For the CavemanUnbound team, there are few things better than a really tough hike to the top of a really tall mountain. In the fall of 2013, our never-ending search for backbreaking trails and high elevations brought us to Worthington State Forest in New Jersey. Located along the NJ side of the Delaware Water Gap, the park boasts a variety of trails and attractions for hikers of all skill levels, making it a very popular destination. Aside from hiking, the area is open for other activities like camping, kayaking/canoeing, fishing and swimming; but we came for one thing: to conquer Mt. Tammany!
The trailhead is located at the Dunnfield Creek Parking Lot, right off I-80. We arrived around noon and immediately realized just how popular this park is, especially in the warm season. By 12pm, the lot was filled to capacity and we had to circle around a couple times and wait for someone to leave. After a few minutes, our patience expired and we decided to join the cars that were parked “illegally” on the grass. Thinking that we were in ‘Merica and could park wherever we wanted, we naively rolled onto the grass, packed our bags and hit the mountain without any concern for the car’s well-being. Our eagerness to hike trumped our reasoning and we paid for it at the end of the day, literally; but more on that later.
The Dunnfield Creek Lot provides access to the Appalachian Trail (which takes you to Sunfish Pond) and to the Mt. Tammany Red Dot Trail, which starts on the wooden stairs at the right-hand side of the parking lot. The Red Dot trail is a 3.5 miles loop with a steep incline and rocky terrain. From the start-point, this hike is an uphill challenge over stone steps and rock scrambles that demand some serious effort from hikers. Though strenuous, the trail covers a relatively short distance, so take your time on it and rest whenever necessary. We shamelessly took more than the usual amount of water breaks and allowed ourselves plenty of time to admire every bit of the trail’s natural beauty.
After about a half-mile of trekking, we arrived at the first overlook which granted us a majestic view of Mt. Minsi on the PA side of the Delaware River. This picturesque setting is one of the two major lookout points on the mountain, so it will be crowded. Nonetheless, it is an ideal spot for some amazing photos and a quick break before heading up the rest of the mountain. The view is nothing short of spectacular, but there is still so much more to see, especially from the summit of Mt. Tammany.
The second half of the hike was significantly more strenuous, with lots of switchbacks and steep, rocky areas. This was where we started to see a lot of people turning around and heading back down the mountain. It took a lot of work and sweat to keep going, but we knew that giving up was not an option. Fueled by a burning desire to beat Mt. Tammany, we pushed forward and climbed our way to the top of the mountain.
In less than 2 miles of hiking, we gained an elevation of almost 1,500 feet and reached the peak of Mt. Tammany; and the reward was worth every bit of the effort. From the summit, we were graced with an unparalleled panoramic view of the lush landscape of Mt. Minsi, PA and the Delaware Water Gap.
It is both difficult and futile to describe effectively the magnificence of the view from atop Mt. Tammany; you just have to be there to truly understand. Taking that first deep breath at the top and looking down on the mountains before you is the greatest reward for all of the sweat and struggle that you put into the climb. This hike, like any hardship, proves that nothing worth having comes easy. You have to push hard, take steps and keep going even when everyone around you is giving up. The Caveman thrives on the rush of surpassing his limitations and seizing every opportunity to do something epic. He knows that the greatest glory is found in doing what others are too scared to do.
We spend a lot of time at the summit of Mt. Tammany relaxing and basking in the transcendence of the scenery. Even with the groups of people at the overlook, it was easy to get lost and feel totally alone while staring off into the mountains of Pennsylvania. Luckily, because so many visitors gave up before reaching the peak, the area was less crowded that the first overlook and we were able to pop open a few LandSharks and make the experience even more awesome. Afterward, we packed up the empty bottles, made our way down the Blue Trail and arrived at the parking lot only to find a ticket on the windshield for parking on the grass. Even with the fine, this was one of the greatest and toughest hikes we’ve done in New Jersey.