NJ side of the Gap, in Worthington State Forest. [Looking for a really challenging hike in this area? check out our “Mind The Gap” hike]
Classic hike in the Delaware Water Gap, in northwestern NJ. Trail heads steeply uphill to a fantastic overlook of the “Gap” – the break in the Kittatinny Mountains that was carved by the Delaware River. Great views of the surrounding area and Mt. Minsi across the way. Watch hawks catch the thermals while you have your snack.
3.5 miles. Rocky, steep. Short in length, but strenuous due to steepness. The return trail is less steep, but still very rocky. This loop goes up the RED DOT and returns down the BLUE trail. We recommend doing the loop that way; RED DOT is a bit harder to negotiate going down.
- Easy/super short option: If the hike up is too much, or some people in your group don’t want to go, instead of hitting the summit you can go to the far end of the parking lot, head over the bridge and walk along Dunfield Creek on the Appalachian Trail. This is a stunning area of New Jersey and is gorgeous in any season. (if you do the loop hike below, you will pass by this area on your way back). When you get to the trail split (big ole sign there, can’t miss it), bear right to another bridge over the creek and some lovely water cascades.
Our two cents: This is one of the most popular hikes in New Jersey. You probably won’t have the trail to yourself but the view is worth the crowds. And you never know what you are going to get when you hit the top… we’ve been there on beautiful fall days with only a couple people quietly taking in the view… while one time we arrived to find tons of people, a guitar player belting out tunes, and people passing around a box of donuts. Ahhh, Jersey.
Lots of people do this route, but please be aware this is most certainly a hike – and not a la-di-da stroll in the park. RED DOT climbs 1250 feet in 1.5 miles (a little minor scrambling involved) to a rocky outcrop overlooking the Gap, Mt Minsi and Rt. 80 below.
Books: This hike with a map diagram can be found in 50 Hikes in New Jersey and in Hike of the Week. Info on all the trails in the area can be found in Kittatinny Trails and the The New Jersey Walk Book.
Parking: N40 58.291 W75 07.531
Route 80 west to just before the last exit in New Jersey. On the right there is a sign for Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. There is a parking lot on the right, then a large main lot in the center and if that is full, you can park on the grass next to that. The road is one way so you can’t backtrack to a passed lot unless you get back onto Rt 80 and come around.
In the photo gallery we’ve added a photo overview of the parking lots as it’s just easier to show it than explain it.
Restrooms: Porta-john in the far side of the lot (as of October 2010). But we’ve gone and there hasn’t been one. If that is the case, there are ones at the visitor center.
To get to the visitor center: head back out onto Rt. 80 from the lot and take the very next exit right, then make a left like you are going to go around to 80 E, then instead of merging onto 80, immediately head to the right into the visitor center, there are rows of toilets there.
IMPORTANT: The RED DOT trail head is at the beginning of the main lot, near the road – as you are driving into the lot, it is on your right. Look for the big brown sign with red blazes.
At the far end of the lot is start of the rest of the area’s trails. People often mistake this as the trail to the summit (if you immediately head over a bridge, you are not on RED DOT), and while you can get to the top from the BLUE trail further down, people are usually looking to do the RED DOT trail. We’ve run into people going the opposite way (miles away along GREEN or the AT) that thought they were hiking to Mt Tammany… so make sure to take a little time and find the right trail, it’s a little unclear.
Hike Directions: Near the entrance of the parking lot, on the right side, look for the big brown RED DOT sign. The trail is marked with a red dot painted on a white background.
About .5 miles – there is a very nice view where you can see the summit (on your left), Rt. 80 and the Delaware River going through “The Gap” in the center, and Mt Minsi on your right. You can turn around here if you’ve decided that was enough hiking for you.
There is a very rocky section shortly after this viewpoint. Continue to follow the RED DOT trail up – there is only one trail in this area and is mostly easy to follow. Pay attention on the rocky sections for markers to guide you through – they may be painted on the rocks as well.
1.5 miles - At the summit you have broad views of the entire Gap area, Rt. 80 and Mt Minsi. You can scramble down the rocks or stay at the top. This is also a good area to watch hawks.
This is the end of the RED DOT trail. You can return the way you came but most people take the BLUE trail back as it is more gradual. Going back down RED DOT over the rocks can be a bit tricky.
Look for the BLUE markers and follow them behind the viewpoint. You follow a woods road for a brief time.
1.7 miles – Keep your eye out for the BLUE marker sign on your left, turn left here. Follow BLUE back down until it ends at the GREEN trail.
2.8 miles – Make a left onto GREEN and follow the trail over a bridge. This is a very pretty area, with some nice water cascades.
GREEN bears left after the bridge, and then you will rejoin the white-blazed AT, which leads back to the parking lot.