Raccoon Ridge

The trailhead is hard to miss.

A portion of the Appalachian Trail stuck between the Kittatinny Ridge hike and Mount Tammany, the Raccoon Ridge hike offers a relatively easy climb, rewarded by what's probably the best view of Eastern Pennsylvania from New Jersey.

Getting there
From I-80, take Route 94 North. After almost eight miles, turn left onto Mohican Road (a sign will warn you about the turn). Take this road for a few miles, until you come to a stop sign. Turn left here, onto Gaisler Road. After half a mile, turn a narrow road to your right; a sign there should point to the Mohican Outdoor Center. Drive about a mile on the gravel road, until you see an information table on your right. You can park here or go a little further to the Mohican Outdoor Center.

Your hike starts a little down the gravel road, on a trailhead that's hard to miss. You will be following the Appalachian Trail all the time. After crossing a wooden bridge, the trail steers left, on the top of large boulders. This section is quite unique for New Jersey: instead of sharp rocks on the trail or long flat rocks, the surface of the trail is comprised of head-size round rocks, almost as if you were walking on the bottom of a river.

A foggy morning on the trail.

Ignore the Coppermine Trail that leaves to your right, and start a relatively steep ascent on the Appalachian Trail. The climb is not as hard as it looks like from the first dozen yards or so; you will soon notice that short sections of steep ascent are always followed by relatively flat sections. Watch your footing (this is double-important on the way down), as the rocks are extremely slippery when wet.

After ten to fifteen minutes, you will arrive to the first of several lookouts. On your left, you will see a relatively open space with the remains of a fireplace. This lookout offers a good view to the east, and is relatively well protected against bad weather. If you are tired after the ascent, this is a nice place to catch your breath. When you decide to continue, you will notice that the trail levels out and gains elevation only very slowly. The young trees, mixed with undergrowth and tall grass, create a tunnel for you to go through. The trail is narrow, but very well-kept, and the next fifteen to twenty minutes will be very uneventful.

About half an hour into the hike, the forest opens, and you arrive to a place where the trail starts descending. For a short while the undergrowth is gone, and you can enjoy a nice view of the forest. From here on, deer sightings are very common; the best I have seen were four distinct groups of deer, ranging from two to four animals. Other than the occasional deer and a few views to the east, however, the hike remains quite uneventful for the next 25 to 35 minutes, until another trail, the Kaisler Road joins you from the right. If you feel like it, you can take the Kaisler Road on your way back. It will bring you to the Old Mine Road; a short trek later, you can take the Coppermine Trail back. Be aware, however, that the Old Mine Road is roughly on the same level as the Delaware River, so you'll end up climbing more than 600 feet at the end of your hike.

Even the noon sun did not beat the fog.

After the Kaisler Road joins the Appalachian Trail, the trail gets a little wider and better kept. A short trek uphill later, you will arrive to the first of the two overlooks of the Delaware River. In late fall, when the trees loose all their leaves, you will be able to get a relatively good 360-degree view. Follow the trail on its descent, almost immediately followed by a sharp climb. On the top of the climb, you will be greeted by a Worthington State Forest welcome sign. From here, it is a matter of minutes till you arrive to the Raccoon Ridge.

The ridge is relatively small, but offers an unsurpassed view west. According to Nature Walks in New Jersey by Glenn Scherer, this ridge is one of the premier spots for watching the annual fall hawk migration. I have yet to see any hawks, always having the bad luck to arrive either in late spring or during a foggy day. Once again, without leaves on the trees, you'll get a spectacular 360-degree view. You'll be able to see the Delaware Water Gap south, the Delaware river and eastern Pennsylvania west, Rattlesnake Mountain to the north and New Jersey to the east.

Difficulty: 5 out of 10, Some climbing; trail can be slippery.
Orientation: 8 out of 10. Markers are spread thinly, but the trail is very obvious.
Beauty: 7 out of 10. The forest is not too exciting, but the view is awesome.

Time table
Net time Total time Notes
10 - 15 min 10 - 15 min The first part features some relatively steep climbing, but you'll be able to rest on a protected overlook.
15 - 20 min 25 - 35 min The trail levels up, climbing only very slowly. Thick undergrowth creates a tunnel effect most of the way.
25 - 35 min 50 - 70 min The forest opens up a little, and the trail now follows a gentle descent, until the Kaisler Road joins it.
10 - 20 min 60 - 90 min The last part features two great overlooks, some steep descent and ascent, and may be a little challenging for tired hikers.
60 - 90 min 120 - 180 min Due to a relatively even terrain, the trek back takes rougly the same amount of time.
Methodology: The lower number is how long it took me to finish each part. While I'm in mid 20s and in a relatively good shape, I tend to stop often to take pictures or simply enjoy the view. It is very likely that your time will be close to mine. The upper limit is my time adjusted to the difficulty of the trail and various distractions. I assumed a family with children in my calculation. I believe that the upper limit is rather extreme. I have not taken into account the time spent for an extended break.

© Jozef Purdes, 2002

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