Doing NJ for Free: The Delaware Water Gap

Summer as a college student can either mean one of two things: You have a job/internship and are going to be working every second of every day or you have nothing going for yourself and plan to sit idly by watching other people move up in the world. I would classify myself in situation number two. Unfortunately, with unemployment comes a meager bank account, so summers for the unemployed are plagued with responses to friends like “sorry I can’t come, it’s too expensive.” Concerts, theme parks, weekend trips, you name it, can all be crossed off the list of things to do, leaving one bored and seeking a good time. In the hopes of not sitting on the couch all summer, I’ve been scouting fun things to do around where I live for free, and I’ve come across my first big hit: The Delaware Water Gap.

The Delaware Water Gap is located between the Appalachian Mountains on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River makes the states’ boundaries clear. Part of this area is  classified as The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, set aside to be used for rowing, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking and more.

I’ve heard that hiking in the area is excellent and the views even better, so on Wednesday my two best friends and I decided we’d see what the hype is all about and hopped in the car for the hour drive into the mountains. We were pleasantly surprised.

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We arrived at the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area at about 11:00 a.m., and, after I accidentally directed us to the wrong parking lot, found the start of the blue trail, less steep than the red trail, but a longer hike. The first leg of the hike was fairly easy and we stopped often to take pictures and admire the scenery, even coming across a waterfall at one point. As we climbed, the trail became considerably more difficult and rocky, but nonetheless manageable. It took us about an hour to reach the top and we passed a few groups of hikers along the way.

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The first place we stopped was beautiful, an endless view of rolling hills and green trees. Exhausted from the climb, we stopped for a bit to sit on a large rock, take in the view and rehydrate. While resting, a woman appeared, asking us if we came up the red trail or knew how to get there. We responded that we didn’t, as we couldn’t manage to find the start in the parking lot, but were expecting to connect to it for our decent. After resting, we decided to move on for the trip back down.

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We walked for no more than a quarter mile before we came across a surprise. The view we had been taking in was not the scenic one advertised, but only a small view that preceded the one that we had just stumbled upon. Here, a dozen or so hikers lounged on a span of rocky cliff overlooking not only trees, but the winding river too. The whole picture was truly breathtaking and we spent about half an hour playing on the rocks, soaking up the view, and of course, taking pictures.

For our decent we continued following the cyclical trail until we came upon the start of the red trail down. The way down was noticeably steeper and rockier, almost as if we were rock climbing instead of hiking. Fortunately, I found this easier, as we went slower and were forced to be more cautious lest we twist an ankle, which, naturally, I managed to do. Luckily, we all arrived at the bottom safely after about a total of three hours of adventuring. The whole experience was totally worth the energy put into the hike, and maybe more importantly, completely cost-free.

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