The Pocono Mountains have long offered a welcome respite to city dwellers of the Northeast U.S. Entering from the east, you'll wind beneath the Delaware Water Gap's towering, rocky peaks on the teetering edge of the forested river (where you'll find some of the region's most challenging hiking along 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail). Deep-blue lakes speckle the surrounding area — which is also dotted with tight-knit mountain communities, lodges, and ski resorts — in all directions, and a web of cascading, interconnected waterfalls sprawl across it all.
One of the oldest, longest-standing obstacle course races in the Spartan universe, the Palmerton race weekend sits at number four on our list of hardest U.S. races, and the Super is widely regarded as our most challenging 10K in the country. Plus, Palmerton is one of the only two races in the United States (the other being Lake Tahoe) where you can try your hand at the rare Ape Hanger obstacle — a challenge you simply can't miss.
To help you prepare to take on this beast of a race at Blue Mountain Resort, and envelop yourself in everything the area has to offer, we've compiled a comprehensive rundown of the course (along with expected weather and terrain). Plus, we rounded up Palmerton's best lodging options, provisions, and Spartan-worthy adventures.
Your Ultimate Travel Guide to the Palmerton, Pennsylvania Spartan Race Weekend
The Nitty Gritty of the Palmerton, Pennsylvania Course: Race Types, Terrain, Elevation Gain, and Weather
Blue Mountain Resort is just 90 minutes from both Philadelphia and New York City, and you'll get a great view of what's in store for you as you drive up the dirt road to the open grassy field that serves as the parking lot. The festival — booming with energy that exudes through the merchandise tunnel — sits at the foot of the ski slopes, which practically tower up from the tents below.
There are typically two obstacle course race types at Palmerton — Sprint 5Ks and Super 10Ks — and from the moment you cross the start line, you are climbing. With over 1,500 feet of elevation gain on the Sprint and nearly 1,000 more than that on the Super, these rocky, technical, INSANELY steep climbs are something your calves, quads, and hamstrings will never forget.
You'll first ascend the mountain on loose gravel and grassy patches under open skies for what will feel like endless miles (this is where mental toughness really comes into play), and then duck beneath tree cover and scramble hand over foot — literally — up a pure vertical, grabbing onto rocks and roots for over a mile. At the mountain's peak, you'll face the nightmare of many racers prior: the double black diamond sandbag carry that quite literally causes even the most elite athletes to sprawl out on the slope for several mid-carry breaks.
And just before you tackle the infamous Ape Hanger and a gnarly uphill Barbed Wire Crawl, you'll swim — yes, actually swim — across an open lake.
And if you don't feel like tackling obstacles, this weekend usually features a 10K Trail race, pushing racers past the skiable boundaries into miles of pristine, wooded, single-track trails. Weaving between the scraggly sticks poking out from hundreds of Pocono pines, your trail shoes will crunch over their needles as you traverse this course in complete peaceful solitude. Don't forget to breathe in the mountain air and take in the abundance of greenery — ferns abound.
Summer temperatures in this part of the Poconos will fall between 65 and 85º Fahrenheit, with less than a 33% chance of rain. Prepare for a gorgeous, taxing day on the mountain, and invite your friends and family to come support you: With an operating chair lift, Palmerton is one of the best Spartan races for spectators to attend.
Places to Stay Near Palmerton, Pennsylvania
- Mahoning Inn ($-$$): This mountain-view inn offers 34 different basic rooms, each with their own flair. In the heart of Lehighton, you'll be less than 15 miles from the race.
- Days Hotel by Wyndham - Allentown/Lehigh Valley ($-$$): An excellent option for out-of-state or international travelers (this hotel is around the corner from the Lehigh Valley International Airport and less than 20 minutes from Blue Mountain), Days has an airport shuttle, indoor pool, laundry, free breakfast, and even a game room.
- The Lodge at Woodstone Country Club ($$): Four miles from the mountain, you'll find expansive and rustic suites and rooms, complete with balconies, golf-course views, continental breakfast, and plenty of patios.
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson ($$): This sleek, modern hotel features a hot tub, free hot breakfast (with their signature waffles), and an outdoor fireside patio, just over a 10-minute drive from the race.
- Hampton Inn - Lehighton ($$$): A hotel classic, the Lehighton-Jim Thorpe Hampton Inn offers an indoor pool, free hot breakfast, a fitness center, and even pet-friendly rooms (and you'll only be 13 miles from Blue Mountain).
Places to Eat Near Palmerton, Pennsylvania
- Slopeside Pub and Grill ($$)
- The Gorge Eatery ($$)
- Joey B's ($$)
- One Ten Tavern ($$)
- Bonnie & Clyde Pub and Grill ($$)
- Big Creek Bar-B-Q ($$)
Things to Do Near Palmerton, Pennsylvania
- Spend a Day at Beltzville State Park: This 3,002-acre park in the southern Pocono foothills has everything your entire Spartan family needs for an epic day of outdoor adventure: fishing, boating, and swimming in the 949-acre lake (which includes a beach); hiking trails for all abilities; 2.5 miles of mountain biking trails, and more.
- Visit Jim Thorpe: Jim Thorpe — named after the Olympic gold medalist of the same name — is one of Pennsylvania's most charming, historic towns. Nestled along the Lehigh Gorge, the 200-year-old, village-like town is teeming with shopping, dining, museums, and entertainment of all kinds.
- Go Whitewater Rafting at Lehigh Gorge State Park: Just outside of Jim Thorpe, the 6,107-acre Lehigh Gorge State Park sits on the Lehigh River and follows more than 20 miles of the D&L Trail. The park offers three lengths of whitewater rafting trips, as well as miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and running.
- Attend a Concert at Penn's Peak: This music venue sits atop a mountain in Jim Thorpe, holds 1,800 people, and hosts some of the world's most revered entertainers. Relax and unwind with great views, great music, and great company.
Take a Trip to Dorney Park: Just over 30 minutes from Palmerton, Dorney Park has more than 60 rides and attractions, and even includes an entirely separate (and massive) waterpark — the perfect adrenaline rush.