The Delaware Water Gap isn’t just a place for people to canoe, kayak, and fish. While those are excellent activities, there is a reason the Appalachian Trail goes through this area: the hiking is fantastic. But with so many options trails available, it can be daunting to narrow your list. That’s why we’re rounding up our top 10 Delaware Water Gap hikes.
Delaware Water Gap has an abundance of scenic hiking trails that range from easy to challenging. Some favorites include:
- Buttermilk Falls
- Hornbecks Creek Trail
- McDade Trail
- Milford Knob Loop
- Mount Minsi
- Raccoon Ridge Loop
- Rattlesnake Swamp
- Red Dot Trail to Blue Blaze
- And more…
The Delaware Water Gap is the ideal weekend getaway. It sits on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and there is an abundance of camping and B&Bs to give visitors some rest between the hikes, fishing, and kayaking on the river. In addition, much of the area provides shuttles to popular trailheads, sparing hikers from the dreaded parking headache. Just check times and locations in advance.
10 Best Delaware Water Gap Hiking Trails
The Delaware Water Gap is loved for its scenic view, an abundance of waterfalls, and its spectacular display of fall colors. We’ve rounded up our top ten hiking trails for you to enjoy, ranging from short to all-day excursions. But even the quickest journey will provide a memorable sight.
1 – Buttermilk Falls & Crater Lake Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 6.7 miles
- Average time: 3h 40m
Buttermilk Fall is the highest waterfall in New Jersey. Thus, Buttermilk Falls and Crater Lake Loop is a popular route. But it is worth the extra people to see the glacially formed lake and experience the views from the two lookout platforms.
This area is also excellent for camping. So you could turn this experience into a whole weekend adventure and add a few other hikes too.
2 – Hornbecks Creek Trail: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 3.7 miles
- Average time: 1h 50m
Hornbecks Creek Trail, nicknamed Indian Ladders, is less popular with tourists and enjoyed by the locals. People love it for the waterfalls, which are a beautiful sight. The trail has a split personality. The first part takes hikers to two waterfalls, and it is pretty easy; even younger children will enjoy it. At this point, some people might want to turn back.
For those going ahead, the trail becomes much more rugged. However, this is where folks encounter the “ladder,” which is a series of descending waterfalls. Well worth the extra effort if your knees will allow. Even better, do this one in the fall to enjoy the stunning colors.
3 – McDade Trail: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 22 miles
- Average time: 9h 25m
McDade Trail is adored by mountain bikers, but hikers and runners flock to it too. It follows the Delaware River and, like many on this list, is extra special when the leaves turn in the fall. In winter, bikes get swapped for cross-country skis and hiking boots for snowshoes. In short, this is a wonderful all-day trail no matter the time of year.
4 – Milford Knob Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 2.6 miles
- Average time: 1h 45m
Milford Knob is considered moderately challenging due to the steep gradient. But children do ascend this successfully; it’s the adults and their knees that need to ensure they have good shoes and maybe a trekking pole. But the views of Milford and the surrounding area are worth every huff and puff. You can always take a breather and admire the white oaks, shagbark hickory, and red maple along the way.
5 – Mount Minsi Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 5 miles
- Average time: 2h 40m
Mount Minsi Loop is adored for its Rhododendron tunnels and excellent views of Mount Tammany and the Delaware River. There are also some small waterfalls along the way and some great picnic spots. It’s a fairly shady trail (back to those tunnels), and the path can be pretty rocky, so make sure you have an additional layer and hiking boots.
6 – Raccoon Ridge Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 5.8 miles
- Average time: 2h 55m
This hike follows the Appalachian Trail and is popular with birdwatchers in mid-October when migration is at its peak. There are around 14 different raptors that people try to get a glimpse of, including kestrel and golden eagle. The path is rocky, so hiking boots are advised, and a trekking pole might be useful.
7 – Rattlesnake Swamp Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 5.2 miles
- Average time: 2h
Rattlesnake Swamp Loop is another excellent hike to enjoy the fall colors. But it is worth your time during other parts of the year, too. Despite the name, the area is not filled with rattlesnakes. But the wetlands are nice, especially the shores of Catfish Pond. There are also some scenic views on the Kittatinny Ridge, which brings hikers to the Appalachian Trail.
8 – Raymondskills Falls Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: .3 miles
- Average time: 14m
This quick and easy loop may be small, but it is big on scenery. The waterfall makes finding parking worth it. This is perfect for families with small children. However, there are stairs that take you up just under 100 feet, so it isn’t wheelchair friendly. Be sure to have kids scout the creeks and examine the rocks. This area is known for fossils.
9 – Red Dot To Blue Blaze: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 4.1 miles
- Average time: 2h 35m
One of the most popular Delaware Water Gap hikes is summiting Mount Tammy via the Red Dot Trail and then descending on the Blue Blaze. It only takes around 90 minutes to reach the top. But hikers will be going 1,250 feet up, requiring some fitness. But the scenic views make the burning calves worth it.
Those considering doing this hike in reverse better have excellent knees. The Red Dot is far steeper, making the descent difficult, potentially snatching away the enjoyment of the excursion.
10 – Sunfish Pond Loop: Delaware Water Gap
- Length: 8m
- Average time: 5h 5m
The Sunfish Pond Loop is a challenging hike that rewards users with many waterfalls and, of course, a pond. Parking is near the Blue Dot trail, so it fills quickly. Thankfully, there is an overflow. There can be some alternative routes for those adverse to getting their feet wet, but you will lose out on some excellent scenery. Maybe just pack a few extra pairs of socks.
For those wanting to make the adventure an easy overnighter, there is a campsite .3 miles from the pond on the Appalachian Trail. However, it is a one-night stay, as its purpose is for Appalachian trail hikers. Do bring a bear canister or bear bag to store any food.
The Delaware Water Gap is a gorgeous area with much to explore. While these are our top ten, there are so much more for keen hikers to try. Enjoy the adventures and scenic views.