Hiking at Buttermilk Falls and Crater Lake Loop
At the end of April my husband and I went to Delaware Water Gap just beyond Stokes State Forest to see Buttermilk Falls and go for a hike around a lake. This was easily my favorite hike since we moved to New Jersey.
Near the Buttermilk Falls trailhead we found some flowers. I was surprised to see them because we hadn’t seen any wildflowers previously on the trails. Actually, the only place we saw flowers that day was at the trailhead.
Dutchman’s Breeches, or Dicentra cucullaria, is a member of the Fumitory Family (Fumariaceae) and blooms April to May in rich woods. A native wildflower, if grows throughout eastern and central North America, as well as the Pacific Northwest. This is a favorite flower for bees, but is poisonous to cows.
Hyacinths are spring-blooming flowers that normally come from bulbs. I was confused to see them at the trailhead — is it possible someone planted bulbs? If you plant bulbs in autumn, they will bloom in spring. Hyacinths come is a variety of different colors and are popular in gardens because of their lovely fragrance.
Although some websites suggest starting the hike at Crater Lake, we made a wrong turn on the road and started at Buttermilk Falls instead. I think starting at Buttermilk Falls is better because (1) when you arrive in the morning there aren’t any people, and (2) it feels better to have the steep climb at the beginning of the trail rather than in the middle of the loop.
There had been some rain about a week previously and the falls were impressive. A destination for many to take photos, it’s best to get there early before the crowd. When we arrived at 9:30am we were the only ones there and could leisurely take photos.
As you can see, the falls are quite tall!
This is a view of the falls from the top.
The climb is steep and in the early morning the area is slick with mist and moist moss, making it a slippery in places. Luckily, the trail is well-maintained in this part with ample bars and stairs for support in climbing.
After reaching the top of the falls, we kept on going through the refreshing morning forest. It was continuously steep for the first quarter mile or so from the start of the trail, rising a couple hundred feet. We stopped to take a breather when the trail leveled out.
About a mile in on Buttermilk Falls Trail, we turned onto Woods Road to head over to Hemlock Pond.
The Wood Road was lovely. Relatively wide, it made a corridor of trees in some places. We thought it would also look great in autumn.
Also along the Wood Road we came upon a marshy meadow open area that was quite striking.
About a mile down the Wood Road, we turned to skirt around Hemlock Pond.
I was impressed with how pristine the pond — which actually looks more like a small lake — is. You can clearly see to the bottom in the more shallow areas going out. Pine trees surrounding the pond make for lovely photos.
There are several spots around the pond where there is an obvious trail that leads down to the water. We had time, so we checked them all out. Each one had a great view, but this spot just across the trail from where Hemlock Pond Trail turns right onto Orange Trail, was my favorite.
After a quick crossover using Orange Trail, turned onto the Appalachian Trail (AT).
There was a bit of a view looking West to Pennsylvania.
We continued along the AT. At one point there was an option to continue down a steep cliff on the AT down to Crater Lake or take a detour. We took the cliff option. When I looked at the map, the detour looked like it would add another half mile or so to the hike.
There was a view of Crater Lake that was possible to see from the AT, but we skipped it because it was occupied. There were no other good views from above that we passed. However, after we turned onto there are plenty of places down by the lake that available to sit at and enjoy the scenery.
We stopped at this place with some rocks jutting out next to the lake. Similar to Hemlock Pond, the water in Crater Lake was remarkably clean.
According to the National Park Service, Crater Lake is glacial lake left behind after the Wisconsin Glacier retreated from this area about twenty-two thousand years ago.
The area around the lake was a bit busy, but not overly so.
Recommended as a Moderate Hike
Overall, we enjoyed the hike and the different scenery that the area had to offer.