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Located between New Jersey and Pennsylvania is a slim river that slices through the Appalachian Mountains. Called the Delaware Water Gap, this long stretch of water makes up the southern end of one of the Northeast’s most prominent camping spots.
Rich in activities and easy to access, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a large swath of protected land that stretches from the Delaware River in New Jersey to the border of New York. At nearly 70,000 acres, the Delaware Water Gap area offers access to protected wilderness rich in history and recreational offerings.
Plan The Best Delaware Water Gap Camping Trip
It’s also a camper’s paradise. For those lucky enough to stumble upon the Delaware Water Gap, there is a plethora of options when it comes to camping out for the night, whether you’re a kayaker looking for a place to crash or a car camper seeking a simple and scenic weekend respite—and whether you’re looking for camping in Pennsylvania or camping in New Jersey.
Developed Campsites Near the Delaware Water Gap
There are three developed campgrounds in the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area, each of which offers its own experience and access points to different portions of the 70,000-acre wilderness area.
Dingmans Campground is open from April to October and offers a whopping 133 campsites, which range in location from the thick forest to the river’s edge. Group sites can accommodate up to 40 campers, and the campground includes RV sites, only a handful of which have full hook-up capabilities.
Despite the large quantity of sites, Dingmans Campground is well-hidden from any major roadways, and the surrounding forest serves up plenty of solitude to crowd-conscious campers. The campground is outfitted with a camp store for dry goods and limited groceries; it also offers sponsored river trips for families seeking a way to enjoy the Delaware River’s floatable waters.
Mohican Outdoor Center is the only campground in the Delaware Water Gap area that offers access year-round, making it a popular option for hikers and campers in the off-season months. It is much smaller than the other campgrounds in the Water Gap area with only seven primitive campsites, all of which are reserved on a walk-in basis only. Other camping options at Mohican Outdoor Center include the Indian Point campsites, which consist of three tent platforms and two rustic ground sites. While no campfires are permitted at these sites, a visitor center with a gathering space, a fireplace, and showers is located close by.
For those looking for a higher-end camping experience, the Mohican Outdoor Center’s major offering is its cabins, which can accommodate anywhere between six and 16people. A dining hall and boathouse located on the property are also available for rent for large groups and wedding parties.
Perhaps the most unique of the Mohican Outdoor Center’s offerings are their guided trips, provided by the Appalachian Mountain Club. With a variety of adventures to choose from, including five-day family trips, weekend trips, and hut-to-hut hiking experiences, this is an excellent way to take your Delaware Water Gap camping experience to the next level.
Worthington State Forest Campground is the third car camping option located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It has close to 70 primitive campsites, some of which are located on the banks of the Delaware River. Sites are large enough to accommodate both tents and trailers though may be on the small side for RV campers. Group campsites are also available at the Worthington State Forest Campground and can fit up to 35 guests.
Along with excellent access to the Delaware River, the campground offers prime proximity to major trails in the area, including a 7-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. The Dunnfield Creek Natural Area is another prominent trail in the area, giving hikers the chance to journey along Dunnfield Creek through some of the state’s best natural forest.
Boat-In and Riverside Campsites
Fortunately for kayakers, boaters, and canoers, Delaware Water Gap camping also includes the option to stay right along the river. Although most campsites by the river are available on a first come, first served basis, there are a couple of options for boaters and kayakers looking to reserve a riverside campsite.
The Alosa River Campsites are a cluster of six campsites reservable under special guidelines, as they are meant specifically for boaters traveling the river on long-distance trips. For a one-night stay at the Alosa River Campsites, boaters must be planning to travel at least 14 miles along the river. Due to the nature of the campsites, camping is limited to one night.
Rules for camping along the Delaware River are the same as backpacking. Fires are permitted in existing fire grates only, and trash, food and other waste must be packed out. Soap and other artificial substances are to be used on a limited basis and dumped in soil running away from the river.
A list of Delaware Water Gap riverside campsites is included below (from nps.gov):
Activities for Delaware Water Gap Campers
While you’re getting your feet wet in the Delaware Water Gap camping scene, take advantage of the vast array of activities the region has to offer alongside its spectacular campsites.
Climbing continues to be one of the most popular ways to experience the Delaware Water Gap area. Almost all of the climbing requires trad gear but ranges in difficulty from 5.0 to 5.12d, making it a perfect place to climb for both beginners and experts.
Mount Minsi is the most popular of the trad climbing destinations on the Pennsylvania side of the river, offering a wide variety of routes and terrain.
On the New Jersey side, Mt. Tammany is the place to climb, featuring more than 100 easy-to-access routes. The rock at Mt. Tammany is metaquartzite and holds extremely well.
Ice climbing is also possible in the winter but is condition dependent.
Hiking is one of the favorite activities in the Delaware Water Gap area, with dozens of trails providing access to some of the region’s best views. The Mt. Tammany summit hike is a 3.4-miler that brings you to the top of one of the tallest points in the area, including the fantastic Mount Tammany overlook. While it is a strenuous hike, the distance makes it doable with families and older children, particularly with some snack breaks built in.
Other hikes in the region include the Hornbecks Creek Trail, a family-friendly out-and-back that winds along Hornbecks Creek, providing excellent views of the Delaware Water Gap wildlands and a spectacular waterfall at the trail’s end.
The Mount Minsi Loop is one of the longer hikes in the region at 5.2 miles. The trail intersects a portion of the Appalachian Trail and features several pristine viewpoints. This hike is particularly beautiful in the fall, when the rhododendrons are still in bloom and the colors are changing.
Fishing is a huge draw for outdoor enthusiasts, and the wide range of fishing opportunities available are sure to level up any Delaware Water Gap camping experience. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is home to more than60 species of fish, many of which populate the Delaware River. Among the most commonly caught are the American shad, brook trout native to the Delaware Water Gap region, and yellow perch.
Visitors interested in fishing will need to acquire a fishing license for either Pennsylvania or New Jersey when fishing in the Delaware River. For smaller streams that run alongside the Delaware River, a license is required for the state in which the stream is located.
Kayaking and canoeing is another popular activity in the region. The Delaware Water Gap permits kayaking and canoeing in the Delaware River year-round. For beginners to the sport, several companies in the Delaware Water Gap region off guided trips, from rafting trips to canoeing and tubing.
Both calm water and whitewater exist on the Delaware River, and boating along the water is considered one of the best ways to view the Delaware Water Gap’s diverse ecological features, including populations of bald eagles, herons, deer, black bears and the multiple species of fish. As mentioned, a popular option for advanced kayakers and rafters is to camp along the river.
Planning an epic Delaware Water Gap camping trip this summer? Let us know at The Dyrt!
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