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Crater Lake Trail - An Easy Day Hike in the Delaware Water Gap

For a small state, New Jersey packs a lot in. From the beaches, to the Pine Barrens, to the Delaware Water Gap, there’s something for everyone. Even in the “Gap”, there’s tons to do, including hiking trails for all ability levels. Here’s how we spent our day on Crater Lake Trail!

Where is the Delaware Water Gap?

Officially, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, is roughly 67,0000 acres of forest. It’s a part of the Delaware River that cuts through the Appalachian Mountain in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To give you a better frame of reference, it’s on the north western side of New Jersey (Warren and Sussex Counties) and the north eastern side of Pennsylvania (Monroe and Pike Counties).

Uh, what’s a water gap?

In case you were wondering (I was), a water gap is a geological feature where a river cuts through a mountain ridge. So there’s that.

What’s there to do?

Your basic outdoorsy stuff – hiking, rafting, canoeing, rock climbing. There are tons, tons, of hikes in the Gap, so many that we had a hard time figuring out where to go. On the recommendation of a friend, we decided to do an easy, 1.6 mile loop called the Crater Lake Trail. Crater Lake is, you guessed it, a glacial lake left by the Wisconsin Glacier which was around between 21,000 B.C. and 13,000 B.C. Once the glacier melted, it left behind various lakes, one of which was Crater Lake. The trail happens to also connect to the Appalachian Trail.

Important Note: Crater Lake Trail on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap - not to be confused with Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

On the way to the Crater Lake Trail

Getting to Crater Lake

Well, it wasn’t easy. Google Maps said it was about 3 hours from our home in southern New Jersey. In reality, it took us about 3.5 hours, part of it was down a dirt road. Down. A. Dirt. Road. It would probably be helpful, but not strictly necessary, to have a four-wheel drive vehicle.

For a better frame of reference, it’s about 2.5 hours from Philadelphia, and about 1 hour 50 minutes from New York City.

Entrance Fees

Nope. None at Crater Lake.

The parking lot was uncrowded when we visited.


We were at Crater Lake early on a Friday, around 11am, and the parking lot was empty. There was one other car. When we left, there were probably 10-12 cars, but the lot wasn’t crowded. Still, I can imagine that on a nice holiday weekend, it gets crowded fairly early. Parking is free at Crater Lake.

The restrooms were clean and well maintained.


There were well maintained restrooms at the trailhead, with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but it never hurts to have some of both handy, just in case, pandemically speaking.

Picnic tables to enjoy a snack or a rest

A nice shady trail

Lots of flowers to see!

The Crater Lake Trail

The elevation change on the Crater Lake Trail is about 111 feet, so you’re not mountain climbing, but you’re not completely flat either. It’s mostly shady, but there are some sunny spots so bring a hat. There are lots of tree roots and rocks along the way which is why a sturdy shoe choice is important. The trail took us about 1 ½ hours since we stopped along the way to check out the mountain laurel, the wildlife, and the scenery in general. If you straight up walk it, no stops, you could probably do it in about 45 minutes, but where’s the fun in that?

What should I bring? What else should I know?

The basics folks – a compass wouldn’t hurt, but the trail is fairly straight forward. Beyond that - a hat, water, snacks, sunscreen and for pete’s sake – DO NOT FORGET THE BUG SPRAY! Cell service is sketchy.


I would 100% recommend Crater Lake Trail. I would like to spend more time up in the Delaware Water Gap. It’s just so big that one trip isn't enough!

View of Crater Lake in the Delaware Water Gap

View along the Crater Lake Trail in the Delaware Water Gap


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