I-80 westbound from NYC and New Jersey: Take exit 310 in PA. Stay far right at tolls. Follow signs to Rt. 611 south down circular ramp. Travel straight at traffic light onto River Road. Go 2.5 miles to Shawnee-on-Delaware (PA), stay to right and continue on River Rd. to Hialeah Picnic Area or Smithfield Beach (3.2 miles)
I-80 eastbound from Harrisburg PA: Take exit 310 in PA. At traffic light at end of ramp, turn left onto River Road and follow directions above.
From PA Rt. 209: Turn east (left, if southbound) onto River Road at traffic light at Fernwood Resort in Bushkill. Travel 1.2 miles to Park Headquarters. Continue on River Rd. to Turn Farm Trailhead (northern) Smithfield Beach (parking fee charged in summer) on left (3.5 miles) or to Hialeah Picnic Area (southern).
Everyone will enjoy a mountain bike ride on The McDade Recreational Trail, a multi-use trail that will eventually extend 37 miles on the Pennsylvania side of The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area from the Hialeah Picnic Area, north to Milford Beach . The trail parallels the Middle Delaware National Scenic River as it passes between the low forested mountains of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Cutting through the mountain ridge, the river forms the “Water Gap”, before continuing on 200 miles to Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The clear, free-flowing river is open to canoeing, kayaking, rafting and tubing. Miles of backroads perfect for bicycle touring wind throughout the region (see Peters Valley Bike Tour in NJ for scenic off-road cycling on the New Jersey side of the River (Route 209 and across Dingmans Ferry Bridge). Many Outdoor Adventure Outfitters are located and operate in the area. Among the many hiking opportunities are the 27 miles of Appalachian Trail within the National Park.
The McDade Trail
The first segment of the Mcdade Trail opened in 2002 and currently extends for 5 miles (one way) between the Hialeah Picnic Area (north of Shawnee-on-Delaware), and the Turn Farm parking area on River Road. A second 2.7 mile section from Milford Beach to Pitman Orchard is almost complete and open for most of the way. Most of the McDade Trail is expected to be completed sometime in 2008. Sections of the trail vary in difficulty from smooth and relatively level to rolling terrain, providing a diverse experience. The McDade Recreational Trail provides an opportunity for bicyclists of all abilities to enjoy the National Park. The trail is also open for hiking and cross-country skiing.
The Delaware Water Gap contains a variety of wildlife habitat and sightings of black bear, white-tailed deer, coyote, bobcat, wild turkey, rabbits, owl, bald and golden eagle, peregrine falcon, many species of birds, reptiles and amphibians are not uncommon.
Along the way, areas with restrooms, picnic areas, and facilities for swimming and boating are available. Lifeguards are on duty at Smithfield and Milford Beaches during the summer.
McDade Trail 1: Turn Farm to Hialeah Picnic Area
This scenic, 5.2 miles (one way) section of the McDade Trail, located just 70 miles from New York City and 90 miles from Philadelphia, is perfect for a day trip or weekend escape. The path follows the Delaware River for most of it's length, offering lots of stunning river and forested mountain ridge views all along the route. The trail travels for the most part over a gravel and cinder surface through stretches of woods and along the edges of corn fields and overgrown fields. Except for a short section, where you cross the paved Smithfield Beach parking lot at the trail's midpoint, the path is always shaded by the half canopy of trees lining the river side of the trail. The trail is relatively flat, except for the last 1.5 mile stretch of rolling hills between Smithfield Beach and the Hialeah Picnic Area.
We recommend beginning your ride at the Turn Farm Trailhead. This quiet, idyllic spot on the site of a farm begun in 1815 by John Turn, a carpenter and cabinetmaker, is a great place to start and end your ride. A lone picnic table, hidden from view from the parking lot, sits at the edge of a small sun dappled clearing. Shaded by a giant weeping spruce tree, the table overlooks the Smoke House, the only remaining structure (besides the lime kiln across the road) left on the farm. It is a picture postcard setting for a quiet, picnic at the end of your ride.
We arrived at the Turn Farm Trailhead on a beautiful summer Saturday in July at 10:30 AM. There were no other cars in the parking lot. After reading the interpretitve display summarizing the history of the farm, we headed out on the trail. The first 1 mile from Turn Farm to Riverview is an easy, relatively flat, wooded ride on grassy gravel/dirt doubletrack. At a couple of points, there are some short hills where the trail crosses ravines over short wooden footbridges.
At the Riverview trailhead, we took a break to admire the river views, what else? Here, we met a National Park Service Bike Patrol Volunteer. Sporting a bright yellow, NPS Bike Patrol T-Shirt, Ernest, who hails from Stroudsberg, patiently answered our questions and gave us directions to navigate our way once we arrived at Smithfield Beach.
For the next 3 miles, from Riverview to Smithfield Beach, the river is a constant companion on the left. The trees edging the river form a half canopy over the trail, providing shade. To the right, a backdrop of low forested mountain ridges define the landscape as the trail travels along a succession of corn fields and overgrown meadows. The backdrop is ever changing -- from lush green in summer to brilliant fall hues of reds, oranges and golds. During spring and summer, a profusion of wildflowers including butterfly weed, wild geranium, common yarrow, wild bergamot, purple coneflower, brown-eyed susan and giant cow-parsnips sporting bouquets of tiny white flowers edge the trail and dapple the fields. In the fall, goldenrods and asters dominate the landscape.
Smithfield Beach offers a roped off river swimming area with lifeguards, restrooms and changing rooms. The grassy, shaded picnic areas were lively with families, canoers, kayakers and rafters enjoying lunch in a beautiful setting.
Remembering Ernest's directions: "When you arrive at the Smithfield Beach Parking Lot, ride through the paved lot past the restrooms towards the end of the lot. Just before the Canoe Launch ramp to your left, bear right. From that point on, its going to be a challenging hilly ride with some steep hills you may have to walk your bike up."
He wasn't kidding! From Smithfield Beach to the Hialeah Picnic Area, where this 5 mile section of the McDade Trail ends, the trail surface is looser, rougher gravel. Immediately, after bearing right from the parking lot, you start climbing. The next mile and half travels over rolling terrain higher above the river now, through a mix of woods and fields. There are several long climbs and one challenging, steep (35 degree) climb that you may have to hike a bike up. And . . . you get to do it again on the return trip!
Upon completing the round trip back to the Turn Farm, we enjoyed a quiet, lunch at the idyllic Turn Farm picnic spot.
If you want to extend your bike ride a little further, just north of the Turn Farm Trailhead, The Freeman Tract Road (bear sharply right just past Turn Farm trailhead on River Rd.), is the original roadbed of River Road which leads down to the old ferry landing at Walpack Bend on the Delaware River. The road is owned by the township, is unpaved and provides several additional miles for walking and biking on a lightly-trafficked road. While on it, we saw only one car. Access to the Freman Tract road requires travelling a short way north on paved River Road. Use extreme caution as there is no shoulder and Outdoor Center Outfitters as well as tourists pass up and down the road constantly, especially during peak season.
You may also want to try unpaved Zion Church Road, accessed from River Road around the midpoint of the trail. The path leads to the Hidden Lake Picnic Area. Several old dirt roadways and footpaths circle this quiet lake.
Note: Note: Currently McDade Trail Section I and II currently do not intersect.
McDade Trail 2: Milford Beach to Pitman Orchard : 2.7 miles
Drive north on scenic Rt. 209 within the park to the second section of the McDade Trail which starts at Milford Beach. Along the way, you will pass farm fields to the east and the Pocono Plateau with it's many waterfalls to the west. Many hiking trails that lead to the falls can be found at Dingman’s Falls, Raymondskill Falls and the falls along Dingman’s Creek at the George W. Childs Recreation Site.
Modern beach facilities and boat ramps can be found at Milford Beach. Fields, forest, and cliffs provide varied scenery along this stretch of the Mcdade Recreational Trail. Heading south from the beach, the trail is mostly flat, with one short steep climb and a few short, rolling hills just south of the Milford-Montague bridge. The trail runs across open farmland, so its best to avoid bicycling during the hottest part of the day in summer. Don't forget the sunscreen and bring along plenty of water.
The charming historic town of Milford is situated on the banks of the Delaware River where PA, NY & NJ meet. Here you will find quaint shops, art galleries and restaurants.
McDade Trail 3: Hogback to Hornbecks : Mile 6.0 - 21.4
This stretch is comprised mostly of long flat stretches with some hilly sections, steep climbs, several creek crossings and on Route 209 shoulder sections. It covers the area from mile 6 at the Owens Trailhead to Mile 21.4 at Schneider Farm Trailhead near Dingmans Campground. From Owens Trailhead the trail switchbacks sharply up Hogback Ridge to the Park Headquarters where you can find restrooms, water and observation decks.
There are many scenic, natural and historical points of interest along this route. You'll cross swampland over raised boardwalks, pass historic farms, churches and resorts. You'll travel along a mix of woodland, farm fields and riverfront. Along the route wayside exhibits describe important points of interest.
Additional Trail Segments:
After the construction of the McDade Trail began, it became evident that there were environmental and public safety concerns with the trail original trail route. A Trail Realignment was proposed and an Environmental Assessment of the Trail Realignment began. On August 15, 2007, approval of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI signed on July 19,2007) for the revised route of the Joseph M. McDade Recreational Trail was announced. The new plan limits road crossings and provides more sustainable trail by avoiding construction on steep slopes.
Historical And Cultural Note:
River Road, running between Shawnee-on-Delaware to Bushkill, was once an important rural road leading to a ferry that crossed the Delaware to Walpack Bend, New Jersey. The fate of the farms and settlements along the road is also part of the park’s story. The Tock’s Island Dam Project was planned for this section of the Delaware. It would have inundated 30 miles of the river and 30,000 acres of the river valley with water. Opposition from residents, geologists and environmentalists finally stopped the project in it's tracks, allowing for development of the Park and the McDade Trail. Unfortunately, many of the historic houses and farms had already been demolished to make way for the dam project. The few survivors include Zion Church, built in 1851 at 0.3 miles. Turn Farm at 5 miles, with just a few remnants left, was a subsistence farm, resort-dependent dairy farm, church summer camp and today a Federal Recreation Area.