This hike takes you all the way to the summit of Mt. Minsi on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail with an elevation gain of 1,060 feet in 2 miles. Pick up the trail by following the white blazes at the information boards in the Lake Lenape parking lot. An old paved road until Lake Lenape on the right, the Appalachian Trail then becomes a...
This hike takes you all the way to the summit of Mt. Minsi on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail with an elevation gain of 1,060 feet in 2 miles. Pick up the trail by following the white blazes at the information boards in the Lake Lenape parking lot. An old paved road until Lake Lenape on the right, the Appalachian Trail then becomes a gravel road and proceeds uphill. Soon the surface levels out and the white blazes leave the gravel road as a footpath to the left.
You will rock hop over several small streams along the way but even during times of high water they should be easy to cross. Don’t be disappointed by the traffic sounds rising up from I-80 – you will forget all about that once you look up to see the majestic Mt. Tammany in New Jersey to the left and Mt. Minsi in Pennsylvania to the right. You will be able to look down from the top of the cliffs where you stand to see the Delaware River snaking through the Gap with I-80 and the now much smaller vehicles on the far side of the river.
Just before one mile, sounds of rushing water lead you to Eureka Creek, the largest stream, which is crossed on rocks. About a quarter of a mile later, although well-marked, you will most likely miss where the trail makes a right turn because you will be mesmerized by the view in front of you, but that is OK, go ahead and keep straight beyond that turn as you will be on an unmarked trail to a view. Just be sure you stop at the end of the trail before going off the cliff! At this spectacular view look over to the right up a steep wall of rocks and you will see a sign that reads “NOT A TRAIL.” Apparently many hikers have missed the turn and thought this is where the trail continues but that is not the case. Simply retrace your steps for a short distance and watch for the stone steps to your left, the continuation of the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. Go up the steps and follow the white blazes carefully as the trail switchbacks uphill.
At 1.75 miles arrive at a woods road, the Mt. Minsi fire road, which will be the return route. The white-blazed trail follows this road briefly to the left then veers back into the woods to the right. Just a short distance ahead arrive at an unmarked T intersection. This is actually the same Mt. Minsi fire road you just crossed which has simply looped around. Turn right here and you will soon see white blazes again. No need to remember this unmarked turn for the return trip because you will be going straight and around the loop which will put you exactly where you need to be to descend on the fire road.
For the past quarter mile you have been ascending more towards the interior of the mountain with no views. That will change when you come out to a spectacular full view of Mt. Tammany directly across the way on your left just before the 2-mile mark. With a pair of binoculars you should be able to make out hikers on the summit of Mt. Tammany.
Continue along the white-blazed trail and pass to the right of a cinder block shed surrounded by a chain link fence and old fire tower footings. A few steps beyond that look to the right for the Mt. Minsi sign on a tree indicating you have arrived at the summit at 1,461 feet. Continue on just a little more to unmarked side trails on the left. These trails take to you views of the Delaware River flowing south as far as the eye can see, forming a dividing line between New Jersey on the left and Pennsylvania on the right.
The hardest part of the hike is over and the rest is downhill. If you would like to extend the hike, continue along the Appalachian Trail. You will find this next section to be a very pleasant and level woods road running along the ridge with continuous seasonal views giving you an on-top-of-the-world feeling over the next 0.7 mile. The trail then leaves the woods road to the left through hillier terrain on a foot trail arriving at a pipeline cut with views to both the east and west in another quarter mile. Totts Gap is another 0.3 mile out. You can continue on as far as you would like, keeping in mind you have to retrace your steps to complete the hike. (If you hike out to Totts Gap and back to complete the hike, the total distance is about 9.1 miles.)
To continue with this hike without additional mileage, retrace your steps back to the cinder block shed then to the view of Mt. Tammany. Keep straight if you happen to remember the unmarked intersection you came in from to the left. Just beyond that intersection, whether you notice it or not, the trail will loop to the left and you soon see the white blazes crossing over. Keep going straight as you are already on the unmarked Mt. Minsi fire road. The descent will be more gradual than the way up on the Appalachian Trail and there won’t be any views but there are a couple of interesting side trails worth exploring on the way down. You can shorten the hike to a total of 4.9 miles by staying on the fire road directly back to the parking lot if you prefer.
To explore the side trails, after about 1-¼ miles on the fire road, start watching for an unmarked woods road on the right. You might first turn on a woods road that ends up going nowhere. That’s OK because you will notice that before you have gone too far. If that happens, backtrack and continue on to the next opening on the right. You will know that you found the correct turn when you see another woods road branch off to the left just a short distance in. Continue straight and the woods road will soon make a left turn bringing you to partly-dry Lake Lettini on the left. In the springtime, the loud sounds of various unseen critters in the lake provide a rain forest ambiance. At the next intersection turn left and follow the woods road straight back to the Mt. Minsi fire road. Turn right on the fire road to continue.
A short distance ahead turn left on an unmarked trail. Watch for another unmarked trail leaving to the left, which brings you to waterfalls in just a few steps. Retrace and continue left on the original unmarked trail. In about .2 mile arrive at Table Rock, a large open expanse of bare rock. Veer left and watch to the right for a view of the Delaware Water Gap at a chain link fence. Continue on along an escarpment where you will see a trail down below, the trail you would be on had you not taken the side trip.
Soon the trail will descend steeply as Lake Lenape comes into view straight ahead. Arrive at a picnic table at the lake, turn left on the unmarked trail, veer right over an old stone dam, then continue following the trail as it leaves the lake to the left heading towards a couple of houses. At the gravel road, turn right and proceed a short distance over a small hill, arriving back at the parking lot.
Turn By Turn Description:
[ 0.00] Take the white-blazed Appalachian Trail starting at the information boards
[ 0.15] Lenape Lake on the right; trail changes from paved to gravel and ascends
[ 0.35] The white-blazed trail leaves the gravel road to the left as a foot path
[ 0.45] Rock hop over small stream
[ 0.50] Council Rock on left
[ 0.60] Rock hop over small stream and shortly thereafter another; trail ascendsl Mt. Tammany and Mt. Minsi come into view
[ 0.85] Rock hop over small stream
[ 1.05] Cross Eureka Creek
[ 1.20] Keep straight when white trail turns left to view at dead end; retrace and turn left on white trail up stone steps; trail switchbacks uphill
[ 1.75] Turn left on fire road briefly then turn right on white trail
[ 1.80] At unmarked T intersection turn right - white blazes continue ahead
[ 1.90] View of Mt. Tammany to the left
[ 2.15] Pass cinder block shed inside chain link fence and old footings; Mt. Minsi sign on tree on the right
[ 2.20] Unmarked trails to the left to views; retrace steps on white trail
[ 2.50] View of Mt. Tammany to the right
[ 2.60 ] Keep straight on unmarked fire road when white trail goes left at unmarked intersection; follow woods road as it loops around to the left
[ 2.70] Keep straight on unmarked fire road as white trail crosses over
[ 2.75] Rock hop over stream
[ 4.05] Turn right on unmarked woods road (just prior to this turn it looks like a trail goes right then another left but they do not go anywhere - watch for the obvious wide woods road)
[ 4.10] Keep straight as unmarked goes left (may have to hop over blowdowns)
[ 4.20] Unmarked trail turns left
[ 4.30] Lake Lettini on left; turn left at intersection
[ 4.45] Keep straight when unmarked goes left
[ 4.50] Turn right on unmarked fire road
[ 4.60] Turn left on unmarked trail; short unmarked trail to the left to waterfalls
[ 4.80] Table Rock; veer left on open rock surface
[ 4.90] View on right at old chain link fence
[ 5.20] Trail descends towards Lake Lenape
[ 5.30] Turn left at lake and picnic bench
[ 5.35] Turn right over old dam
[ 5.40] Trail veers away from lake towards houses; turn right at gravel road which leads to parking lot
Although somewhat dwarfed by the imposing Mt. Tammany, Mt. Minsi offers views of the Delaware Water Gap at least equally as spectacular as those experienced from the top of Mt. Tammany and you might find the trails a bit less crowded.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.