Delaware Water Gap & The Poconos
At the west end of US-6’s pleasant run along the river from Port Jervis, just off I-84 at the northern end of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Milford (pop. 979) is a cute little town cashing in on the hordes of rafters, campers, and B&B patrons who make the weekend journey to the surrounding Pocono Mountains from New York or Philadelphia.
Milford was the longtime home of sustainable forestry pioneer and two-term Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), whose Grey Towers (570/296-9630, $8) estate off US-6 is now preserved as a National Historic Site, open in summer for tours. Visitors and locals alike converge on the town’s culinary landmarks, the Milford Diner (301 Broad St., 570/296-8611, daily 6am-10pm) and the more photogenic Village Diner (268 US-6 and 209, 570/491-2819), which sits on the south side of the I-84 freeway, just west of Walmart.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Totaling some 70,000 acres of forest on both banks of the Delaware River, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area stretches for 35 miles south of the I-84 freeway along two-lane US-209. Established beginning in 1960, the park is still under development, though numerous hiking trails lead through hardwood forests to seasonal waterfalls, and the river itself offers abundant canoeing, swimming, and fishing. Though far from pristine, the natural beauty is surprisingly undisturbed considering the park lies only 50 miles northwest of New York City.
A few remnants of the area’s historic agricultural villages have been preserved under the aegis of the park, but the main attraction is the oddly named Delaware Water Gap itself, a deep cleft carved by the river into the solid rock of the Kittatinny Mountains. Artists, sightseers, and rock-climbers have admired this unique feat of geology for centuries, but unfortunately the natural passageway is crisscrossed by all manner of road and railroad, including the six-lane I-80 freeway, which runs right through it.
A stretch of the Appalachian Trail cuts along a 1,200-foot-high ridge at the southeast corner of the park, crossing the Delaware River on an old bridge at the town of Delaware Water Gap. Get a feel for the trail at the self-service Appalachian Mountain Club-run Mohican Outdoor Center (908/362-5670), which has cabins and a campground on a pretty site outside Blairstown, New Jersey.
The tiny tourist town of Delaware Water Gap, south of I-80 at the far southern end of the park, provides the best views of the gap. A visitors center sits along the river, just off I-80 at the first or last New Jersey exit, and offers exhibits on the geology and history of the region.
The Pocono Mountains, which rise to the west of the Delaware River, hold a number of traditional summer resort hotels spread among the golf courses and ski areas. Like the Catskills’ “Borscht Belt” of southern New York, the Poconos had their glory days in the 1950s, but some resorts still thrive thanks to the invention here in the 1960s of the couple-friendly, heart- or champagne glass-shaped bathtub, which has turned many a Pocono hotel into a pseudo-Roman honeymoon destination (the Baltimore Sun called one a “mini Playboy Mansion”). Many of these passion pits tend to feature all-inclusive package deals (free archery lessons, so you and your beloved can play Cupid with real arrows, etc.). If you’re interested, try Pocono Palace (866/500-5508) 15 miles northeast of Stroudsburg off US-209. To get a feel for the Poconos’ working-class charms, head downstream along the Pequest River to Hot Dog Johnny’s (333 Route 46, 908/453-2882) in Butzville for classic dogs, crunchy fries, frosty mugs of root beer, and all the 1940s old road nostalgia you can want.
By contrast, a classic “old-school” Poconos resort—the rightly named Skytop Lodge (855/345-7759)—is about 20 miles northwest of Stroudsburg via Hwy-447. This grand yet family-friendly 1920s hotel, with just 124 rooms and suites but full resort facilities, sits on 5,500 acres of mountaintop forest, with its own golf course, hiking trails, and shooting range.
At the southern edge of the Delaware Water Gap park, Stroudsburg has the Poconos’ most extensive tourist facilities, clustered along the I-80 freeway.