Underexposed is a series dedicated to showcasing trails around North America that fly under the proverbial radar for most riders. PEARL iZUMi athlete Brice Shirbach has seen firsthand what sweat equity can mean among mountain bikers and its impact on the places we call home, and this series will look to help open eyes and shift our attention to some of the brilliant riding that exists in places both unexpected and unheard of.
The Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania aren’t the kind of mountains that will necessarily inspire in the same way that the Cascades or Sierra Nevadas. Even by Appalachian standards, they’re not particularly impressive in terms of their size and scale. Encompassing roughly 2,500 square miles of hilly terrain overlooking the Delaware River along its eastern flanks, the Pocono Mountains are a part of the Allegheny Plateau, along with its larger neighbors to the north, the Catskill Mountains. The terrain throughout the region is defined less by mountainous peaks, and more by a stacked series of ridgelines and plateaus, often separated by valleys and rivers. It’s the depth of the nooks and crannies that really house the treasures of the area, with dense old-growth forests full of evergreen and deciduous trees, mountain laurels, creeks, streams, and of course brilliant trails.
East Stroudsburg is a small community in the heart of the Poconos. With a university at the center of downtown, the Delaware Water Gap two miles to the east, and plenty of hills throughout the area to play on, it’s a community ripe for outdoor recreational opportunities. And the mountain biking here, in particular, provides some of the best rubber to dirt experiences in all of Pennsylvania, which says a lot as the Keystone state holds some of the east coast’s best trails within its boundaries. The trails throughout the Stroudsburg Borough managed Glen Park, in particular, have a history that runs decades deep but have only recently begun to make a bit more noise up and down the northeast corridor thanks to increased visibility due to some regional enduro race series. The fast, lumpy, and rowdy trails that call it home are exactly what I love about riding bikes on the east coast, and exactly why we find ourselves here today.
The Pocono Bike Club is perhaps the most notable 501c3 that lends itself to the efforts of keeping the trails running. Still, the truth is that it’s a veritable hodgepodge of volunteerism – some of it organized, some of it not – that can be thanked for these brilliant trails. Over the last few decades the list of names behind the trails has grown immensely, a list that includes but is not limited to Dan Whitehead, Jim Dellevalle, Matt Arnold, Dan Brodeen, Kyle Kimble, Jeremy Smiley, Lee Sidlosky, Jack Arnold, David Cross, Jose Luis Baez, and last but not least George Halas and Danny Brennan, co-owners of the Pocono Bike Company, the area’s premier bike shop. While many of those are affiliated with the PBC, the reality is that many who work on these trails aren’t and that the beauty of this unspoken cooperation is that it’s a lot of people chipping in, which in turn helps to foster a surprisingly open and welcoming environment for riders from outside of the area.
The trails themselves are built into the side of a ridge with roughly 500 vertical feet of prominence to play around on. Rhododendron tunnels, copious amounts of dark topsoil, moss-covered rocks, and the occasional steep chute are the dominant natural features you’ll find here, as well as plenty of doubles, step-downs, and senders. You won’t find much in the way of signs or trail names beyond the stages they represent from various enduro races. Still, it’s easy to navigate, and the limited vertical relief encourages a “rinse and repeat” approach. Of course, shuttling has always been a big part of riding Glen Park, but most modern trail bikes are more than capable of handling all of the terrain here, and the climb up is friendly enough.
From a distance, East Stroudsburg and the modest Poconos Mountains that surround it aren’t likely to get your adventure juices flowing. The thing about this corner of the east coast is that it’s never about what you see from a distance, but rather what you find waiting for you beneath the dense canopy of the green tunnel that makes it worthwhile, and in my estimation, Glen Park is begging for a closer look.