Hiking Pennsylvania: Mount Minsi in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

The hike offers expansive views of the region
and Mt. Tammany across the Delaware River.
It's been over eight years since I moved to Pennsylvania via a too-short stint in Alaska, and one of the first things I did when I arrived back east was to find a collection of day hikes relatively close to my new home - Philadelphia.

Two hours is about as far as I'm willing to drive for a day hike, and luckily, within that range is 70,000 acres of protected land across Pennsylvania and New Jersey – the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Water Gap is home to some of the best hiking in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and one of my favorite hikes there is perfect no matter the season if you have the right gear.

The 5-ish mile loop up to the top of Mount Minsi is an area-must do because of the challenge, the scenery, and the options for extending or shortening it depending on how you're feeling. Given it hasn't felt much like winter around here, it's a perfect time to give this hike a try. And if we do see snow this year, the hike is very much do-able with the right footwear.

Getting to the Trailhead

My favorite route up Mount Minsi is approximately five miles round trip and it takes you through lush forests (depending on the season), up steep, rocky terrain, and rewards you with expansive views of Mount Tammany across the Delaware River.

Grab this Kittatinny Trails Map Set in advance if you're interested in having a detailed map of the area. Park in the Mt. Minsi and Lake Lenape parking area, which is right along the Appalachian Trail (AT). Plugging (40.979847, -75.142103) will get you to the parking lot. On seasonable hiking days, particularly in the summer, the parking lot fills up quickly. Overflow parking is tough to find, so be sure to arrive early or carpool.

Hiking to the Top of Mount Minsi

Find the white-blazed AT just past an informational kiosk, pictured above. The kiosk shows trail maps as well any warnings you'll want to be aware of before you head out. You’ll see Lake Lenape, which looks more like a big pond, on the right shortly after the start of the hike.

The trailhead is easy to spot from the parking lot thanks to all of this signage!

Keep following the AT up, and you’ll likely hear traffic noise from I-80 at the beginning. As the trail turns and begins to climb, the traffic fades and approximately a mile and a half in, you’ll find yourself at the first overlook. Keep heading up, hop over Eureka Creek, cross a fire road you can use as your return route, and you’ll find a second overlook. This, in my opinion, is the best view on the hike. Across the Delaware River sits Mount Minsi in New Jersey, one of my other favorite area hikes, and on a good day, you can see for miles.

"Lake" Lenape. Keep your eyes peeled for tadpoles and other fun wildlife in the summer.

Continue up and you'll pass what look like cinder block steps to nowhere after the trail levels off. They're actually the feet of an old fire tower, and a few steps beyond that, you'll find a small sign reading "Mt Minsi," indicating you've reached the 1,461-foot summit and gained approximately 1,200 vertical feet.

Looking across the Delware River to Mount Tammany in autumn.

At that point, continue along the AT to extend the hike as far as you'd like, or retrace your steps back to the second overlook, and when you come to an intersection with a wide fire road, turn left and head down the mountain. The descent is more gradual than the ascent and doesn't offer the same views as the ascent did, but if you're more interested in a loop hike than an out-and-back, this is the route for you. Take a look at the entire trip here.

The unmarked fire road on the way down. It's easy to follow, though not as scenic as the way up.

Visit the National Park Service website for additional information, including hours of operation for the Kittatinny Visitor Center. The NPS website used to host trail maps in case you're heading out for a hike when the visitor center is closed, but just in case the route description and map here aren't enough, this Kittatinny Trails Map Set is perfect, and shows a number of other great trails in the area.

If you're an area resident, have you done this hike? Anything important to note that I missed? Has anyone done it in the winter? We'd love to hear from you!