets you entry to Aquatopia and the Camelbeach Water Park.
There’s plenty of parking at both the lodge and Camelbeach, but you can take a convenient shuttle between the two. For activities away from the lodge and Camelbeach water park, there is hiking and mountain biking on Big Pocono State Park which shares its land with Camelback Mountain. The trail can be challenging, so check the park web site before venturing out. The nearby town of Tannersville offers numerous dining options. My longtime favorite has been Smugglers Cove for its lively bar and always consistent seafood. For shoppers, the Crosssroads Premium Outlet stores are at the entry point of Camelback Road.