Most hikes on the East Coast won’t get you high enough for a good view, but the Mount Tammany hike is one of the few exceptions! It’s a short but intensive climb, with fantastic panoramas over the Delaware, and the superb view from the top is well worth the effort.
As a big fan of Tammany once said: “This is the kind of trail that turns people into hikers!”
From how to get there and what to expect, to the difficulty of the hike and what to bring, in this extensive guide we are going to share with you everything you need to know about hiking the Mount Tammany Red Dot/Blue Dot loop.
Mt Tammany Hike: General Overview
This is a classic loop hike, usually completed in the preferred order of Red Dot up, Blue Dot down, as the initial climb can be quite strenuous. The trail is listed as the number one hiking trail in the Worthington State Forest – in fact, it’s number one throughout the whole of New Jersey. The 6.1 km hike is rated as ‘moderate-intermediate’ and was awarded 4.5 stars on hikingproject.com.
Mt Tammany Loop: Hike Data
Please note that as of May 2020, the parking area and bathrooms are closed. There is alternate parking at the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center.
- Main Trailhead: Mt Tammany Red Dot/Blue Dot Loop Trail (40.9718, -75.1255)
- Distance: 3.52 miles (5.66 km) for the round trip
- Highest Point ( Mountain Peak): 1,526 feet (465 m)
- Elevation Gain: 1,103 feet
- Hike time: 2.0+ hours
- Restrictions: Visitors are subject to the rules and regulations of the National Forest Service
- Animals: Dogs are allowed but should be leashed. A lot of owners regularly ‘forget’ about this rule. Horses are also permitted
- Vehicles: Non-powered mountain bikes are permitted. No motorised vehicles are allowed on any part of the trails.
- Best Times to Visit: Although accessible year-round, the best time to go is late Spring, Summer and early Fall.
How Mount Tammany Got its Name
The mountain was named after chief Tamanend (c. 1625–c. 1701), Chief of Chiefs of the Turtle Clan of the Lenni Lenape, an indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands whose historical territory included New Jersey, New York City and eastern Pennsylvania along the Delaware River.
Tamanend went by many names, including ‘Saint Tammany the Affable’, and he was responsible for signing the peace treaty with William Penn which created modern-day Pennsylvania. Saint Tammany became a popular figure during the 18th century and became known as a ‘Patron Saint of America’ representing peace and friendship.
After the American Revolutionary War, many states formed Tammany Societies devoted to helping the poor. These societies were responsible for building New York City’s Tammany Hall—also popularly known as the ‘Great Wigwam’.
Mt Tammany Hike: Getting There
As of May 2020, the main parking areas (Red Dot Trail Parking Area and Dunnfield Creek Parking Area) and bathrooms are closed. There is parking at the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center, but currently no bathrooms are open. The gift shop and visitor centre are also closed until further notice.
- From Pennsylvania: Take I-80 E and get off the first exit after the toll bridge. Look for signs to Dunnfield Parking area.
- From New Jersey: Take I-80 W and get off 2 exits before the toll bridge. Look for signs to Dunnfield Parking area.
The National Park Service has informed us that the parking lots for trails to Mt. Tammany are usually full by 9:00 am. In reality, it’s hard to find a place to park after 7:30 am, so get there as early as you can!
Mount Tammany Hike: The Trail in Stages
The Mount Tammany hike can be broken up into four stages:
- Stage 1: From the trailhead to the first viewpoint
- Stage 2: From the first viewpoint to the summit
- Stage 3: The descent via the Blue Dot Trail
- Stage 4: Heading home via the Appalachian Trail
Stage 1: From the Trailhead to the First Viewpoint
You will be taking the red-on-white-blazed trail (the Red Dot Trail) all the way up Mount Tammany. Start by going up the wooden steps from the car park and bear left. The trail soon reaches stone steps that mark the start of a steep climb.
After climbing over some rocky outcrops, you’ll reach the first panoramic viewpoint, from open rocks just to the right of the trail. You can see up and down the Delaware River, with Arrow Island in the river to the left, and Mount Minsi directly across the river in Pennsylvania.
Stage 2: From the First Viewpoint to the Summit
When you’re ready to continue, follow the trail upwards through an open forest with plenty of wild blueberries, which are very common in Maine and NJ. (Wild blueberries are safe to eat but only taste good when fully ripened. Gently shake the fruit bunches, and the ripe berries will be the ones that fall off easily.)
After about 10 minutes, the trail bears right and takes you across a streambed, which is often dry. You’ll go up another set of rocky steps and then continue through a talus field (talus is a layer of loose, medium-sized rocks similar to scree).
You’ve reached the top of the mountain(!) which is marked by a triple red blaze. But the best view isn’t actually from the summit, for that you’ll need to turn right and follow a rock outcrop downhill (about 100 feet). The outcropping is usually packed with hikers, because it’s from here that you’ll get a superb panoramic view over the Delaware River towards Mount Minsi, with the rolling hills of Pennsylvania in the background.
Stage 3: The Descent via the Blue Dot Trail
It’s possible to descend by using the Red Dot Trail, but the steep inclines make this a dangerous option. We recommend you descend by following the Blue Dot trail – it’s a lot safer.. The trail heads northeast along the ridge of Mt Tammany on a rocky but quite easy going path. After a quarter mile, you’ll take a sharp left and the descent becomes quite steep.
Keep heading down for about a mile, and you’ll join up with the green-blazed Dunnfield Creek Trail. Just ahead of you will be an open area with a bench overlooking a small but attractive waterfall. You can get to the base of the waterfall by following a short unmarked trail, which is just before the start of a wooden footbridge spanning the creek. This is another good spot to take a break.
Stage 4: Heading Home via the Appalachian Trail
When you’re ready to continue, head over the wooden footbridge and continue along the trail, which parallels the creek on a wide path. This is a very scenic portion of the hike, taking you through the rhododendron-strewn gorge of Dunnfield Creek.
In another quarter mile the Blue Dot and Dunnfield Creek trails end, so for the last part you’ll follow the white blazes and join the famous AT: the Appalachian Trail. After a few minutes you’ll re-cross Dunnfield Creek on a steel bridge that takes you back to the parking lot. You’ve just successfully completed the Mount Tammany Hike!
What to Bring on the Trail
Because of the steep upward gradient, we strongly recommend some good walking sticks. Also, for footwear, we advise strong, high-quality hiking boots (not hiking sandals). Apart from those specifics, the following is a list that you should be using for every hiking trip:
- Water: Make sure you bring lots of water! Some people underestimate how much water they’ll need and have to turn back before getting to the waterfall. The rule of thumb is to take as much water as you can, then add a few more bottles somehow. Also, always remember to bring a water purifier, so you can make drinkable water from rivers and streams.
- Plenty of food: There’s nowhere to get food once you’ve left the parking lot, so it’s always a good idea to bring fruit or a light snack. Choosing light and compact foods, such as dehydrated or freeze-dried meals for energy.
- Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove
- Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, you can still get sunburn. And the chances increase at higher altitudes, so always protect yourself with plenty of healthy SPFs, even on a winter’s day.
- Torch Don’t rely on the one that comes with your phone. Get a proper torch, or even a headlight for your head, and don’t forget some spare batteries.
- First Aid Kit Andy basic camping kit will give you the basics, but remember to add foot powder, a muscle-relaxant heat spray and some insect repellant.
- Duct Tape Duct tape is, without a doubt, the single best thing in the world. You can use it to patch up anything. Anywhere. Rule number one: always know where your duct tape is!
- Emergency Blanket A foil blanket is super-lightweight and folds into a tiny square, making it easy to fit in a spare nook or cranny. On cold winter nights, it’s a must-have item.
- Weather-appropriate clothing: If you can, pay a bit more for moisture-wicking clothes, and jackets that have removable layers.
- Navigation: Includes map, compass, altimeter and a GPS device. Most phones have these capabilities, but a dedicated device is always a good idea if you’re planning to do more than one or two hikes a year.
- Portable Charger: Not many phones or multi-devices last a full day nowadays, so a battery bank/portable charger is a must. There are some which charge by solar panel, which is great for sunny trails.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long of a Hike is Mount Tammany?
The total distance you’ll travel is 3.52 miles (6.21 km) for the round trip, and you should allow a minimum of 2 hours to complete the trail. Some experienced hikers, and the athletes who run the hill every day, can make the trek in under 2 hours.
Is Mount Tammany a Hard Hike?
Yes! This hike may be short, but it’s quite steep in places and there is some rock scrambling involved. Using a pair of walking sticks is strongly advised.
Are Dogs Allowed?
Yes, dogs are permitted on the trail. Although regulations state that all dogs should be kept on a leash, many dog owners stupidly let their dogs run free.
Is the Hike Family Friendly?
Yes. While this loop will likely be too difficult for younger children, older kids will enjoy the challenge of making it to the summit.
Do I Have to Follow the Red Dot/Blue Dot Trail?
Usually it’s possible to hike this loop in reverse, but it makes the descent very dangerous. However, a one-way rule has been put into effect during the coronavirus outbreak. So currently all hikers must ascend using Red Dot and descend using Blue Dot.
Is the Hike Dangerous?
The steep inclines can be treacherous in wet weather. Always wear quality hiking boots with a firm grip.
Is There any Dangerous Wildlife on Mount Tammany?
There are many snakes on the trail (5-6 feet lengths are not uncommon) as well as black bears. Try to stay in a group of people if you can.
Yes, but you must follow the one-way rule. The trails on Mt. Tammany closed in late February because of a wildfire, but reopened 18 March 2020. At the date of writing, no closures are in effect. To stay up to date, please visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area ‘current conditions’ page.
The National Forest Service have stated “Enjoying the outdoors can certainly help us all stay sane during this CoVid-19 pandemic, but please continue to follow local protocol with regards to social distancing: Separate yourself and honour the social distance of others (6 feet); stay away from parks and recreation areas when you are sick or have symptoms, and help keep parks clean by taking your trash home.”
A Final Word
Mount Tammany is a real hike, not just a gentle stroll. But if you bring decent hiking boots and stay on the marked trails, you’ll be rewarded by some fantastic views over the Delaware, and you’ll feel a lot fitter by the end!
If you’re looking for some other hiking ideas, why not take a few minutes to browse our other hiking guides, including the Adams Canyon Trail, the Kanarraville Falls in Utah and even some cool hikes in Hawaii. We’d love to hear your hiking experiences or see some of your photos, so please get in touch with us and let us share the fun!