Winter and Summer Fun—In One Excursion
February 15, 2013

Winter and Summer Fun—In One Excursion

To the degree that the George Washington Bridge is a symbol of New York City, the Dingman’s Ferry Bridge in the northern part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is emblematic of a quaint country village.  From the New Jersey side, you reach the 138-year-old wrought-iron truss via the long and winding County Road 560.  The tollbooth, located on the Pennsylvania side, consists of a white wooden arch where the toll keeper waits for vehicles to arrive, before hopping out to collect the $1 fare at your car window. It is one of the last privately owned tollbooths in the United States and a far cry from EZPass.  Most of all, it is a sure sign that you’re entering a different world. 

Feeling so very far away—even though we were only about 80 miles outside New York—we were stunned to make the acquaintance of a couple from Brooklyn who, like us, were in need of a nice woodsy walk. This was before the big Nemo snowfall, and we were all thrilled to see a few inches of ice-crusted white stuff throughout the area. Though the snow on Dingmans Falls Trail was well-trammeled, the snow hanging on the hemlocks above was pristine.

An Easy Hike to High Falls

During winter, the road to the Dingman’s Falls trailhead and visitor center is closed, but you can park in the lot off Johnny Bee Road, near mile post 14 along Pennsylvania Route 209 (make a left shortly after the bridge) and walk the mile-long access road to the trail entrance. (The visitor center is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.)

This scenic and winding road is a slight incline the whole way, with a tributary of the Delaware River alternately on your left or right as a series of bridges cross over the river gorge. The trail begins beyond the visitor center parking lot. The quarter-mile trail is a flat boardwalk that would be great for strollers—unless, as when we were there, it is covered in unshoveled snow. Parents of toddlers should be aware that a few parts of the trail lack wooden handrails. 

The route bends and curves throughout a beautiful hemlock forest and thick groves of rhododendron. Early on, you pass Silverthread Falls and at the end of the walk, you come arrive at Dingmans Falls—the second-highest cascade in the state.  It’s impossible to say which is more stunning. 

We hurried on the trek back to the car because daylight was running out on us. It would be a good idea to give yourself at least two hours of daylight for this excursion, and keep in mind that night falls earlier north and west of the city. 

Logistics

In New Jersey, take I-80 West to Exit 34B for Route 15 North toward Jefferson/Sparta. Take Route 15 north to Route 206 North/Hampton House Road. Turn left onto County Road 560/Tuttles Corner Dingmans Road. Enter Pennsylvania via the Dingman’s Ferry Bridge (named after the ferry that Andrew Dingman used to operate in this area in the 18th century) and continue on Dingman’s Turnpike/Route 739. Turn left on US 209, and then park at Johnny Bee Road on your right. 

A Splash of Summer

We did this hike as part of a larger excursion to the Delaware Water Gap for our son Riley’s 10th birthday. As a special treat we stayed at Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. It was freezing cold outside, so we were completely unprepared for the summerlike scene in the large but cozy lobby: children running around in bathing suits and parents chasing after them wearing beach cover-ups, shorts, and flip-flops. Hard to believe that our daughter Halina had been making snow angels just an hour earlier! 

In a thoroughly lodge-like atmosphere, the children learned about conservation, wolves, and other woodland creatures.  And the lodge’s giant indoor water park is as close to outdoor summertime fun as you can get during cold and snowy winter. 

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