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Delaware Outdoor Trail: Where to Find Delaware’s Best Outdoor Activities

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Canoeing at Trap Pond State Park. Photo by Kevin Fleming

With warm weather moving in for the long haul, it’s time to dust off the bikes and dig the trail shoes out of hibernation for a summer of outdoor adventure. This is the year for an activities upgrade, and the Delaware Outdoor Trail has a complete roster of events and outings to keep big ones and little ones occupied and summer boredom at bay.

The Delaware Outdoor Trail—launched on Earth Day by the Delaware Tourism Office in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Department of Transportation—took what locals already know and love about their local parks and excursions and transformed those bundles of insight into a statewide package of outdoor destinations for travelers and new adventures in old backyards.

“One of the trends we found that people like are more active vacations that put them back in nature,” says Linda Parkowski, state director of tourism. “We have such an abundance of beautiful natural resources, and now they’re all tied together in the outdoor trail.”

[left] Ashland Nature Center [right] White Clay Creek State Park – mountain biking – photo courtesy of Delaware State Parks

First, pick your activity. The Delaware Outdoor Trail features four primary types of adventures: walking/hiking/running, biking, wildlife viewing and water sport options. Each category provides a top-to-bottom tour of the state’s parks and recreation systems tailored to a specific activity, with no fewer than 15 family- and budget-friendly choices in each category.

The Delaware Outdoor Trail allows the state’s millions (yes, millions) of annual visitors to select a few laid-back activities to cover in a weekend, like biking or hiking. Or they can opt for larger-scale day trips over the course of a season, such as kayaking excursions along the coast.

Modeled after the tourism office’s other trails—Culinary, Wine & Ale, Geocaching and History— this initiative aims to increase out-of-state visitation, encourage physical activity and raise awareness of Delaware’s natural beauty, Parkowski says.

[left] Ashland Nature Center, Hawk Watching. Photo by Jim White [middle] Bikers at Brandywine Creek State Park. Photo courtesy of Delaware State Parks [right] St. Jones Reserve. Photo courtesy of Delaware Tourism Office

“We know that travelers like prepackaged tours or plans,” she says, “and if someone is thinking about where they’d like to bike or hike in this state, we knew we could have that already planned out for them.”

The tourism office worked closely with DNREC and representatives from the Division of Fish and Wildlife to organize activities by type, establish parking plans, signage, restrooms and other amenities to enhance the visitor experience. And with more than 500 miles of hiking, biking, equestrian and water trails throughout the state, there’s plenty to explore.

For especially ambitious outdoorsmen (and women), visiting each stop on the trail nabs a lime green Delaware Outdoor Trail backpack, complete with a CD and MP3 play pocket and phone port, three double zipper main compartments and other features to keep visitors well-stocked and organized for further adventures. With upwards of 60 activities and more than 40 locations, picking your first stop might be the hardest part, which is where Parkowski’s expertise comes in handy. Her vote? “Trap Pond State Park. It’s absolutely mesmerizing to be able to canoe through the grand cypress trees.”

Delaware Tourism: The Numbers

  • $2.2 billion: Tourism’s total contribution to Delaware’s Gross Domestic Product
  • 7.3 million visitors in 2012
  • 38,810 employees in tourism-related jobs
  • Fourth-largest private employer in the state
  • Tourism generated $441 million in state and local government taxes/fees in 2012.
  • Without tourism, each Delaware household would pay $1,301 more in taxes to maintain current levels of state and local taxes.
  • 67 cents of each dollar spent by visitors is kept within Delaware

Top Visitor Activities 

  • Shopping                             33%
  • Dining                                  28%
  • Beach                                  23%
  • Gamble                                18%
  • Historic Sites                        11%
  • Nightlife                                9%
  • Festivals                               7%

Source: Delaware Tourism Office

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