Many hikers seek places to get away from it all – to go deep into the woods or high up a mountain and escape civilization. But there’s nature and peace to be found in busy places, too.

Cherry Creek Loop is a shining example, as it links woods, creeks, wildflowers and sidewalks in Smithfield Township and the village of Delaware Water Gap.

Cherry Creek Loop is easily accessible to the public looking for a quick commune with nature, and it offers a rich habitat for animals, too. Laid out right along Route 80, the trail passes over and under the busy highway. Yet the trail is cool, shady and dense with sycamore and other deciduous trees.

Elderberry, fox grape, May rose, and bittersweet grow here, along with native goldenrod and jewel weed, Joe Pye weed and Turk’s cap lily. Goldfinches feast on thistle. The fruit of pokeweed, though poisonous to us, is a staple for foxes, raccoons, mice and possums.

One stretch of the trail leads to the junction of Cherry Creek, Brodhead Creek and the mighty Delaware River, where, on a recent visit, the fishy remains of a river otter’s meal were found. There, the rippling creek’s music masks the ruckus on Route 80. It is easy to let your mind wander and imagine generations of Lenni-Lenape living off summer’s bounty here while preparing for winter.

Today, this 28.5-acre park is proof that modern humans can use land wisely. Lying in the floodplain of two creeks and the wild Delaware, it should come as no surprise that the land will flood from time to time. Houses and businesses would be regularly devastated — at huge human and financial cost — but the soccer fields and walking trails built here take it in stride. Instead of racing away over hard roads, roofs, and driveways, causing erosion and polluting the streams, floodwater is slowly absorbed. This protects drinking water not just for us, but for millions of people downstream.

The 2.6-mile loop includes concrete stepping stones that take you across Cherry Creek. The path leads to an overpass above the Route 80 toll plaza — a unique perspective and panorama! Next is the village of Delaware Water Gap, a friendly place, where Appalachian Trail hikers from all over the country are welcomed with good food, great music, and supplies for the next leg of their journey.

According to Smithfield Township Supervisor Brian Barrett, in 2008, Smithfield and Delaware Water Gap Borough started working with the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to create the park. The commission also funded construction of the trails, soccer fields and a playground for children. Many benches, information kiosks, and covered picnic tables are available, and trails are suitable for walking, jogging, and even smooth enough for strollers. Future plans include making a mile of the trail fully wheelchair-friendly and adding Braille to the information kiosks.

A cool place on a hot day, easy to find, accessible to all, water views — and did I mention a sighting of three eagles there recently? — get outdoors on Cherry Creek Loop and see for yourself!

The McDade Recreational Trail extends most the length of the park and provides views of the river, charming streams, open farm fields, forests, and historic landscapes. The trail offers hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers areas of varied difficulty, from easy to strenuous. With trailheads distributed between ½ and 5 miles apart, this trail offers a section for just about any visitor. Additionally, most trailheads are along the park's free bus route that operates summer weekends.

From Hialeah to Owens trailheads, the trail is mostly flat as it traverses former settlements and farms. From the Owens Trailhead on Freeman Tract Road, the trail switchbacks sharply up the side of the Hogback, or ridge, to the park's headquarters. Observation decks on the side of the headquarters facility provide wildlife viewing areas.

Between park headquarters and Bushkill Access, the terrain becomes rolling hills. Numerous structures, foundations, and other traces remain from the once thriving community of Bushkill.

North of Bushkill Access, the trail follows a narrow ribbon of land between US 209 and the river and then continues nearly level through agricultural fields and forests to Schneider Farm.

The next several miles of the trail are dominated by the river to the east and the cliffs to the west, with the trail and US 209 squeezed between in places. From Raymondskill Creek to Milford Beach, the Raymondskill Cliff parallels the nearly flat trail.

The northern terminus of the McDade Trail is Milford Beach, a popular recreation site for local residents since 1945. Whether you start from this end, Hialeah, or a point in between, you are sure to find something to fit any mood.

Regulations

  • Speed limit is 15 mph.
  • Bikers yield to hikers.
  • No motorized vehicles.
  • Leashed pets are permitted along the trail except at Milford and Smithfield beaches and between Smithfield Beach and Hialeah late spring to early fall.
  • Camping only permitted and the Dingmans Campground.
  • The section between Pittman Orchard trailhead and Conashaugh trailhead is closed due to eagle nesting from December 15 through July 15.
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