Mt. Minsi Loop via the Appalachian Trail
Directions to trailhead
Cross the toll bridge into Pennsylvania, stay to the right at the tollbooth and immediately take PA Exit 310. Follow signs for Route 611 south down a circular ramp. At the end of the ramp, turn right on Broad Street At the next light turn left onto Route 611 south. Continue a few blocks to the Deerhead Inn on the right. Turn right immediately after the inn on Mountain Road. Take the next left into the Lake Lenape parking area.
From Interstate 80 eastbound from Pennsylvania:
Take PA Exit 310. At the traffic light at the end of the ramp, continue straight on Broad Street. At the next light turn left onto Route 611 south. Continue a few blocks to the Deerhead Inn on the right. Turn right immediately after the inn on Mountain Road. Take the next left into the Lake Lenape parking area.
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.
[ 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