10 Highly Scenic Hiking Trails Around Delaware

Over the river and through the woods, here are 10 regional hikes to hop on.

Whether you’re seeking solace or adventure, these trails in Delaware and just over the state line offer everything from creeks and wetlands to grasslands and maritime forests. This spring, take time to explore thousands of acres that provide valuable insight into our area’s history and natural habitats.

Alapocas Run State Park

Wilmington

Alapocas Run State Park boasts Delaware’s only natural rock-climbing wall, made from the remnants of its former life as a quarry, among other natural splendors, including mature woods full of the state’s native pawpaw trees, North America’s largest native fruit. A perfect destination for a family hike, Alapocas’ Upper Reach Trail winds around the Can-Do Playground, the area’s first “boundless” playground built for children of all abilities.

Alapocas State Park
Alapocas State Park. Photo by Joe Del Tufo.

Alapocas’ trails are a mix of scenery and historical sites, blending stone structures from when the area was filled with water-powered mills with the vibrant greenery of today’s natural beauty. The iconic century-old Blue Ball Barn serves as the park’s trailhead and visitors center, and is also home to Delaware’s folk art collection.

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The Alapocas Woods Trail and Pawpaw Loop offer shorter hikes, while the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail (ADA accessible) affords visitors a 10.4-mile hike that spans northeast New Castle County, including several different state and county parks.

Brandywine Creek State Park

Wilmington

Often recognized for its blue gneiss stone walls built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when it served as a dairy farm and was part of the du Pont estate, Brandywine Creek State Park features more than 14 miles of trekking across its 1,100 acres of land. “Our family loves taking Brandywine Creek State Park’s wider Rocky Run trail for an easy walk,” says resident adventurer Devon Adams.

Brandywine Creek State Park
Brandywine Creek State Park. The Massey family, of Wilmington, discovers rock treasures in the Brandywine River. Photo by Joe Del Tufo.

Her kids enjoy exploring the single-track trails with twisted trees they’ve dubbed “the rock garden” and “tornado alley.” Adams and her children also take part in geocaching—using a GPS to play an international game of hide-and-seek, which she says incentivizes her family to hike an extra couple miles.

Rocky Run is one of the park’s three Trail Challenge loops, and its moderate 1.8-mile course winds through dense woodlands and offers glimpses of the creek. Visitors seeking a more challenging adventure should visit the Brandywine Trail (ADA accessible).

Newline Grist Mill

Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

Hiking at Newlin Grist Mill in nearby Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, offers visitors an opportunity to combine outdoor exploration with learning about the area’s unique cultural history, as the 8.5 miles of trail circumnavigates the grist mill (once used to grind grain into flour), which dates to the 18th century. Hikers will encounter wooden trails, a babbling creek, a waterfall and remnants of the area’s past, including ruins of the buildings from its milling history, creating a unique juxtaposition of the natural surroundings and historical artifacts. Following Concord Creek, it is easy for visitors to see how its water was used to power the mill.

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Newlin Grist Mill
Newlin Grist Mill. Photo by Ashley Breeding.

The 1.6-mile Industrial Trail follows the Octoraro Railway and was once the site of the area’s cannery and creamery. Another option is to take the 1.1-mile Creek Trail, hiking along both the Chester and Concord creeks through a forest full of sycamore trees.

Rittenhouse Park

Newark

Operated by Newark Parks and Rec, Rittenhouse Park encompasses 1.95 miles of trails in its 45 acres. Visitors can walk the Jerry Fickes Trail, named for the Newark resident and fallen Wilmington firefighter, which meanders along the Christiana Creek.

Rittenhouse Park
Rittenhouse Park. Photo by Ashley Breeding.

Rittenhouse has offered a place for Newark resident Jenn Grybowski’s family to get out and explore. “Right as you first get to the trails, there are rocks for the kids to climb around and investigate,” she says. “One trail is shorter and takes you to a playground and a small sandy area my kids call the ‘secret beach.’ The other trail is longer and winds along the creek with plenty of small beaches to stop at and rest and tree branches and roots for climbing.”

The Grybowskis visit the park all year long, and their elementary-age children also enjoy the Rittenhouse Day Camp in the summer months, which gives attendees the chance to learn about canoeing, archery, hiking and more. Within the creek, the campers even fashioned a “slide” where mellow rapids carry you downstream on a Boogie Board.

White Clay Creek State Park

Newark

One of Delaware’s largest and most well-known state parks, White Clay Creek sits on more than 3,600 acres north of the University of Delaware’s campus, its expansive landscapes nestled between the borders of Delaware and Pennsylvania.

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White Clay Creek State Park
White Clay Creek State Park. On the Whitely Farms trail at White Clay Creek, don’t be startled by the eyes in the trees of the forest. It is just a form of fungus that causes these shapes. If they blink, however, you might want to pick up the pace. Photo by Joe Del Tufo.

Named for the clay once mined here, its 37 miles of trails weave through woodlands, open meadows and along the scene of White Clay Creek. Visitors can choose from more than two dozen trails, ranging from just 0.3 miles to 4 miles, including the paved and illuminated Pomeroy Rail Trail.

First State National Historic Park

Multiple Delaware locations

Unique in that it’s spread across six sites throughout Delaware, each of First State National Historic Park’s sites tells a different part of the state’s history. The sites include Brandywine Valley (20 miles of trails), Fort Christina, Old Swedes Historic Site, New Castle Court House Museum, The Dover Green and John Dickinson Plantation. Each has information available for visitors to learn about its impact on Delaware’s history. Hiking and visiting these landmarks is more than a way to get your heart pumping—it’s also a chance to connect with the past and leave with a sense of appreciation for Delaware’s role in American history.

First State National Historic Park
First State National Historic Park. Photo by Amanda B. Kimball.

“As a family, our love for hiking grew exponentially through the pandemic, where we hiked 44 out of the 52 weeks after the shutdown in the spring of 2020,” says Christi Bluemle, of Wilmington. “We rarely hike the same trail twice, but First State National Historic Park may be the exception. …There is always something new to see or learn when we experience this park.”

Cheslen Preserve

Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Sprawled across nearly 1,300 acres in Chester County, Pennsylvania, ChesLen Preserve is maintained by Natural Lands, a regional land-conservation organization established in the 1950s. The preserve’s extensive network of trails ranges from 1.5 miles with panoramic countryside views to nearly 7-mile treks through diverse woodlands, grasslands and Big Elk Creek. Commitment to conservation has ensured rich natural habitats for wildlife and plant species, and visitors can expect to see many birds, foxes, deer and other critters.

Cheslen Preserve
Cheslen Preserve. Photo by Ashley Breeding.

Marisa de los Santos, of Wilmington, describes ChesLen as an old friend: “It is familiar but also never stops surprising us. A 9-mile hike offers so much variety—woods and marsh, fields and wildflower meadows, steep hills, rolling hills, flat trails, a creek, and a section we call ‘the bramble,’ full of thistles and goldenrod and bee balm. …It’s a privilege to see a place in every season and in every kind of weather.” She’s seen foxes, deer, monarch butterflies, tufted titmice, red-winged blackbirds, bluebirds, hawks and even eagles, making it “one of our favorite places in the world.”

To access a GPS-powered interactive trail map, download natlands.org/app.

Holts Landing State Park

Dagsboro

Quietly nestled along the coast just outside of Bethany Beach, Holts Landing State Park is a hidden gem situated along the shores of the Indian River Bay. Its network of trails winds through diverse ecosystems, including shoreline, intertidal zones, salt marsh and maritime forest. The park’s Sea Hawk Trail (ADA accessible) offers a beautiful mix of wooded pathways and open vistas.

What I love the most about Holts [Landing] is the native woods with many American hollies that transition to salt wetlands and then to Indian River Bay.

“What I love the most about Holts [Landing] is the native woods with many American hollies that transition to salt wetlands and then to Indian River Bay,” says David Devine, of Ocean View, who has spent countless hours traversing the park with his grandchildren and foster dogs from Goldheart Golden Retriever Rescue. “It’s an incredible spot to explore with children and adults.”

James Farm Preserve

Ocean View

A visit to the James Farm Preserve in Ocean View means touring seven different habitats: meadow, maritime forest, hardwood forest, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, sandy beaches and intertidal flats. The preserve, gifted to Sussex County in 1992 by the late Mary Lighthipe, a descendent of the James family who farmed the land for many years, serves as a coastal sanctuary along the shores of the Indian River Bay, also just a few short miles from Bethany Beach. It’s maintained by the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Delaware’s Inland Bays.

James Farm offers family-friendly paths that meander through diverse coastal habitats, providing panoramic views and the potential opportunity to spot herons, egrets, turtles and, if you’re lucky, dolphins in the bay. Visitors will learn more about its diverse coastal habitats and the tidal marshes’ significant role in the ecosystem.

Lums Pond State Park

Bear

In the heart of Delaware, on the north side of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, sits Lums Pond State Park, with 1,790 acres and 17 miles of trails. The park surrounds the state’s largest freshwater pond and is home to reptiles, amphibians and dragonfly species. While the park offers a variety of activities, hiking takes center stage amid the scenic woodlands. It features the Mile Loop Trail and the 7.9-mile Little Jersey Trail (ADA accessible), which circles through forests and along field edges. The Swamp Forest Trail offers visitors the chance to hike alongside the waters while undoubtedly spotting wildlife, as Lums Pond State Park is home to a diverse array of species and is a haven for nature lovers. Hikers may catch glimpses of bluebirds, herons, woodpeckers or even bald eagles—nearly 200 bird species have been recorded in the park.

Historical monuments throughout the trails tell the history of White Clay, and several trails will take visitors past the Judge Morris House. This historic farmhouse was built in the 1790s and was home to Judge Hugh M. Morris, an attorney and federal judge who lived on and operated a farm at the property.

If 37 miles of trails sounds overwhelming, the park offers a hiking series, operated by the park naturalist, to help visitors find their favorite trail.

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