With Jacob about to turn six months old, Ariel and I decided it was time to finally try a short getaway. Years ago, I discovered a true hidden gem in New Jersey – The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – and it was one of the first places Ariel and I went together.
So, we dropped Sam off at his boarding place, dropped Jacob off with his grandparents and we were off for 24 hours of local adventure.
Our first stop was Bushkill Falls, just on the other side of the border and right next to the Delaware Water Gap. Billed as “Pennsylvania’s Niagara” – this place certainly had its charms, but to be fair, unless that’s intended as satire – this is some major false advertising. Don’t get me wrong, the falls are very pretty, but if you go there expecting some earth-shattering wonder of the world, you are going to regret spending $16.50 per person.
Really the biggest issue we had is the amount of people there – the trails we walked along were so crowded we ended up leaving not long after we got there. Again, that’s not to say you shouldn’t go, but we probably made a mistake going on 4th of July weekend. Actually the best reason to go there is probably the family-friendly activity area before you get anywhere near the falls. They had paddle boats, ice cream and all kind of other things we would bring Jacob to…when he’s a little older.
Bonus tip – at the entrance to the park (before you pay the fee) there is a little ice cream and fudge shop. We tried the fudge and it was excellent. New Jersey people are a little snobbish about our fudge and salt water taffy (thanks to the abundance of options at literally every boardwalk on the Jersey Shore) so take it from us, even if you have zero interest in waterfalls, this is a hidden gem within a hidden gem.
From Bushkill Falls we checked into the Myer Country Motel in Milford, PA, right on the outskirts of the Delaware Water Gap. This is a great choice for anyone visiting the area. There aren’t too many options around here and most are overpriced. This place was half the cost of the Hampton Inn (our usual go-to option these days) and the rooms were basically little mini-cottages with their own entrances and driveways. Really nice place.
For dinner we actually headed back into the park to the Walpack Inn. This was one of the main reasons we came back to this place. Walpack Inn is kind of a quirky venue to have dinner. The interior looks more like a hunting lodge than a restaurant and an entire wall is comprised of windows that look out onto park’s mountains (look in NJ a 1,500 foot hill qualifies as “mountain” it’s all we have). Apparently deer often come up to the restaurant and you can watch them while you eat. We didn’t see any but whatever, we’ve seen plenty of wildlife and we see deer all the time.
The food itself was pretty good and every entree comes with salad bar access. Our highlights were the seared tuna and really delicious baked goat cheese. They also have some really interesting drink cocktails. I had a some kind of blueberry drink that was made with bourbon and birch beer. Kind of like an Old Fashioned but with blueberries instead of cherries – really good. Pro tip: make sure you get there early if you don’t want to wait for a table because it was PACKED.
Finally it was time for the main event – High Point State Park for the sunset. At 1,800 feet, this is the highest point in the state of New Jersey. At the top is an obelisk memorial to veterans that you can climb to go another 200 feet up.
Listen, I get that 2,000 feet is not that high. We’ve hiked higher than that. We’ve driven 10,000 feet higher than that. And New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania aren’t Middle Earth – or even New Zealand – either.
But I challenge you to find a more incredible place to watch a sunset or sunrise within a 90 minute drive of Times Square.
It’s rare that we get unobstructed views of the horizon in every direction. I’m not sure there is another place like this in Jersey that isn’t the ocean. By its very nature, the highest point in the state is also the highest point in a several dozen mile radius. Really the last time I got this much horizon for a sunset I had to go out to North Dakota.
Also, unlike everywhere else we went on this day, this place, despite being very easily accessible by car (you literally drive to a parking lot and then walk for five minutes to the overlook), was mostly deserted – another extreme rarity for this part of the planet.
So while we weren’t totally alone, it did get really quiet as the sun went down and we were able to watch the last few sun rays go down beyond the horizon.
After a really magical experience, we headed back to the motel to turn in for the night. Next day we hit the road for the wildest drive in New Jersey – The Old Mine Road deep in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap.