All exercise has health advantages, but hiking may be one of the best activities on the long list of options that move us because of its benefits to body, mind and soul. Is there really anything better to do on a perfect fall afternoon than to enjoy a simple sojourn with friends or family into our local wetlands, uplands and forests?
With only a water bottle, good walking shoes and a little “oomph” we can be off – and few backyards in the nation are so resplendent. We are rich beyond words with a treasury of plants, birds and wildlife that never fails to be both awe-inspiring and entertaining.
Inspired by ‘Let’s Move!’
To encourage us to engage with nature up close and personal, our local offices of the National Park Service (NPS) recently released a popular brochure for the Upper Delaware titled, “Take A Hike!” The guide, which can be picked up at NPS information centers and kiosks, or downloaded on a home computer (easiest on the www.delawareriverhighlands.com  site), was created to tantalize local hikers of all ages to “get outdoors” and enjoy a few of the exceptional scenic, educational and recreational opportunities that can be found just a comfortable walking distance away from the couch.
The “Take a Hike!” project supports the well-known “Let’s Move!” campaign that was launched by Michelle Obama as a national initiative to get children, adults and families outdoors and exercising. “Let’s Move” promotes daily physical activity as a means to counter a national trend toward obesity and as a life-long habit for maintaining good health.
“Hiking in the Upper Delaware is a great way to get exercise and enjoy this unique natural resource at the same time,” said NPS biologist Jamie Myers. “The Department of the Interior, which oversees NPS, is a supporter and sponsor of this campaign, so it was a natural fit.” (Visit www.letsmove.gov  for more information about the initiative.)
The Upper Delaware River Valley “Take a Hike!” brochure features brief descriptions of six trails fit for a range of interests and abilities. It also includes clear directions for finding the trails, and safety tips for hiking.
The northern-most of the six is the Bouchoux Trail, accessed from Bouchoux Road in Lordsville, NY. This is a two-mile-long out-and-back hike that leads to an amazing panoramic view of the river valley from Jensen’s Ledges. Impressive bluestone piles are evidence that quarrying was a significant industry at one time in the area. The hike is categorized by the NPS as “difficult” due to its steep inclines and uneven footing. It takes an unhurried hiker about 90 minutes to complete the trail, not including the time you’ll want to dedicate to a picnic lunch and lots of photographs.
Further south following the river, the Damascus Forest Trail in Beach Lake, PA is an “easy” two-mile loop that wanders through a varied landscape, including wetlands, rolling hills and a large stand of old growth hemlocks that imbue visitors with a nostalgic sense of the majestic virgin forests that once towered over this area. This hike takes just 45 minutes to complete from the parking lot on MacCubbins Road.
The Cobey Pond Trail in PA Game Lands 316, Masthope, PA is labeled to be of “medium” difficulty, mainly for its length of three miles. A leisurely stroll on this loop around the large, vibrant pond on a leaf-padded trail offers quiet hikers many opportunities to observe waterfowl and wildlife in their pristine natural habitat. Plan that it will take about an hour or longer to meander. You may want to pack insect repellent for this excursion.
The Tusten Mountain Trail between Narrowsburg, NY and Barryville, NY is a very popular hike in our region, maintained in a partnership between the Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the NPS. This “moderately difficult” three-mile trail leads hikers on a loop through historic remains of the settlements of Reeves Mill (1757 to 1763) and Tusten (1770s to early 1900s) along the Ten Mile River. A climb to the summit provides a glorious view of the Upper Delaware River valley. This trek will elevate your heart rate and inspire you to linger and explore along the way, so plan one to three hours, and savor the experience.
The Minisink Battleground Park Trails system across from the Roebling Bridge in Barryville is an easy, smooth-surfaced network of pathways that allows hikers to travel back in time and wander the site of the only Revolutionary War battle fought in the Upper Delaware River Valley. Here a band of 50 American militia were brutally slaughtered, cornered while in pursuit of Iroquois and Tory settlement raiders led by the infamous Joseph Brant, a Mohawk warrior commissioned as a colonel in the British Army. The battle is detailed with a comprehensive park brochure, trail markers and three significant sites: Sentinel Rock, Hospital Rock and Minisink Monument. Allow at least 30 minutes to an hour to walk the wooded trails and engage your imagination; then refresh at covered picnic tables near the lovely woods. This site is operated and maintained by the Sullivan County Division of Public Works.
The southern-most trail of the “Take A Hike!” series is the Mongaup River Trail in the town of Deerpark, NY, off Route 97. This is a two-mile-wide out-and-back trail adjacent to the fast-moving Mongaup River, near where it enters the Delaware. Towering hemlocks shade the steep ravine. Hikers cross paths with an occasional trout fisherman or kayaker. This trail presents many opportunities to enjoy picturesque rushing waters, and to view eagles and an active beaver stand. At the turn-back point of the trail is a small, walled family cemetery dating back to the early 1800s, attesting to hardships that faced rural families at that time. Allow an hour for this easy hike. And don’t miss reading the bulletin board by the trailhead that details the building of Hawks Nest pass, the famous winding stretch of road just a few miles south.
Upper Delaware Hikes patch
Taking a hike… or six… is a great way to relish the crisp temperatures and beautiful foliage that fall brings our region. And if the description of these trail adventures isn’t enticement enough, NPS will award a free embroidered Upper Delaware Hikes patch to anyone who completes the six trails. This is a wonderful way to get young kids out on the trail, providing a challenge and a concrete reward at the end. Since many grownups like patches too, why not make it a family affair, beginning now and continuing your hikes in the spring and summer of next year.
Deliver your checklist in person to the Narrowsburg NPS Information Center, the Zane Grey Museum, or Beach Lake NPS Headquarters. Alternately you can mail your dated and signed checklist to Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, 274 River Road, Beach Lake, PA 18405.