Overview: This 9 mile section within the Delaware Water Gap is one of the most scenic sections of Appalachian Trail in New Jersey and a great first place to experience backpacking. Highlights include Raccoon Ridge and Sunfish Pond, voted one of the 7 wonders of New Jersey (learn more about Sunfish Pond, how it was almost destroyed, and the role it played in New Jersey’s environmental movement). Within this section is a beginner-friendly backpackers camp with composting toilets and bear boxes, but no water source (so fill up before you get there). My 6-year-old and I backpacked along the AT in the Delaware Water Gap from Camp Road to Dunnfield Creek as his first backpacking trip. Of course, s’mores were involved. I also did a slightly longer version of this trip with my 7 year old the year before.
Hike Length: 9.0 miles
Location: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Worthington State Forest, Hardwick Twp, NJ
Parking & Logistics: Park and leave your car at the Dunnfield Creek parking lot (get there early; it fills up quickly). Take a shuttle from Dunnfield Creek to Camp Road (I highly recommend George Lightcap).
- Worthington State Forest (NY-NJ Trail Conference map)
- Delaware Water Gap Appalachian Trail map
- Worthington State Forest (NJ Division of Parks & Forestry map)
- Southern Kittatinny Trails, Trail Map #120, (NY-NJ Trail Conference print map)
0.0 miles: Start at Camp Road (formerly Mohican Road). Just south of the road the trail crosses Yard Creed.
1.5 miles: Cross open rocks with views to the east over Lower Yards Creek Reservoir
2.4 miles: A sign marks the boundary between the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Worthington State Forest
2.75 miles: Just before reaching Raccoon Ridge, to the right side of the trail is a plaque in memory of Herbert S. Hiller, a trail maintainer and the 23rd Appalachian Trail 2000 miler.
2.8 miles: Reach Raccoon Ridge, a clearing with a pile of rocks offering panoramic views in all directions. Lower Yards Creek Reservoir is to the east and the Delaware River and the Pocono Mountains are to the west.
2.9 miles: Cross a power line cut.
3.4 miles: Cross a brook. A good spot to refill.
4.4 miles: Sunfish Pond, a beautiful glacial lake atop the mountain with a storied history. The trail here is very rocky.
4.8 miles: Cross the outlet of Sunfish Pond. This is the last easy place to refill your water before the backpackers camp.
5.7 miles: When you see the kiosk on your right, you’ve reached the Worthington Forest backpacker site. Ahead and to the right, you’ll find plenty of camp spots spread out over a large clearing. There’s no water here and ground fires are not permitted. There are bear boxes and a privy.
6.6 miles: To the left (east) side of the trail is a clearing with a rock cairn garden.
8.4 miles: Your first glimpse of Dunnfield Creek. You’ll follow the creek back to the parking lot.
9.0 miles: Reach the Dunnfield Creek parking area.
Dogs: Must be on a 6-foot leash.
Kids: No leash required. This isn’t appropriate for most little kids without hiking experience, but if they are experienced and can put in the miles, there’s no reason even young kids can’t do it.