Delaware is a state with a lot of great trails that nearly anyone can hike. To encourage Delawareans to get out and about, Delaware State Parks has created an amazing
Delaware Trail Challenge. If you want to participate, you have a year to hike the qualifying trails in order to collect your awards. Complete just five trails and you’ll earn the Explorer award. Conquer 10, and you’re recognized with an Advanced Hiker Award. If you choose to tackle all 15 Trail Challenge trails, you’ll get to call yourself an Expert, and show off your Expert Hiker Award. If you obtain any of these rankings, you’ll receive a Trail Challenge certificate, patch, and small prize.
So, if you’re going to make yourself a Delaware Hiking Bucket List, I suggest you choose the 15 trail challenge trails. They were chosen by the State Park system for their hikability, scenery, and history. You won’t be disappointed by any of them – after all, these are the best trails in Delaware.
The Delaware Trail Challenge Scorecard
Here's the full list and "scorecard" of Delaware Trails Challenge Hikes.
Alapocas Woods, Alapocas Run State Park
The Alapocas Woods trail is a paved trail that's a great way to start your challenge. Shady and towering trees line your path through varying terrain and rocky surfaces. This trail is .7 miles one way, so it's a quick addition to the Brandywine Trail, if you want to knock out two challenge trails in one day.
Brandywine Trail, Brandywine Creek State Park
In Alapocas Run, the Brandywine Trail (aka Northern Delaware Greenway) is just 2 short miles, but the entire length of the trail spans northern New Castle County for a full 10.5 mile hike. You'll walk through Piedmont forests and running streams, beautiful open spaces, historic landmarks, and more.
Auburn Valley Trail, Auburn Heights Preserve
The Auburn Valley trail is a wide paved trail for hikers and cyclists. Explore the stunning Auburn Heights preserve as you knock this 1.3 mile hike off of your list.
Rocky Run, Brandywine Creek State Park
This hike is about 2 miles and is possibly the most interesting hike on the Delaware Trail Challenge list. You'll see the famous Rocky Run Bridge and ascend though rocky terrain up to a forest with views of Rocky Run. The climb up is long but the descent is short and brings you back to the Rocky Run Bridge.
Gordon's Pond, Cape Henlopen State Park
Gordon's Pond is a 2.65 mile one-way trail in Cape Henlopen State Park. It's one of the most beautiful trails in Delaware, and we
recently covered what makes it so great.
This is a must-hike trail in Delaware.
Assawoman Canal, Delaware Seashore State Park
The Assawoman Canal trail is an easy one mile loop that follows the west bank of the Assawoman Canal. Bring bug spray if you're hiking it in the evening - the scenery is beautiful, though, and worth potentially getting swarmed by greenheads. This late in the season, though, you should be okay.
Prickly Pear Trail, Delaware Seashore State Park
Prickly Pear is one of my favorite trails in Delaware. It's a simple 3.5 mile loop trail and you'll see the shady pine forest and the large open meadows, plus a great view of Indian River Bay. If you're lucky, too, you'll run into some horseback riders - that's not a sight you see frequently!
Prison Camp Trail, Fort Delaware State Park
The Prison Camp Trail at Fort Delaware is a loop of just under a mile (.8 to be exact) that takes you around the famous and haunted Confederate Prison on Pea Patch Island. Wildlife, wading birds, and more can be seen from the observation tower on the trail.
River View Trail, Fox Point State Park
2 miles of easy walking along the Delaware River will let you see a port city at work. Tugboats, Freight boats, Tankers and recreational watercraft create traffic patterns that you don't really get to observe in many other places. This trail is a great little getaway in the middle of some of the most crowded areas of Delaware.
Sea Hawk Trail, Holt's Landing State Park
The Sea Hawk Trail is a fascinating hike for Delaware nature enthusiasts, as the 1.5 mile loop trail wanders through mixed forests, open meadows, and along the Indian River. It's a favorite spot of birders and wildlife spotters, particularly those interested in Marine Ecosystems.
Pondside Trail, Killens Pond State Park
If you aren't sure how you'll hold up to a slightly longer hike, do the 2.5 mile Pondside Trail at Killens Pond State Park first. It's one of the longer trails on this list, but it's easy. You'll see the various forests of Delaware and cross beautiful creeks, streams and brooks along the way.
Swamp Forest Trail, Lums Pond State Park
The Swamp Forest Trail in Lums Pond takes you through wetland forests featuring Black Cherry, maple and Sweet Gum trees. It'll also take you to the campground, boat launch, frisbee golf course, and nature center. It's also haunted - wait, what? According to local historians, the Swamp Forest trail is the
location of the murder of a young runaway in the 1870s
- some say they can still hear her screams to this day.
Bob Trail, Trap Pond State Park
The Bob Trail loops around the entire pond (4.7 miles) and showcases the abundant wildlife that call Trap Pond home. Warblers, kingfishers, Great Blue Heron and of course the mesmerising Baldcypress trees are all easy to observe on a hike through Trap Pond. I particularly enjoy the elevated bridge that takes you over the freshwater marsh.
Whitley Farm & Bryan's Field, White Clay Creek State Park
All of White Clay Creek State Park is beautiful, and we combined these two trails on the list because they're easy to combine in your hiking. Together, they're just over 5 miles of rolling hills, tall forests, historic remains and beautiful, bubbling creek. This is my go-to getaway when I'm in New Castle County.
Fall is the perfect time for hiking – the summer sun isn’t beating down on you and the cool air makes even the more strenuous hikes easier. Plus, the fall foliage turns even the most boring “walk in the woods” into a scenic wonderland. Start the trail challenge in the fall and finish it in the spring – remember – you have a year!