View Full Version : Trip Report-Bear Mountain Inn to Delaware Water Gap

05-26-2019, 21:46
Just returned from my long section hike of the year. This time, it was SOBO from the Bear Mountain Inn, near the Hudson River in New York, to Delaware Water Gap, PA, on the NJ/PA border.

I left my car in DWG for the week, in the lot at Main and Mountain Roads. There were many cars there and there seems to be a lot of traffic. My car was intact and undamaged after my hike.

I started with an early shuttle on Saturday up to the Bear Mountain Inn. The ride was nearly two hours, and I picked up a lot of advice and many suggestions from the driver (George Lightcap). George probably knows this section of trail better than just about anyone, especially the NJ part, since he has been so heavily involved in trail building and maintenance for decades. I really enjoyed talking with him.


Saturday: Bear Mountain Inn to Fingerboard Shelter
After a mid-morning drop off at Bear Mountain Inn, I was planning to hike about 14 miles to Fingerboard Shelter. It was going to be my toughest day, in terms of elevation gain and loss, and started with the hike up to the Bear Mountain Fire Tower. The trail for that first half mile or so up Bear Mountain is the most beautiful and carefully constructed trail that I have ever seen. Although steep, it is smooth and well made.

I could see the outline of the Manhattan skyline from the top of Bear Mountain, and I got an even clearer view later when I was on West Mountain. I did not go to West Mountain Shelter, but understand that it has the best view, especially at night.

I was in a bit of a quandary about where to stay that night, because I had seen online that there was a problem bear at Fingerboard Shelter who was stealing food bags at night. I have an Ursack, but I know that a determined bear could mangle the food and make it inedible. At a water stop in the afternoon, I talked with 5 young men who had stayed Fingerboard the previous night. They said that there was a bear, but he had not gotten their food, which they had hung very high and tired off high. They thought he was s fairly young bear and not to crafty. I decided I would give it a go.

Around dinner time and about two miles before I reached the shelter, I took a short detour to Tiorati Circle, where there was a beautiful lake, picnic area, and running water. After having dinner, I returned to the trail and hiked the last few miles to Fingerboard Shelter. I found a great flat spot for my tent a little ways from the shelter. There were probably 15 to 20 people in tents around the shelter. One man had set up his tent IN the shelter, explaining to me that he had never stayed in a shelter before and just wanted to see what it was like. He was pretty much occupying the entire thing with all of the stuff that he spread around, including a half dozen small oil lamps “to keep the Bear away”.

As far as I know, the bear never showed, maybe because it's all of the people and noise, and I for a great night’s sleep.

Sunday: Fingerboard to Wildcat Shelter.
I got up early and was on the trail by 7, my goal being to hike 14.2 miles to Wildcat Shelter. The distance was about the same as the previous day, but there was less total elevation change. It was a beautiful hike through Harriman State Park, across the New York State Thruway, The Lemon Squeezer, Agony Grind, and some surprisingly rocky areas.


I got to Wildcat Shelter in time for an early dinner. It turned out that only Badger (a NOBO thru hiker) and I were staying in the shelter, although there were a half dozen tents nearby. Badger was on day 70 of his thru, and was trying to do about 26 miles per day. He was planning to do an ‘easy’ 23 to West Mountain Shelter the following day. Since we were the only two in the shelter, Badger was able to hang his hammock at one end while I occupied the other end.

Rain was forecast, and the forecast was correct. That were three lines of heavy rain that came through during the night. I was glad to be dry in the shelter!

Monday: Wildcat Shelter to Vernon, NJ
After two fairly low-mileage days, I was ready to kick things up a notch or two, and on Monday my plan was to hike 18+ miles to NJ94, and stay at the Appalachian Motel that night. The first few miles to NY17A were easy, and I got there pretty fast. Unfortunately, it was too early in the day to visit Belvale creamery or the nearby Hot Dog stand, which were right by the trail, but I knew that there were many other opportunities for trailside food ahead.


The first few miles South of 17A were pretty easy, but then the trail went through some rocky areas. In a. number of places, I was hiking on large slabs of slanted rock, and they were still wet from the previous night's rain, so I had a half dozen slips and a couple of falls. The most treacherous stretch in the morning was on Belvale Mountain above Greenwood Lake, NY, where I fell a couple of times and had to turn up my determination a bit. I crossed into NJ, and was descending Wawayanda Mountain in the afternoon when a heavy rain began. The trail was steep and all rocks and very slippery, and it was hard to maintain even a slow pace in the heavy rain (although I wanted to go fast!). The rain had almost stopped when I got to NJ94, where I stopped in at Heaven Hill Farm for some refreshment.

Here I met thru hiker Fivesure, who was on day 60 of his NOBO hike, and clearly burning up the trail. He was waiting for the rain to stop, but was planning to go 19 more miles that day! It was already almost 4:30 PM at this point, and I warned him about the slippery climb up Wawayanda, and the conditions he was likely to encounter when he crossed into New York, probably after dark. He had already hiked 1300+ miles in 60 days, though, so I didn't feel qualified to do much more than tell him to stay safe.

I walked the 1.3 miles down the road to the Appalachian Motel, but I would advise against doing this. The road is narrow with many blind curves and it just seemed too dangerous. I got a ride back to the trail in the morning.

Tuesday: Vernon, NJ to Highpoint Shelter
I had a great night's sleep and got a ride back to the trail and was hiking by about 7:30. I was planning a short day today, and was going to stop at the Secret Shelter. There were many memorable moments on this day, but one of the best was the 1+ mile long boardwalk and suspension bridge in Pochuck Swamp. You've got to see it to believe it.


After climbing and then descending a rocky Pochuck Mountain, there was another long flat stretch through fields and then through the Walkill National Wildlife Refuge. I was in better shape than I expected, and made a short detour into Unionville, NY, where I stopped for a late lunch at Anabel’s Pizza. I highly recommend it!

Back on the trail it was only couple of miles to the Secret Shelter, where I refilled my water and signed the register. It looked like a great place to stay, but it was only about 3:30PM, and I decided to try and make a few more miles before finding a spot to stealth camp.


Just as I reached the trail, I encountered Mr. Clean, who was also a section hiker, and also headed SOBO to Delaware Water Gap. We decided to hike a few miles together and then find a level plane to pitch or tents. The miles flew by, and when I next looked at our location, we were only about 2 miles from Highpoint Shelter. We continued to there and pitched or tents near the shelter next to a rushing stream that was a great water source. While I had originally planned a short 13.6 mile day, thanks to the relatively easy terrain and to encouragement from Mr. Clean, I completed 18.9 miles.

We discussed goals for Wednesday, and decided to hike together the next day. We would start at sunup and aim for the Brink Road Shelter, 19.6 miles away.

Wednesday: Highpoint Shelter to Brink Road Shelter.
On the trail again by about 6AM, we made good time over terrain that wasn't as rocky as I had been led to believe. A lot of NOBOs had warned us about rocks ahead, but the rocks were never that bad. We got to Culver’s Gap in time for an early dinner, and detoured a couple hundred yards down US206 to the Appalachian Bar and Grill. The food was fantastic, but I ate way too much!


We had a little trouble finding the Brink Road Shelter, as there was no shelter sign visible for SOBOs at the turnoff (although there was a sign for NOBOs). The shelter itself was in a very swampy area, and the bear box was just above the water level in a large puddle. We found high ground and set up our tents. It rained during the night, but things were not too wet when we set off at 6AM on Thursday.

Thursday: Brink Road Shelter to Stealth Campsite
Back on the trail we found the going pretty easy, mostly level with some rocky patches. We had lunch at the Sunrise Mountain Pavilion, then continued on. By mid-afternoon we were at Camp Road and made the obligatory detour to Mohican Outdoor Center for an early dinner. I highly recommend the Club Sandwich.


Back at the trail, we wanted to polish off a few more miles before setting up camp. It started raining after a few minutes of hiking, but had stopped by the time we reached a nice flat area after about 2 miles. All told, this put us at about 17 miles for the day. It was a beautiful camping spot, with views of the Upper and Lower Yards Creek Reservoirs. It rained very hard during the night, but stopped well before morning.


Friday: Stealth Campsite to Delaware Water Gap
On the trail again by 6AM, we only had 7.7 miles to reach our goal. After an ascent, we saw the sun coming up over a beautiful landscape. We then descended to Sunfish Pond, where I would say the trail traversed the only seriously rocky stretch of the day. It was like one half mile of PA had been moved to New Jersey. Then, it was back to a fairly easy and fast downhill hike.


Before we knew it, we were on the I80 bridge and crossing into Pennsylvania. That is one long bridge! As we approached the parking area, I said thanks and goodbye to Mr. Clean. It wasn't even 10:15 AM yet, but I had a 400 mile drive home and was glad to get an early start.

This may be my most enjoyable section ever, and I learned a few things:

-Leukotape is good. For the first time ever, I taped potential blister areas before I started hiking. For the first time ever, I got no blisters.

-Hiking with someone else can lessen physical and mental fatigue, and can make the miles go by with less effort. Having two people watching for blazers makes it a lot easier to stay on the trail.

-There is a lot of good food close to the trail in New Jersey! I'm glad I was able to take advantage of the dining opportunities in this section of the AT.

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05-26-2019, 23:19
Excellent read and awesome photos!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

Robert A
05-26-2019, 23:27
Excellent report and spot on concerning terrain and rocks in New Jersey. Thanks for making my hike easier too!

05-27-2019, 07:12
Thanks for sharing. Planning on NOBO to Conn. in September from DWG

05-28-2019, 13:36
Great timing; we are section hiking Bear Mtn to Swatara this coming two weeks.
So no problem with water at Fingerboard and Wildcat?

05-28-2019, 13:41
KOLOKOLO; Are you section hiking north from Bear Mtn next time?
I and a couple others are on that track; @2 week section each late spring/early summer.
We will pick up again next year at bear Mtn north for another @2 weeks.

05-28-2019, 15:05
Great timing; we are section hiking Bear Mtn to Swatara this coming two weeks.
So no problem with water at Fingerboard and Wildcat?

There was not water at Fingerboard. I filled up at Tiorati Circle a mile or so before the shelter. Its a short detour down Arden Valley Road).

I also got water a couple of miles before Wildcat at Fitzgerald Falls. (I think there was water available at Wildcat, though.)

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05-28-2019, 15:10
KOLOKOLO; Are you section hiking north from Bear Mtn next time?
I and a couple others are on that track; @2 week section each late spring/early summer.
We will pick up again next year at bear Mtn north for another @2 weeks.

My plan is to continue working my way North from Bear Mountain. How far do you typically hike per day?

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05-28-2019, 15:20
Doing the DWG to High Point section starting Thursday. Thanks for the report.

05-29-2019, 08:21
Nice trip report! Please send some of that rain down south!

05-29-2019, 14:09
Enjoyed your trip report. I did that section NOBO and further to Gorham, NH last year.

It's really disappointing to hear about the guy with the tent and lamps in the shelter. Aside from being selfish and inconsiderate, he exposed everyone to a fire hazard. What if the oil lamps got knocked over in the shelter? Guys like that ought to just buy a motor home and leave the rest of us alone.

Gambit McCrae
05-30-2019, 08:26
Nice Report! Brings back some great memories as this is trip you just completed was the second half of my longest and most favorite trip I have ever taken. Harriman SP is amazing, bear mountain is amazing, its just a real great stretch of trail IMO

06-09-2019, 19:49
I enjoyed reading this, thanks for posting. I've done the state line to Harriman train station as an overnight a couple of times, and was wiped out after that. Your trip sounds exhausting :D