Cliff Jumping in Scranton, PA
Outdoor adventure within striking distance of the big cities
Nay Aug Park: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Nicholas Bukofski
These days, Scranton, Pennsylvania is most notable as the setting of a certain long-running sitcom, but other than that it sits in relative obscurity. But did you know that the Electric City, just a two hour drive from Philly or New York, is home to beautiful, natural canyons and smooth, clear lakes that are ideal for cliff jumping? I sure didn’t, but when a couple of friends asked me to join them on a hike through Nay Aug Park, I thought I’d get in touch with my inner adrenaline junky and tag along.
Nay Aug Park sits in the heart of Scranton, and is home to the gorgeous Nay Aug Gorge. You can view the entire gorge and surrounding forest on top of the David Wenzel Treehouse, an elaborate overlook perched 150 feet up in the trees and truly, the view is breathtaking. But the real fun is down below, within the park’s vast array of trails. If you’re a beginner, like I was, this is a great way to get a taste of nature. Many trails are cleared and easily walkable, and ample signage makes it impossible to get lost. If you’re a more experienced hiker or just want to test your endurance, the park’s more difficult trails might be for you, with mixed terrain of natural land, rock, or wood chips - you can really pick your poison. Either way, a hike through Nay Aug Park is going to guarantee you a day of fresh air and gorgeous sights that will make you forget that you’re inside Pennsylvania’s seventh largest city.
David Wenzel Treehouse: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Alexander Belotte
The park’s calling card however, is it’s stunning waterfall, aptly titled “Nay Aug Falls”. It stands at about 20 feet high and runs under a canyon, with surrounding rock formations that reach high into the air, making the location unique and entirely ideal for cliff jumping.
When my friends and I first arrived at Nay Aug, we hiked a fairly easy trail to a small lake. Hills loomed over us in every direction and trees cascaded above us, making the spot feel special - like it was meant only for us. There was one rock structure overlooking the lake that looked just like a diving board. It was only about seven feet up, so we thought it’d be a good start for our initial jumps. I, having had an intense fear of heights for my entire life, was shaking already, but I followed the lead of my friends and climbed up to the top regardless.
Nay Aug Falls: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Justine Imburgio
The pool loomed below me and although I knew we weren’t too high yet, I had an anxious feeling in my stomach as my toes touched the edge of the rock. My best friend (and most fearless person I’ve ever met) was standing next to me. She looked over to me, a big smile on her face, and offered to hold my hand while we jumped. I gulped but after a moment of back and forth (“I don’t know if I can!” “Just do it!”) I grabbed her hand and jumped as far and high as I could.
When I jumped, my body felt like it was in the air for a moment too long, like I had just shed a huge weight and was now flying. Then I hit the water. My body sank deep into the depths of the lake - it felt like the bottom was so far below me, as if it stretched down for eternity. When I finally propelled myself up towards the surface and my head peeked up over the water there was a big, goofy smile plastered on my face. The nervous feeling had turned into great excitement, almost giddiness. I was ready for more.
Nay Aug Gorge: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Justine Imburgio
We did this a few more times, alternating between jumping and swimming in the little lake. There’s something about swimming in a natural body of water that feels so rejuvenating and emotionally freeing. But after some time, we moved on to try and find bigger and better jump points. We found ourselves at the edge of the one and only Nay Aug Falls, just fifty feet away.
Here, there were groups of at least twenty high schoolers and college kids, all laughing and goofing around. It felt like we had stumbled upon some elite new world, now a part of the Scranton locals who were in the know. This wasn’t backyard drinking and tailgating like my high school experience revolved around. This was something much more interesting, much more exciting, much more cool. The people here looked like that had been doing this for years, and they were fearless. The falls had about four clear jumping points, ranging from about 15-70 feet, and there was no shortage of people willing to jump off. Some were even doing back flips or somersaults on the way down! My friends and I were clearly out of our element but the rushing water, the gorgeous trees, the blue sky - it all made the whole thing seem irresistible. It was my fearless friend who went up first.
Nay Aug Gorge: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Bailey Pridmore
We cheered her on as she stepped up to the lowest, but still terribly daunting cliff. She stopped for a second to flash us a smile and then she just jumped, as easily as walking. Her body disappeared over the ledge and we all went crazy, clapping and cheering her on. Moments later, we saw her climbing up the rocks, that familiar triumphant smile across her face. After some egging on, it was my turn.
Again, I found myself at the edge of what seemed like a giant cliff, my heart racing, wondering how I had gotten there. I wouldn’t even ride roller-coasters before this, let alone do something this crazy. I probably held up the line for a few minutes too long, but my legs and arms were shaking, and my feet felt like they were glued to that rock. I could just hear my parents saying: “Would you jump off a cliff if all your friends did too?” Well, in this case the answer was yes, so I closed my eyes and tried to remember that at the bottom of this cliff was a pool of smooth, forgiving water that had been warmed by the sun. I tried my best to focus on this, took a deep breath, and jumped.
Nay Aug Park: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Bailey Pridmore
Nothing could have prepared me for that jump. Despite jumping from that lower point just a half hour ago, the feeling of my body falling through the air, untethered to the ground for what felt like an unnatural amount of time, and the feeling of my stomach dropping was something completely new. This time I sank much deeper and the feeling of the lake encompassing me was refreshing, enough to cool my nerves. I could barely believe what happened as I climbed back up the steep, stair-like rocks to the top, where my friends were cheering me on, smiling, giving me high fives. I was breathing so heavily but laughing from the excitement. “I can’t believe I just did that,” was all I could say, over and over again.
After that first jump, everything felt so much easier. My friends and I spent hours at the canyon, daring each other to go higher, enjoying the views, and laughing endlessly. We ended our trip with a final hike up to the highest point we could reach, a grassy area that overlooked the entire gorge. We looked down at the people still jumping off the cliffs, in awe of those who would dare to jump off the highest points but proud of ourselves in our own right. We felt exhausted, but free.
Nay Aug Falls: Scranton, PA - Photo Credit: Bailey Pridmore
Cliff jumping stands out in my mind as one of my most unforgettable experiences in the last five years. As this was one of my first outdoor trips, it really got me into the spirit of outdoor adventures, which led to so many more hiking and camping trips over the next several months. So if you enjoy your time in nature but want something with a little more kick to it, I can assure you that cliff jumping is something you won’t want to miss. Whether you have nerves of steel or are a long way from it, a trip like this will appeal to your inner wild child. (Not to mention that it’s free!) If you live in Pennsylvania or anywhere near Scranton, Nay Aug Park is the spot to do it - it’s a true hidden gem. With its elaborate trails and scenic views, it's a perfect place to get lost for a day. If you don’t live in the Scranton area, there are ample resources available online to find local cliff jumping spots near you. You might be surprised how many places are within driving distance of your town! So if you’re brave enough, try something new and have a blast doing it - and if you’re not, face your fears and make some great memories with your friends! Who knows? You might just get hooked.
Guest Blogger Justine Imburgio majors in Secondary Education and English at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Look for more of Justine's writing in the Pathloom blog in the coming weeks!
Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may find helpful:
Sign up on our website for exclusive early access to the Pathloom BETA app, and let us help you plan your next outdoor trip! As an early user, you will receive exclusive access to our BETA app, outdoor guides and information, created solely for you by Pathloom!
Sign up today and we will send you a list of our favorite dispersed camping places in California!
Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the way people discover the outdoors.