Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (2023)

The Fine Points of Delaware Water Gap Trails and Hikes

The famous notch that characterizes Warren County's western skyline is where the Kittatinny Mountains have given way to eons of gentle persuasion by the Delaware River, creating one of the most majestic of New Jersey's natural features between Mount Tammany and Mount Minsi in Pennsylvania. Because of the philanthropic tendencies of a family named Worthington, and the accidents of history that created the National Recreation Area here, the confluence of water and earth at the Delaware Water Gap promises hikers a bounty of blissful steps through exquisite terrain.

Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (1)

You get to the Water Gap Mountain from either Worthington State Park, the Old Mine Road in the National Recreation Area, or from Blairstown on the east side. Once a family estate, Worthington State Forest comprises almost 6,000 acres extending about seven miles along the Kittatinny Ridge. It lies within the Recreation Area, originally condemned in the 1960s to be a gigantic reservoir, and which extends another 70,000 acres into Sussex County and the Pennsylvania Pocono region.

The area proximate to the Gap contains somewhere close to 70 miles of trails which lead hikers to breathtaking overlooks, sublime glens and ravines, rugged outcroppings, a glacial lake, ancient copper mines and endless hours of serenity. The most spectacular view is offered immediately from the Worthington access off Route 80, a short but vigorous hike (including one 30 foot high rock climb) up the Red Dot Trail to the top of Mt. Tammany at the point of the Gap. The Red Dot is the 1.5 mile rim trail leading to the peak and then to a fire road along the eastern edge of the Kittatinny ridge.

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The Blue Dot trail takes you to the same spot along a longer (2 .5 mi.) but less strenuous interior route stemming from the Appalachian Trail, also accessed from the parking lots at Worthington. When you reach the top of the Indian Head formation you are about 1200 feet above the river and can look across to the continuing ridge in PA and Southwest along the valley to Scotts Mountain near Phillipsburg, down to Washington and sometimes about 40 miles all the way to Glen Gardner in Hunterdon County. Hikers can go up one way and down another for an exhilarating loop.

Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (2)

Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (3)

A section of the 2,000 mile, Maine to Georgia, Appalachian Trail runs right over the top of the ridge, acting kind of like Main Street in this prime Kittatinny neighborhood. Its about 3 1/2 miles from the Interstate up to the Sunfish Pond natural area, and the beautiful glacial lake makes a perfect anchor for a long afternoon's walk above the Dunnfield Creek ravine. Beyond the pond the AT provides more spectacular views along the seven mile stretch to Millbrook Road. The trail crosses an area called Raccoon Ridge near the Upper Yards Creek Reservoir facility above Blairstown. A narrow razor-back where a ridge ends, Raccoon Ridge is one of the few spots that affords views down to the river to the west and broad vistas to the east. You can also access this popular area via the Coppermine Trail or Kaiser Trail from the Old Mine Road in the Recreation Area. Other routes from the Old Mine Road include the Garvey Springs and Sunfish Drainage Trails, so hikers can travel loops of various lengths and difficulty.

You can also walk five miles from Indian Head along the Kittatinny eastern edge on Mt. Tammany Fire Road to the relatively flat Turquoise Trail, over to the Sunfish Pond fire road and into the Raccoon Ridge area. This trail ends at a fence barricading the Upper Yards Creek pumping facility. Obey the rules and do not cross the fence; for if you do at the wrong time- the moment water is released from the top impoundment to the lower- you may end up as a fine red mist spewing from the pumped storage generating turbines. From here you can finish the 14 mile loop following the Dunnfield Creek trail back down the gorgeous ravine, accentuated by serene pools and glorious forest. Sharp eyes might detect the remnants of a foundation- there was once a sawmill here. In fact, once upon a time there was barely a tree left on these mountains-- all gone to feed the forges and furnaces. Many of these trails are the descendants of logging roads. Or they have been more recently born of fire-fighting efforts in the forest.

If you enter the park on the Old Mine Road, right before the bridge over the Delaware, you bear right and meet the 3-minute light which meters traffic along a narrow stretch of road, able to handle only one lane of traffic. You can park here and access the Karamack Trail, an abandoned railroad bed that offers a flat, packed cinder path, accessible even to a wheelchair along some of its lovely contour along the river. Another mile up the Old Mine Road brings you to the Fairview Hiking Area and the Beulahland Trail, an alternate path up to the AT and Sunfish Pond. Another alternate up the western side of the ridge is the Douglas Trail, which begins about 4 miles north of Route 80 and hits the AT just south of Sunfish Pond. You can walk along the west side of the pond and hook up with the Garvey Springs to head back down to Old Mine Road for a nice 4.3 mile loop.

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Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (4)

Coppermines Trail, named after the remnants of the Dutch mines dating from the 1600s, begins almost 8 miles down the Old Mine Road and runs to the AT just south of the Mohican Outdoor Center, an old camp now operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The camp sits on Catfish Pond, a few miles north of Sunfish Pond and the Yards Creek area, and from which you can begin another loop around what is called the Rattlesnake Swamp. These trails are also easily accessible from the east at Blairstown's Mohican Road and from Route 602 at Millbrook Village to the north. The Mohican Center sponsors a series of hikes all over the Park during the summer. (See our calendar or call 908/362-5670.

Back down at the Old Mine Road you can pull off and get into Van Campens Glen which, for good reason, is among the most popular places near the Gap. Here it is the interior scenery that is spectacular as the cool beauty of the brook brings you to spots that will certainly make you smile. In a few minutes, you can find solace here... or perhaps a memorable moment with a friend.

On The Trail

Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (5)

Traversing these steep slopes, often covered with loose shale, requires sturdy boots or climbing shoes that will support your ankles. Make sure they're broken in and bring extra socks- wet, sweaty socks in leather boots are very uncomfortable.

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Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (6)

Be careful of snakes- there are Rattlesnakes and Copperheads, so use common sense and don't stick your hands under rocks. You'll see an occasional black bear. Again, use common sense, don't feed them, and be cautious around cubs. Bang something and talk to them to let them know you're around. Above all, don't get between mother and cub

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Pohatcong Native Arboretum
  • Local roots!

    56 Mine Hill Rd, Washington

  • Roseberry Homestead
  • 540 Warren Street, Phillipsburg 08865

  • Jersey Ridge Soaring
  • Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (7)

    Take a breathtaking ride with a FAA certified pilot above the Kittatinny Mountains and Delaware Water Gap in our single passenger glider, or take someone else along in our two-passenger glider. Glider rides, glider instruction, gift certificates.

    (Video) Back roads Stokes Forest New Jersey Skylands

    Blairstown Airport, 36 Lambert Rd., Blairstown 07825, 908/362-1239

  • Last Frontier Angler
  • Hiking the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey Northwest Skylands: (8)

    Guided fly fishing excursions, beginner to expert, instruction also available. Catch trout in spring, smallmouth bass in summer, ice fishing in winter. Explore the Paulinskill, Flatbrook and wild trout streams.

    Blairstown, 908-878-6289

  • Rutherfurd Hall
  • Consider Rutherfurd Hall as refuge and sanctuary in similar ways now, as it served a distinguished family a hundred years ago.

    1686 Route 517, Allamuchy 07820, 908/852-1894

More...

This story was first published: Summer, 1997

FAQs

Is the Delaware Water Gap a hard hike? ›

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area offers over 150 miles of trails of various difficulty levels. From wheelchair accessible trails, like Dingmans Falls boardwalk trail, to strenuous hikes, like the Mount Tammany Red Dot Trail, there is a perfect trail for everyone.

Is Delaware Water Gap worth visiting? ›

The Delaware Water Gap is one of the very best places for outdoor experiences in the U.S. We've had a home near the Delaware Water Gap for many years and have spent countless hours hiking, kayaking, and exploring the region. Winter, summer, spring, and fall, the Gap has plenty of things to do.

Where are the best views of the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Resort Point Overlook offers a view of the Gap from an upstream vantage point along PA 611. Kittatinny Point offers a view of the Gap from an upstream vantage point along I-80. The Red Dot Trail offers views into the Gap from atop Mt. Tammany in New Jersery.

What is special about the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Situated within the most densely populated region of the United States, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area provides a unique opportunity to experience tranquil landscapes, rich human history, and striking scenery along 40 miles of the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi.

Are there bears in the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has one of the densest populations of black bears in the country. We also have some of the biggest bears in the country. If you leave your food wrappers, scraps, leftovers, dirty napkins, and picnicware in the park, you are FEEDING the bears.

Are there rattlesnakes in Delaware Water Gap? ›

Timber rattlesnakes are found in New Jersey typically around the Kittatinny Ridge north of the Water Gap, the northern Highlands area and in the Pine Barrens, according to the DEP. SO WHY ARE THEY TURNING UP IN GARDENS?

Are there snakes in Delaware Water Gap? ›

The park is home to 14 species of snakes, 8 species of turtles, and two kinds of lizards.

Are there wolves in the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Even if you don't book a tour, you'll likely hear the howling of wolves through the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap at night. That's because the Lakota Wolf Preserve is in the southern portion of the recreation area.

What is the number 1 attraction in Delaware? ›

1. Rehoboth and Delaware Beaches. Stretching much of the length of Delaware's 28 miles of Atlantic coastline are white-sand beaches, and they are extremely popular with residents of the three major cities within weekend reach.

How much does it cost to cross the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge
OpenedDecember 16, 1953
Statistics
TollWestbound: $3.00 for cars without E-ZPass $1.25 for cars with E-ZPass
Location
14 more rows

Why is the Delaware Water Gap closed? ›

The soil here is composed of loose material that has eroded from the rocky cliffs nearby. Because the soil is very loose and forms a steep bank, stormwater has been able to wash away material and make the slopes unstable,” Malzone said.

Are there ticks in Delaware Water Gap? ›

Tick Safety in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Would it surprise you to learn that ticks are an important part of the local ecosystem here in the park? It's true. Many different species look at a tick as a meal.

Can you swim in the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Swimming is a popular activity at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Three beaches provide easy access to swim in the river. Milford Beach has lifeguards from 10 am-6 pm Thursday through Monday from June 19, 2022 until August 27, 2022.

Can you bring your own tube to the Delaware Water Gap? ›

A: Sorry, you can not bring your own equipment and use our shuttle services anymore due to our change in insurance policies. Furthermore, we do not offer parking for private recreationalists. You must rent equipment from Delaware River Tubing to use any of our services and property.

Why is it called Water Gap? ›

A water gap is a gap that flowing water has carved through a mountain range or mountain ridge and that still carries water today. Such gaps that no longer carry water currents are called wind gaps. Water gaps and wind gaps often offer a practical route for road and rail transport to cross the mountain barrier.

Has there ever been a bull shark in the Delaware River? ›

And, the bull sharks known to swim in the Delaware River, as they do far upriver from oceans worldwide, have never been reported in an attack on any humans, although in late April and early May 1922 newspapers throughout the U.S. reported on a 12-foot shark "said to have been on the man-eating variety" that was shot ...

Is Delaware Water Gap free? ›

The great thing is that there are no entrance fees for Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, but we do have special areas within the park for picnicing and swimming that are considered Expanded Amenity Areas because of the additional services offered in these locations, such as Lifeguards at the swim areas, and ...

What animals are in the Delaware Water Gap? ›

Visitors can commonly see white-tailed deer and wild turkey searching for food. After nightfall, the park comes alive with a whole new set of animals: foxes, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and, in the night sky, owls, and six species of bats.

What time of day rattlesnakes most active? ›

While they can be out any time, rattlesnakes are most active in the morning and from dusk into the night. They hunt mice and rodents in darkness because they can sense body heat with special organs on their face.

What months are rattlesnakes most active? ›

They are most active in the warmer times of the year spring through early fall and many of them are nocturnal during the summer months. When favorable temperatures occur, many rattlesnakes are marginally active even during the winter.

Can rattlesnakes swim in saltwater? ›

Rattlesnakes have no problem swimming in saltwater. They can swim equally well in freshwater as well as the ocean. In fact, rattlesnakes often swim across salty waters in places like Florida in order to get from land mass to land mass.

What is the hardest hike on the East Coast? ›

1. Mount Madison. Perhaps overshadowed by its aforementioned Presidential Range brother to the south, Mount Madison offers one of the steepest, most challenging rock scrambles of the entire trail, gaining 2,812 feet over a 2.6-mile span (a more than 20% incline).

Which thru hike is the hardest? ›

The CDT is by far the most difficult of the three trails due to navigation challenges, wildlife, weather, and long stretches between resupply and water.

What is the best trail in Delaware Water Gap? ›

According to users from AllTrails.com, the best place to hike in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is Mount Minsi via Appalachian Trail, which has a 4.5 star rating from 5,671 reviews.

What is the deadliest hike in the US? ›

America's deadliest hike is Mount Ranier in Washington State. It has claimed over 400 deaths. Anything but a “walk in the park,” Mount Ranier features extreme and fast weather changes, avalanches, falling rocks, and an unpredictable volcano. Hypothermia is common, along with broken bones, drowning, and heat stroke.

What is the terrifying 25? ›

The Terrifying 25 list (commonly referred to as the T25) includes trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that have slides, rock scrambles, and boulder caves. These are trails that are very rugged, sketchy in places, and usually very dangerous in bad weather.

Which thru hike is the easiest? ›

Four Beginner-Friendly Thru-Hikes
  1. 1) Foothills Trail, South Carolina. 76 miles. Average Elevation ~1,000 feet. ...
  2. 2) Florida Trail, Florida. 1,500 miles. Average Elevation ~500 feet. ...
  3. 3) Greenstone Ridge Trail, Michigan. 41 miles. Average Elevation ~1,000 feet. ...
  4. 4) Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail, New Hampshire. 48 miles.
21 Jun 2021

How far can you hike in 3 hours? ›

Using Naismith's Rule, a nine mile hike should have a base hiking time of three hours at a calculation of three miles per hour.

What is a flip flop hiker? ›

So really, what is a flip-flop? It's simple. Instead of starting in Georgia or Maine and hiking north or south, you start, well, wherever you want and hike in whichever direction you'd like. Once you've reached the end you go back to where you originated from and walk in the opposite direction.

How many miles a day do you walk on the Appalachian Trail? ›

Most hikers start out slow, averaging eight to 10 miles a day. They will eventually work up to 12 to 16 miles a day. Don't worry if you end up doing less some days and more on other days; as long as you set a goal for where you need to be each month, you will survive and successfully complete the trail before winter.

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