My Favorite Place in the Fall and Winter
About an hour away from Mercer County is one of New Jersey’s own national parks – or “National Recreation Area” to be exact – the Delaware Water Gap. Visiting the Water Gap in the Fall and Winter is especially satisfying as the scenery becomes even more beautiful when covered by autumn leaves or snow.
The Gap is caused by the Delaware River cutting down through the Kittatinny Ridge (NJ) and Blue Mountains (PA), both areas part of the Appalachian Mountain range. The River’s erosion has created a dramatic landscape – Mount Tammany rises vertically on the New Jersey side with Mount Minsi in Pennsylvania. If it has been a wet time of year, it is possible to see mini-waterfalls along many areas of Route 80 on the way to the park itself. In the winter, these waterfalls freeze into fantastic shapes.
The drive on Route 80 gives a broad view but you need to leave your car behind for the woods and a true appreciation of the area. One of the best overall routes (albeit one of the busiest) is a combination of the Red and Blue Dot trails. Begin the Red Dot trail at the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. The trail takes you up to the top of Mount Tammany. One of my favorite parts about this trail (as well as many others in the park) is the stream that runs near it, in this case Dunnfield Creek. Seeing water running over the rocky stream bed, often surrounded by evergreens…no other place in the world can compare. It gets a bit steep in some areas but the exertion is worth it as you reach the summit and its views. Take the Blue Dot trail for an easier walk back down. The entire hike is about four miles and takes approximately three hours to complete.
To experience part of the Appalachian Trail and a picturesque glacial lake, again start at the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. Follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail up the mountain to Sunfish Pond. Be aware this is not an easy hike – depending on how much you explore at Sunfish Pond, the hike is 7.5 to 8 miles round-trip.
If you feel adventurous, drive through the park on old roads to Buttermilk Falls, the highest waterfall in New Jersey. The New Jersey Audubon site gives clear directions to find the Falls. The Falls are visible from the road and you can climb a wooden staircase to the top.
To plan your visit, the best place to start is the National Park Service site for the Delaware Water GapNational Recreation Area. To get a better idea of the history of the area, take a look at the information and images on the Dutot Museum’s Delaware Water Gap page. Some other interesting sites in the area include: Peter’s Valley School of Craft, historic Millbrook Village, Bushkill Falls, the Dingmans Bridge, Dingmans Falls (part of the Recreation Area), and Gifford Pinchot’s Grey Towers.
For more information about hikes and the area, check out these books:
50 Hikes in New Jersey by Scofield, Green and Zimmerman
Rock Climbing New Jersey by Paul Nick
Before the Waters; the Upper Delaware Valley by Elizabeth Menzies
A Guide to Green New Jersey by Lucy Rosenfeld
Wild New Jersey by David Wheeler
The Delaware Indians by C. A. Weslager
-Andrea at the Hopewell Branch
Photo courtesy of Jiashiang
Photo courtesy of Jiashiang