Backpacking, Paddling, and Biking at the Delaware Water Gap

Foliage, lazy canoe waters, and high-ride hiking make the Delaware Water Gap a prime fall destination.
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Foliage, lazy canoe waters, and high-ride hiking make the Delaware Water Gap a prime fall destination.

Backpack

Hike where the Raptors fly

The Lenape Indians called the 1,400-foot ridge Kittatinny, or "endless mountain." Hyperbolic maybe, but here on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border you'll find quiet lakes and Lenape dwellings on killer hikes.

Spend 3 days on a stellar 28-mile AT hike starting at the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. Detour on day 1 onto the Dunnfield Creek Trail, which follows a trout-filled stream past fern grottoes. Rejoin the AT at mile 4 at Sunfish Pond, a 44-acre swimming hole, then hike north along the ridge before camping on scrub-oak-and-blueberry-cloaked Catfish Mountain, about 11 miles in. Hike 13 miles to the Brink Shelter on day 2; you'll find water and more Delaware River views atop the east's main migrating-raptor corridor before ending the trek at Culver's Gap. www.nps.gov/dewa

Paddle

Float through foliage heaven

Canoe the Delaware River on a July weekend, and you may feel like the only sober person at Mardi Gras. You'll get buzzed by fishing boats, pass flotillas of beer-soaked inner-tubers, and compete with other paddlers for shoreline campsites that can fill up by 2 p.m. on a Saturday.

Float here in fall, though, and the traffic fades. From put-in at Milford to take-out at I-80, you'll meander 36 lazy miles over 2 or 3 days, riffling through a handful of Class II rapids. Black bears and blue herons frequent the water's edge, and shad skulk in dark green pools. The swimming is excellent, but the best autumn activity requires no energy or ambition-just lie back and gaze up at the fiery slopes of the Kittatinny Mountains. Rentals and shuttles: www.kittatinny.com

Mountain Bike

Crank across high, rocky ridges

Cyclists can't ride singletrack in the Water Gap proper, but just to the east, High Point State Park and Stokes State Forest combine to offer 30,000 acres of classic East Coast riding. It's rocky, rooty, and wickedly undulating, the kind of terrain that makes the 24 Hours of Allamuchy (which is held nearby) one of North America's top mountain-bike races. You can ride most of the area in a weekend; the Parker Trail connects the parks, both of which have basecamp-friendly campgrounds.

Start in High Point, where a 16.5-mile loop bags New Jersey's 1,803-foot high point only 2 miles in (start in the AT parking lot on NJ 23). Then bounce your dualie around Kittatinny Lake in Stokes; Woods Road, at the western end, accesses remote doubletrack.