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.
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.
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.
© Jozef Purdes, 2002