The Road Less Trammeled
by Steven T. Rider
Indian Ladders Trail
January 24, 2006
The day was sullen and dreary, but rain-free as I headed toward the Delaware River. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is one of the finest gems we have in the region. One of the few remaining river systems unfettered by dams, it still retains its wild and scenic state for us to enjoy.
On the Pennsylvania side, about midway between Milford and Bushkill, there is an unmarked dirt road 0.2 miles south of Chestnut Ridge Road on the west side of Route 209 that leads to a small parking area in front of an aged pipe gate.
Beyond the gate, this trail crisscrosses Hornbeck Creek before it encounters a spectacular gorge and series of waterfalls referred to as Indian Ladders. The trail starts off easily through a yet-healthy hemlock stand and remains level for a short way.
The sounds of Hornbeck Creek become distinct as this little valley tightens very quickly. The valley ends abruptly at a large cascade. Out west, this would almost be called a box canyon.
The trail ascends sharply along the gorge wall just above the watercourse. The sides of the gorge are very steep and the trail should not be attempted when snow or ice is present. The sounds of the waterfalls fill the gorge and the mists scattered by the rapidly flowing stream provide habitat for an abundance of ferns seen growing in every crevice of the crumbing sedimentary rock we know as the Pocono Plateau.
The calls of Downy Woodpeckers kept me company as they scouted for insects in the plentiful snags. Even in the dead of Winter, these are some of the more scenic waterfalls in the park.
There are no blazes on the Indian Ladder Trail, but it is the only path at the trailhead, and it is well defined, including sidehilling and steps where the slope steepens. There are also two footbridges over the creek. It is an old road up until the second stream crossing, where it narrows to a single track, but remains the only trail in the gorge. At this point, it is the only really navigable route up through the canyon.
Hiking Time: 2 hours up and back