Hiking New Jersey: Sunfish Pond, a Glacial Lake, via the Appalachian Trail

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Hiking past Sunfish Pond in the Worthington State Forest.
Ah, spring, it's almost here! Though I'm always sad to say goodbye to winter, our winter was mild enough this year that the transition won't be difficult. Though spring hiking takes careful planning due to conditions and weather, it's one of my favorite times of year to get out. Temperatures are mild, the bugs haven't taken over yet, and trails aren't as crowded as they are in the summer.

Mount Tammany and Mount Minsi are two of my favorite short-ish, steep Philadelphia area hikes, but when I'm looking for something longer with less aggressive elevation gain, Sunfish Pond is one of my go-to's.

Nestled deep in the Worthington State Forest near the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Sunfish Pond isn't actually a pond at all. It's a quiet glacial lake accessible via the Appalachian Trail and a variety of other trails, and it's a perfect spot to visit if you're into water-based hiking destinations.

Getting to the Trailhead

As with Mount Tammany, another favorite area hike, park at the Dunnfield parking area (40.971756, -75.125610). Arrive as early as possible because the parking lot fills up quickly during popular hiking seasons. There's overflow parking at the Kittatinny Visitor Center, which can be accessed by walking underneath Route 80, and when it's open, the visitor center is worth a stop regardless of your plan for the day if it's open. Plus, the visitor center has some of the nicest outdoor bathrooms I've ever seen.

Hiking to Sunfish Pond

My preferred route follows the AT up, then a different set of trails back down to complete a loop hike. To access the AT, head to the north end of the Dunnfield parking lot, away from Route 80, and look for trail signs. Take the bridge across Dunnfield Creek and continue along the white blazed AT. You'll climbing gradually with the creek on your right.

I can't wait for the lush greenery I know and love to reappear this spring!
Continuing to follow the AT, you'll pass the blue blazed Blue Dot Trail on your right under one mile in. Though the elevation gain is spread across four miles, you're climbing the entire time. You'll pass the yellow blazed Beulahland Trail on your left just shy of the halfway point of the route up to the pond. and the blue blazed Douglas Trail on your left less than a mile from the pond along with a backpacker campsite. They're good landmarks to use to keep track of where you are on the AT, and how much further you have to go.

When you reach Sunfish Pond just before the four mile mark, you have the option to follow the AT to the end of the pond and then a fire road back around it, continue following the AT all the way to Maine, or relax at the end of the pond, one of my favorite mid-hike lunch spots in the area. The AT around the northern side of the pond is rocky, but worth exploring if you have time. I've seen all sorts of wildlife in the area depending on the time of year.

Sunfish Pond, such a welcomed sight after four miles of hiking. And it's never struck me as very pond-like. It's huge!
When you're ready to head down, backtracking is an option, but I prefer taking the Dunnfield Hollow Trail down to make a look. The trail's green blazes, which can be hard to spot in the summer, take you east past the pond, then southwest back toward the Delaware River. You'll cover a number of creek crossings and you'll pass the red blazed Holly Spring Trail on the descent. It'll be on your right, for landmark purposes. The Dunnfield Hollow trail intersects with the the blue dot trail less than a mile from the parking lot, and eventually, you'll be back at your car.

Hike Preparation Tips

The route in this post is just about eight miles round trip; pack enough water and food for a full day, and add some electrolytes in the mix if you're taking the hike on in the summer. The gradual elevation gain makes Sunfish Pond a manageable hike for beginners, but plan on taking at least four hours with stops, and know your fitness level.  And make sure you have appropriate hiking shoes for this hike. Take a peek at this list of the best hiking boots for women with reviews and guidelines on how to choose a pair. Also, consider hiking poles if you’re uncomfortable on uneven ground. You’ll climb 1,000 feet on the hike. 

One of the multiple creek crossings on the route.
This map shows the trails mentioned in this post, but it's not super detailed. This Kittatinny Trails map set is among my favorites; pick it up before you go. And finally, as as tempting as it might be to take a dip in the pond in the summer, avoid the temptation. Swimming is prohibited.

Have you done this hike, or visited Sunfish Pond by other trails? What about other hikes in the Delaware Water Gap? We’d love to hear from you!

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