The weather is getting colder now and the mornings in Northeastern Pennsylvania are absolutely perfect for running. After recovering from an injury that sidelined me for most of July and August, Tobyhanna State Park was the first destination on my list. Time is running out, as the leaves will be falling off the trees soon. My experience has been that October is a really annoying month for running while September is the most rewarding. My experience today reinforces the latter point.
A 25-minute drive outside of Scranton and just off a major highway, Tobyhanna State Park is a popular park not just with Pennsylvania residents, but the masses from New York and New Jersey as well.
Rather than the curving technical trails that typify many of Pennsylvania’s state parks, Tobyhanna keeps it simple with a perfect 5+ mile trail around the lake and just two offshoots. One leads to nowhere, the other leads to Gouldsboro State Park.
My run at Tobyhanna State Park was 6.13 miles. You can follow along here.
Where to Start
The intermediate runner has two choices here. Either you lap the lake, which is just over five miles, or you set up some type of point-to-point with a friend where you run partially along the lake, take the 3.2 mile Frank Gantz trail to Gouldsboro State Park, run around there, then get in your friend’s car and drive back to Tobyhanna.
In either case, you should start in parking lot 1 near the boat rental. Worth mentioning that the restrooms here are pretty nice.
The 5.1 mile Lakeside Trail is what every path surrounding a body of water aspires to be. My god, this is one of the most perfect trails I have ever run.
Really the only knock on this trail is that it gets confusing and choppy through the parking areas. You’ll notice that I hung right just about a quarter-mile into the run. This was a bad start and trekking even 150m to nowhere can hurt the early morale.
Other than this, the markings aren’t always great, but the run is shaded, packed/crushed stone, and has slight uphills with rolling downhills–my favorite.
Past the beach, you’ve got a half-mile of trail that can help you get back into a groove. Then, you’re out onto a road for the last time and it’s unclear whether the trail parking is also the trail re-entrance. It is, though the group of kids I asked didn’t know what I was talking about.
The first quarter-mile involves a slight uphill, actually one of the steepest in the run, before reaching a juncture. Foolishly, I followed the sign that said “to campgrounds,” confusing myself and wasting 200m of effort in what was turning out to be a fast run.
Following the right turn, you’ll quickly reach the entrance to the Range Trail. I was having a great time on the Lakeside Trail but I gave it a shot anyway.
A much more difficult, technical, though straight, trail which takes you into a more secluded section of the park.
It was much more narrow with roots and rocks demanding constant attention to the ground. More along the lines of what I’ve come to expect but not something I’m going to expend myself on knowing what the Lakeside Trail has in store for me.
You can’t get here without taking a portion of the Lakeside Trail and it doesn’t connect to anything. Maybe I missed out on something special here, but you can skip this trail.
Back Onto the Lakeside Trail
The next three miles of the Lakeside Trail were pure bliss for me. Slight uphills followed by gradual downhills, it was a speedster’s paradise. The ground covering was pretty consistent and the trail remained wide.
Toward the end, you’ll find yourself at the dam. I knew I should have hugged the lake but I didn’t know any better, so I stupidly crossed the road just to realize I wasn’t supposed to do that.
The final portion of the trail after the dam isn’t conducive to a sprint finish. The trail narrows and has a few sharp turns. Then, as it spills out back into the boat launch area, it disappears completely and your choices are to run over the grass or take the parking lot entrance road along the rental building. Not an ideal end but that summarizes how pretty much every state park run goes.
Frank Gantz Trail
This is the trail that takes you to the other park. I encountered it around mile 4, proceeding clockwise. It’s 3.2 miles and is rated “most difficult.” I was moving so fast that I didn’t even think to take it. I wanted to log a decent time around the lake so that’s what I focused on. I didn’t have the stamina or interest for an out and back.
The Lakeside Trail at Tobyhanna State Park is one of the nicest lake trails I’ve ever encountered. It is incredibly well maintained with elevation changes that suit my style of running. Frankly, I’d prefer to time trial a 5k here instead of a track or road.