Out-of-staters chuckle when Delaware outdoor enthusiasts talk about great ‘hiking’ spots in the state. They wonder, “How does a state as flat as that one have anything worth a hike?” Well, besides over 100 miles of hiking trails in Delaware State Parks alone, there are many other county parks, nature preserves and greenways that offer anything from scenic strolls to climbs to the state’s highest peaks.
Here are some of our favorite places to stretch our legs and add steps to our Fitbit, while enjoying the beauty of the state.
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1. White Clay Creek State Park, Newark
With nine different trails spread among and between three different park areas, White Clay Creek has hiking for the amateur to the advanced hiker. Trails range from an easy one mile up to four miles individually. Two interesting stops along the Twin Valley and Bryan's Field trails are historic markers: one marks the western edge of the Mason-Dixon Line and the other marks the Arc Corner Monument where Pennsylvania and Delaware meet.
2. Junction Breakwater Trail, Lewes to Rehoboth
Stretching five miles between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, this hiking and biking trail runs along a stretch of the old Penn Central railroad. The trail is a great way to relax from the hustle and bustle of the beach region. If you take it one way and connect up with other nearby trails, you can make a full 10.5 mile regional loop!
3. Northern Delaware Greenway, Wilmington
For 10 miles, the Northern Delaware Greenway twists and turns through Wilmington. The trail connects a variety of Delaware State Parks, county and municipal state parks and open spaces.
Walk alongside the Brandywine.
See the rock climbing walls and outcrops in Alapocas State Park.
Either walk the full Greenway or do it in segments. The parks that it passes through all offer separate loops and spurs. We know hikers who like to hike from Brandywine Park into Bancroft Mill into Alapocas.
4. Michael Castle Trail, Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
Connecting Delaware City, DE to Chesapeake City, MD are 16 miles of paved trail alongside the C&D Canal. The flat hike is easy, but long for Delaware standards. Walk under several bridges, including the railroad bridge pictured here; watch cargo ships and power boats cruise by. The trail was named after former Governor of Delaware Michael N. Castle.
5. Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes
Even though many people go to Cape Henlopen to go onto the beach for fishing or sunbathing, there are all sorts of trails to hike through different habitats found in the park. Hike along the beach for 4.6 miles or wander for two miles among the scrub pines. The walking dunes trail ends at the state's tallest, largest dune; be sure to check that the trail is open first. Sometimes coastal storms erode access there.
6. Woodland Beach, Smyrna
When the tide is low, you can hike along this sandy stretch of Delaware bay shoreline for miles. But be sure to keep an eye on an incoming tide so you don't get stuck! If you're a fan of seaglass, this Delaware bay beach is a hot spot for good finds.
7. Killens Pond State Park, Felton
Killens Pond has tons of amenities, but its trails are our favorite. The Pondside Nature Trail loops hikers 2.6 miles around the 66 acre pond. The pondside loop is connected to other trails that can be combined for a full park hike experience.
8. Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Smyrna
Bombay Hook, one of two National Wildlife Refuges in Delaware, is a favorite for hikers who want to do a little birding on their outing. The refuge is accessed by a 12-mile driving loop, which hikers can certainly walk along. However, you can always drive to a trail and hop out to explore on of the small spurs or loops. Climb to the top of an observation tower for a view overlooking a 'pool' or walk out over the marsh on a boardwalk trail.
9. Swamp Forest Trail, Lums Pond State Park, Bear
Explore the shores surrounding Delaware's largest freshwater pond with a 7.5 mile hike--one of the longest in our state parks. There are others at the park to explore as well. Kids enjoy the boardwalk trail over a wooded wetland near the nature center.
10. Brandywine Creek State Park
Open fields edged with old stone walls, streams trickling over rocky beds, and wooded park lands will greet you on your hikes at Brandywine Creek State Park. Stop at a high crest and look for hawks flying overhead.
11. Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library, Wilmington
Hiking isn't usually the first passtime to spring to mind when someone mentions Winterthur, a historic American estate. However, the 10 miles of roads that spread through the 1000 acre-estate are open to hiking, as well as a few different paths through woodlands and meadows.
12. Blackbird State Forest, Smyrna
All of Delaware's three state forests offer some sort of hiking trails, but Blackbird State Forest tends to rise to the top for hiking. Explore natural areas of the forest including small freshwater ponds, and gaze up at the neatly lined rows of trees growing to maturity.
13. Delaware Seashore State Park, Rehoboth Beach
DSSP boasts six different trails for hikers, all with a little different view and in slightly different locales. We particularly like the Burton Island Trail which is a one mile (one-way) boardwalk trail with views of the marsh and inland bays. The 3.5 mile long Prickly Pear trail sends hikers through meadows, young forests, and pine groves. Or hike 4.6 miles along the shoreline.
14. Aquatic Resources Education Center, Smyrna
Owned and operated by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, the AREC has a one mile long boardwalk over the salt marsh. The vantage points from above are stunning. For a longer hike, continue on to Lighthouse Road, where you can walk all the way to the Delaware Bay, another 1.9 miles.
15. The Newark Reservoir, Newark
A flat path circles this reservoir in Newark, and creates for stunning views over the water and of the community, especially at sunset and sunrise.
This list just scratches the surface of great locations for a hike in Delaware. What’s your favorite trail?