Skytop Mountain Road and Trail
About 2 and a half miles from the Lodge, on the right side of Route 390 just across Lizzy’s Bridge, there is a small parking area at a locked gate. An old, wide road leads from here to one of the most picturesque vistas in the Poconos, at the summit of Skytop, or East Mountain. The road rises very gradually to the open vista (where Skytop picnics were once held) about a mile from the parking area. (Note: bear right at the fork near the top; the left trail goes all the way down to Goose Pond). On a clear day, the Delaware Water Gap and the ski slopes of Shawnee Mountain are visible in the distance, and Skytop Lake and the Lodge are in view right below the vista.
The hiker can either turn around and return to Route 390 by the same road or proceed onto a woodland trail that winds steeply down the other side of the mountain from the vista and ends at the Trout Stream Trail about 0.6 mile from the top (the steep descent may be slippery in winter). Then, by turning left and walking less than another half-mile, the hiker can reach the Trout Stream parking lot beside Route 390. From here the Skytop Mountain parking area near Lizzy’s Bridge is about 1.2 miles up Route 390.
Along Skytop Mountain Road there is a fascinating change in vegetation from mostly a mixed oak forest of white, red, scarlet, and chestnut oaks to an unusual barrens community at the top. Pitch pine, gray birch, and sassafras emerge from an extremely dense thicket of scrub oak, with lots of black huckleberry, sheep laurel, sweet fern, bracken fern, lowbush blueberry and wintergreen (teaberry). The uncanny resemblance of this forest, at 2000 feet in elevation, to New Jersey’s famous Pine Barrens at sea level, stems from several factors upon which barrens communities depend: poor, sterile soils: open, sunny environments; and frequent occurrence of fires. These conditions favor the continuation of the barrens vegetation (which is resistant to fire) and the elimination of competing plants from the surrounding forests.
The Skytop Mountain barrens also support breeding birds typical of such communities; common yellowthroat, prairie, pine and chestnut-sided warblers, towhee, catbird, and field sparrow. There are also harmless smooth green, ring-necked, red-bellied and hognose snakes, snowshoe hares, coyotes and black bear dens among the rock ledges. Turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks and, rarely, ravens can be seen soaring above the open vistas.