From miles away, a distinctive notch in the Appalachian Mountains draws the eye. Delaware Water Gap has beckoned visitors to the Pocono Mountains for centuries, offering picture-perfect spots for camping, a plethora of hiking and biking trails plus kayaking, canoeing and water recreation galore. Known as the Gateway to the Poconos, Delaware Water Gap is also the source of the name of the whole region; “Pocono” is a Native American word meaning “stream between two mountains.”
With its storied past, incredible natural beauty and welcoming community, insiders know there's lots to love in Delaware Water Gap. Read on to learn more!
Discover the History of Delaware Water Gap
The beginnings of the borough of Delaware Water Gap can be traced back to 1793 when Antoine Dutot founded the town and later built the area's first inn. The arrival of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railway in 1856 heralded the first big boom in the Gap's popularity, with passengers from New York City and Philadelphia taking the train to the mountains for a summer retreat.
The region was touted as a "Wonder of the World," and lavish resort hotels sprung up to host the crowds of tourists. "Water Gap" became household words known all over the country, and a New York Times correspondent covered happenings in Delaware Water Gap every summer. Musicians showed their skill at local venues including Deer Head Inn, then Central House, and Shawnee Inn, with John Philip Sousa performing at the Historic Castle Inn. Theodore Roosevelt, Fred Astaire and Bette Davis were a few of the famous guests of the era.
As the twentieth century dawned and the advent of the automobile tempted vacationers further afield, two of the most popular resorts, Water Gap House and The Kittatinny, were claimed by fires and never rebuilt. The pace of life in Delaware Water Gap began to slow, but the lure of the area's natural beauty remained. In 1965, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was created, encompassing 70,000 protected acres. Modern outdoor enthusiasts find the same peace and tranquility tourists savored in the past, and the tradition of welcome in the local community is as strong as ever.
Today's visitors to Delaware Water Gap can step back in time at local museums. Learn more about the area's rich history at the Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery, housed in a nineteenth century brick schoolhouse on Main Street. The echos of the rush of Victorian vacation life can still be felt during tours of the Historic Castle Inn just down the road.
Explore the Area's Natural Wonders
Following the Delaware River as it winds its way between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is home to a treasure trove of wilderness wonders. Hike the mountain ridges to discover panoramic views and watch for birds and wildlife in the quiet forests, or descend to the river valley to bike the McDade Recreational Trail and spend a day at the beach. Breathtaking foliage covers the area every autumn, and when the snow arrives, Shawnee Mountain Ski Area becomes a winter wonderland with ski, snowboard and snow tubing.
Both the tallest and second tallest waterfalls in Pennsylvania can be found in the Delaware Water Gap Natural Recreation Area. Coming in at PA's #1, the three-tiered Raymondskill Falls is just a few feet shorter than Niagra when the drops from the three tiers area added together. Dingmans Falls is also majestic, with a boardwalk trail leading to the base and stairs ascending for a view of the upper falls.
Follow the Appalachian Trail
Hikers traversing the Appalachian National Scenic Trail will spend 28 miles of their 2,174-mile journey within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The trail follows the Kittatinny Ridge, topping Mount Tammany and Mount Minsi and crossing right through the middle of the borough of Delaware Water Gap. AT trekkers find a warm welcome at the Church of the Mountain Hostel, which offers lodging, hot showers and towel service, as well as a potluck dinner every Thursday night.
Delaware Water Gap is also a great base for those looking to get just a taste of the white blaze trail. Out-and-back day hikes in the area pass through landscapes dotted with lakes and wildflowers and open onto overlooks with inspiring vistas.
Spend a Day on the River
Lush green mountains rising above wide waters make the Delaware River any paddler's dream. Float gently with the current and take in the scenery. Whether plying your oar or swimming along the shore, remember to wear a life jacket and practice river safety.
Experience the Gap's Tradition of Hospitality
Accommodations in Delaware Water Gap carry on the area's long legacy of welcoming visitors. Get a taste of the Gap's resort heyday at historic hotels like the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort or enjoy live music at the Deer Head Inn, home to the oldest continuously running jazz club in the country. Cozy bed and breakfasts like Santosha on the Ridge or the Stony Brook Inn are ideal for a romantic retreat, while a stay at a scenic campground such as the Delaware Water Gap/Pocono Mountain KOA or Driftstone Campground means you won't miss a moment of the natural beauty.