July 10, 2021 – Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania
Length: Approximately 2 miles
Max elevation: 596 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 60 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Avenza App Map: 2021 – Delaware Water Gap & Kittatinny North #122
Trailhead parking: Hornbecks Trail – Federal Rd (U.S. Route 209), Dingmans Ferry, PA 18328
No bathrooms on site
Please note: Waterfall conditions are dynamic, changing with weather and seasons. Stay on the trail when possible and be cautious of your surroundings, like slippery or rocky terrain, fast moving water, or steep drops.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) straddles a stretch of the Delaware River on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania border. It encompasses forested mountains, grassy beaches and the Delaware Water Gap, which slices through the Kittatinny Ridge. The DWGNRA encompasses more than 70,000 acres and has over 150 miles of trails.
The DWGNRA is on the eastern edge of the Pocono Mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where 40 miles of the Delaware River runs briskly between high bluffs and forested shores. There is almost nowhere with a higher concentration of great waterfalls than the Pocono Mountains. The region is home to some truly stunning waterfalls. Some of these waterfalls are located along well-established trails and are popular tourist attractions, while others are hidden away in relative obscurity. The waterfalls of Hornbecks Creek (which flows into the Delaware River) might be the best hidden gem in the Poconos, with its scenic cascades and deep gorge. While it might not have the height that the more well known waterfalls have, Hornbecks Creek Falls is one that shouldn’t be missed when hiking in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Hornbecks Creek had an early grist mill at the base of the mountain by 1775. In 1870, Jacob Hornbeck bought the property along the stream that eventually took on his name. The creek cascades over stair-step layers of shale between two larger drops. This gave the stream its 19th-century name of Indian Ladders Creek. The name also applied to a tourist boarding house in the valley.
The original trail, which had been there for over a century, was located in the creek’s floodplain and flooded frequently. The trail reopened in September 2019 after the winter storms of March 2018 struck the area and caused substantial and widespread damage across the region. Massive trees were toppled by high winds, the stream bank along Hornbecks Creek partially collapsed and footbridges were washed away. Trail crews re-routed the trail to higher ground to make it more sustainable in the face of more frequent and more intense storms.
Approximately 900 feet of trail was re-routed to higher ground and another 500 feet of trail was resurfaced. A 15-step staircase was built from native stone, some weighing as much as 600 pounds, in an area where the stream had eroded a steep bank. New drainage systems were installed to divert water and protect the trail from erosion. Two new bridges were built from locally sourced lumber and were installed higher above the water level to better protect them from flood damage. Other features of the new trail include the addition of turnpikes, areas where the trail is elevated above the floodplain or wet areas; bog bridges, which allow hikers to pass over short muddy spots; and water bars, diagonal channels across the trail that divert surface water away from the trail.
The mile-long Lower Hornbecks Creek Trail also known as the Indian Ladders Trail, can be accessed off of US Route 209 between mile markers 10 and 11. A small parking area with room for about 10-12 vehicles is at the end of a gravel road. More parking is available in a gravel lot directly across the road from the trailhead.
The Lower Hornbecks Creek Trail partially follows the old Glenside Rod & Gun Club road along Hornbecks Creek. The shaded trail meanders through the lush forest, crossing back and forth over Hornbecks Creek on a series of footbridges before ending at the base of the 25-ft. tall Hornbecks Creek Falls. The trail is unmarked, but easy to follow. The area is owned and managed by the National Park Service.
Continuous heavy rain that fell over the Northeast from Hurricane Elsa, and all the waterfall posts on social media, made this hike an easy choice. Trying to steer clear of the masses that tend to flock towards the more “touristy” waterfalls in the region, this relatively unknown waterfall makes for an idyllic destination.
This mostly level hike is a short out and back that crosses Hornbecks Creek several times. A pleasant walk through the woods with a scenic waterfall as the payoff.
Although it is not as well known as other waterfalls in the area, Hornbecks Creek Falls does see some foot traffic. We arrived at approximately 8am on a Saturday morning and were the first ones at the trailhead. On our return from viewing the falls, we passed several groups of people along the trail. As with anything else these days, it pays to get out early.
The hike begins at the northern end of the parking area on an old gravel road that parallels Hornbecks Creek. Following the banks of Hornbeck’s Creek, the trail meanders upstream through a mature forest composed of a great variety of large, old trees.
In a short distance, the trail crosses a wooden footbridge to the other side of the creek and begins to gradually, climb above the creek, passing stone steps that once led to an old home. The trail levels off high above the creek which has cut a steep-sided ravine through the terrain.
The trail then crosses Hornbecks Creek again on a fiber-reinforced polymer trail bridge that was installed January-March 2016 to replace the bridge that was washed out by a storm several years earlier.
The trail descends a 15-step stone staircase in an area where the stream had eroded the steep bank.
A look back at the stone staircase.
The trail then crosses the creek again, this time on a single log bridge. It turns left and continues upstream over several bog bridges before crossing Hornbecks Creek on another single log bridge.
The trail turns right and follows the creek upstream a short distance to Hornbecks Creek Falls.
The 25-foot tall Hornbecks Creek Falls, also known as Lower Indian Ladders, is a slide waterfall which is surrounded by cliffs and plummets into a large circular pool. Please note: that swimming here is prohibited by the National Park Service.
When you are done enjoying this picturesque waterfall, retrace your steps back the way you came, to the parking area, where the hike began.
A very pleasant walk through the woods to a very scenic waterfall. This short hike is perfect for a hot and humid day after some rainfall. The trail is well shaded and although it is not marked, it’s well defined and easy to follow. This simple out and back is great for families and those that want to enjoy nature without working up a sweat.
Hornbecks Creek Falls, enjoyable trail, well maintained area, litter free.
Take a hike!
- A hike on this unmarked trail includes many of nature’s wonders – Pocono Record
- NPS Winter Storm Damage Assessment and Recovery Update – March 27, 2018
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area