A series of rushing cascades greet the wayward hiker along Glen Onoko Run in Pennsylvania. (The trail alongside the creek is now closed to hikers.)
The waterfalls along Glen Onoko Run have long piqued the curiosity of the casual tourist aided in part by the laying of railroad tracks through the Lehigh Gorge north of Mauch Chunk (today’s Jim Thorpe). The first commercial development, a tavern, opened at the base of the falls in 1886 to provide railroad passengers who came to gaze at the waterfalls with drinks and food. During the summer season, one and two-car passenger trains, pulled by a small steam engine named the Lilliput, left Mauch Chunk every 15 minutes for Glen Onoko.
Shortly after it was built, the tavern was acquired by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and expanded upon to become the Hotel Wahnetah, which was said to be the name of a Native American tribe of which Princess Onoko was a member. Legend has it that Onoko supposedly jumped into the falls in mourning over her lover.
The Wahnetah, never an expensive or opulent resort, was frequented by an emerging middle class, church groups, fraternal orders, and employees of local companies. Its popularity began to wane by the first decade of the 20th century, and it was ultimately destroyed by a forest fire in April 1911.
For years after, the raging cascades of Glen Onoko Run remained popular with hikers who braved the unforgiving and informal trails up the creek. Eventually, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired land surrounding the creek to form a state game land. Over concerns of deteriorating trail conditions, safety, and repeated rescues, the Pennsylvania Game Commission closed access to the Glen Onoko Trail on May 1, 2019.
There are numerous small cascades along Glen Onoko Run, including three sizable waterfalls.
The trails along Glen Onoko Run are now off-limits to hikers. Previously, a strenuous 1.7-mile loop trail afforded views of the many drops along the fast-moving stream. The path, greatly eroded from heavy rains and years of ill-maintenance from the Pennsylvania State Game Commission, required scrambles up boulders and treacherous climbs on slippery and uneven paths. While it could have been maintained in its current state, it was a very popular trail that was the scene of many accidents and deaths because of ill-prepared hikers.