Segment 41: Delaware
The Delaware segment begins by coming off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge onto Kent Island, Maryland. The Fifty Trail follows the route of the American Discovery Trail to south central Delaware, just east of Bridgeville, then departs from it to pass through Trap Pond State Park and hike its Bob Trail about 2 ½ miles from the main park entrance to the Bethesda Church site. A road walk east from there brings the Fifty Trail to Middlesex Beach, just south of Bethany Beach. The Atlantic Ocean beach is the trail for much of the distance from there north to the Eastern Terminus of the American Discovery Trail at Cape Henlopen. The exceptions are the Indian River Inlet Bridge, an impressive new span open in 2012, the boardwalks at Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach, and the Gordon’s Pond Trail—a 3.2 mile wetland foot- and bike-path with state-of-the-art boardwalk.
Returning to the beach at the Herring Point trailhead parking lot, there’s a last beach walk to the eastern Terminus of the American Discovery Trail at the Bunker Overlook, a high dune with WWII fortifications, now a bird watching platform. It’s just north of the main beach parking area and bathhouse. Here the route leaves the beach and follows the ADT westward for 15.3 miles through the town of Lewes to the town of Milton. At Milton the Fifty Trail leaves the ADT and strikes out northward past Milford to Killens Pond State Park. Hiking its Pondside Trail around the lake from the boat launch ramp to the trailhead parking, the Trail then picks up Scrap Tavern Road and resumes its road walk north to the south end of Scenic Byway Delaware route 9 just past the Barker’s Landing Bridge on Delaware 1. Delaware 9 traverses long stretches of wetland through lightly populated country not far from the Delaware Bay.
Right after Delaware 9 crosses over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, on the outskirts of Delaware City (a recommended side trip), the trail turns left to pick up the Michael Castle Trail, newly completed a paved bike route that parallels the Canal Westward to Chesapeake City, MD.
The Fifty Trail follows the Michael Castle Trail to the Lums Pond trailhead parking lot, just opened in 2017. There will eventually be a trail from here to the Lums Pond State Park campground. Until then the route follows the trailhead access road to Old Summit Road. In Lums Pond State Park the trail makes use of its lakeside Swamp Forest Trail, following it around the west side of the lake and out the park’s main entrance.
A road walk of a few miles brings the Fifty Trail to the point where the Mason-Dixon Trail crosses Pleasant Valley Road at a high voltage power line right of way. The Mason-Dixon Trail is a 196-mile trail that runs from north of Wilmington Delaware to the Appalachian Trail near Boiling Springs. The Fifty Trail will take advantage of the best of this trail in Pennsylvania but first will do the same for Delaware. We turn eastbound and follow the Mason-Dixon Trail through Iron Hill Park then follows Christina Creek through the college town of Newark, Delaware. Coming out the north side of Newark the trail follows White Clay Creek National Wild and Scenic River, which is one of very few such rivers where the entire watershed is designated and protected, including all of its tributaries, all the way to their headwaters. The Fifty Trail comprehensively explores this watershed.
The Mason-Dixon Trail follows the Creek through Delaware’s White Clay Creek State Park and then into White Clay Creek Preserve at the Pennsylvania border. The Delaware Segment of the Fifty Trail ends where the Fifty Trail departs from the eastbound Mason-Dixon Trail at White Clay Preserve trailhead parking lot #1 on London Tract Road near the intersection with Broad Run Road (which the Mason-Dixon Trail follows eastbound) and Good Hope Road (which the Fifty Trail takes west and then northbound).
MAPS and TRAIL GUIDES:
Mason-Dixon Trail: http://masondixontrail.wixsite.com/mdts
DELAWARE ROUTE 9: http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/delaware/delaware-route-9-de/
Delaware State Parks, master link with links to each of the five state parks that the Fifty Trail visits, each with excellent trail maps: http://www.destateparks.com/park/
Michael Castle Trail along the C&D Canal: https://delawaregreenways.org/portfolio_page/c-d-canal-trail/
HEART OF THE TRAIL:
Delaware 9 at about the Smyrna River to White Clay Preserve trailhead #1.