National Park Service Highlights Autumn Activities and Events
During the summer months, people often take vacations. They “go away” for a week, or a weekend, or even just for a day. Often, these trips include visits to national parks- nearly 279 million visits last year alone, according to the National Park Service. Superintendent John J. Donahue of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area would like to remind people that they do not have to travel very far to visit an amazing and diverse unit of the national park system. For many, there is one right here in their backyard. “Local residents are very fortunate to have a place like this in such close proximity. Many people have to travel hours to visit a national park.” And fall is an ideal time to visit the park. “The fall foliage displays are among the finest in the northeast and the cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking and biking on park trails,” said Donahue.
Park rangers at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area have come up with some recommendations to help visitors enjoy the park this autumn.
Take a Hike! The McDade Recreational Trail is a 31-mile, hard-packed gravel trail that offers hikers and bikers an outstanding opportunity to get out and enjoy nature. The trail extends from Hialeah Picnic Area on River Road, just north of Shawnee-on-Delaware, to Milford Beach, just outside the town of Milford. Most sections provide the hiker and biker with an easy, flat walk or ride along the river, through forests and fields and past historic sites while other sections feature challenging hills. Trailheads and parking areas are located along River Road and U.S. Route 209.
For those who are looking for a more strenuous hike, 24 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail are available for you to explore in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. A challenging 4-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Mount Minsi provides spectacular autumn views of the river and the valley below. The trail can be accessed at the Lake Lenape Parking Area off Mountain Road in the town of Delaware Water Gap, PA. On the NJ side of the park, the 7 1/2 mile round-trip hike to Sunfish Pond, a glacial lake atop the Kittatinny Ridge, makes a rewarding day hike. Parking is available at the Dunnfield Trailhead in Worthington State Forest off Interstate 80, Exit 1 in NJ.
For those who really like a challenge, the Mount Tammany Trail in NJ is the steepest hike in the park. The Mount Tammany Trail, also known as the Red Dot Trail, can be combined with the Blue-Blazed Trail for a 4 mile round-trip hike over rocky, rugged terrain. Hikers on this trail are rewarded for their efforts with stunning views of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the Delaware River. The trailhead is located off Interstate 80, Exit 1, in NJ.
Remember that hunting is also popular activity in the recreation area so wear orange when hiking in the fall or hike on Sundays when hunting is not permitted.
For the Birds: Autumn is one of the best times of year for bird-watching in the park. A variety of hawks and other migratory birds fly south along the Kittatinny Ridge as the weather cools and the days grow shorter. Bring a pair of binoculars when hiking along the ridge to help you identify the different species you see.
Make a Splash! If you have your own canoe or kayak, autumn is a great time to take it out on the river. Accesses are available at Kittatinny Point and Poxono Boat Launch in NJ and at Smithfield Beach, Bushkill, Eshback, Dingmans, and Milford Beach Accesses in PA. Fees are charged at Smithfield and Milford Beaches and Bushkill and Dingmans Accesses through October 10. Visit the park’s website for a complete listing of area businesses that provide rentals and transportation. Always wear a properly-fitted, U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejacket when on or near the water, including while you are swimming. Children 12 and under are required by law to wear a lifejacket while boating.
Time Travel: Charming 19th-century villages, including Peters Valley, Walpack Center and Millbrook in NJ provide glimpses of the area’s past while other historic structures, including the newly-restored Marie Zimmerman House off Route 209 in PA offer insight into the lives of past residents of the valley.
Pack a Picnic: Pack a picnic lunch and choose from several picnic areas located throughout the park. In NJ, Watergate Recreation Site provides picnic tables, restrooms and a large lawn surrounding a series of small ponds. In Pennsylvania, Hialeah Picnic Area and Smithfield and Milford Beaches are ideal locations for a riverside picnic. Fees are charged at Smithfield and Milford Beaches through October 10. For a quiet spot that is off the beaten path, visit Toms Creek Picnic Area. After lunch, you can take a short, easy stroll along the creek. Grills are not provided, but you may bring your own. Please remember to clean up thoroughly and dispose of trash properly after picnicking to avoid attracting wildlife to picnic areas.
Fish On! Cooler weather means it’s time to fish for walleye, muskellunge and bass in the Delaware River. When fishing the Delaware, a valid NJ or PA fishing license is required for all anglers age 16 and older. Fishing in tributaries, lakes, and ponds in the park requires an appropriate state fishing license. Always wear a lifejacket when on or near the water.
Camp Out! Camping isn’t just for the summer months! Imagine spending a crisp autumn evening around a campfire enjoying a cup of apple cider with friends or family. Dingmans Campground is located in the park and is open for business through the month of October. For reservations and information contact the campground office at (570) 828-1551 or visit www.dingmanscampground.com. For those who prefer backpacking, the Appalachian Trail is the place to go. A complete listing of campgrounds in the surrounding area and Appalachian Trail maps and backpacking regulations are available on the park’s website or by visiting or calling one of the park’s visitor centers.
The Drive-Thru: Old Mine Road in New Jersey provides one of the prettiest scenic drives in the region with spectacular views of fall foliage, the Delaware River, Kittatinny Ridge and the Pocono Plateau. Historic homesteads, old barns, and quaint villages provide stopping points and photographic opportunities along the way. Watch for wildlife, including the park’s resident black bears, the elusive bobcat or flocks of wild turkeys in the fields and along the river.
Celebrate the Season: Fall is a busy time of year for the park and its partner organizations. Millbrook Days annual folk-life festival will be held at Millbrook Village in NJ from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on October 6 and 7. Van Campen Day will be held at the historic Van Campen Inn on Old Mine Road near Walpack, NJ, from noon until 4 p.m. on October 21. A fall-themed Octivities program for children will be presented at Millbrook Village on October 27. Parking and admission are free for these events. Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) will host their annual Harvest Festival on September 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per car.
For more information, maps, directions, and a complete schedule of events visit the park’s website, www.nps.gov/dewa, or call park headquarters at (570) 426-2452, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.. Kittatinny Point Visitor Center in NJ is open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until October 28 and Bushkill Visitor Center on Route 209 in PA is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekends and Columbus Day until October 8. For a complete list of fall events and activities in the area, special offers and to view the weekly fall foliage forecast for the Pocono Mountains region, visit the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau’s site at www.800poconos.com.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 395 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.