Pennsylvania Route 196 starts as Sterling Road at an intersection with PA 611 and PA 940. From this intersection, the highway heads north through Monroe County, intersecting with PA 423 in Tobyhanna.
PA 196 continues as Sterling Road into Wayne County, and intersects PA 507 in the town of Angels. Just after crossing under Interstate 84, PA 196 intersects PA 191, which provides access to the interstate at Exit 17. PA 196 and PA 191 then overlap northward toward the town of Hamlin, where they intersect PA 590. In Lake Township, PA 196 and PA 191 split. PA 196 ends at PA 296 in Varden.