Now that the mad flurry of summer activities has ended and things have slowed to a more manageable pace, Destination: Hancock decided to take a much-needed break on a recent Saturday morning and head up to “The Ledges” for some exercise, solitude, and magnificent views.
The Ledges — also known as Jensen’s Ledges — is the prize at the top of Bouchoux Trail on Bouchouxville Road in Lordville just a few miles outside the village of Hancock. You get there by heading south on Scenic Byway Route 97 from the village. At about 4.8 miles, you’ll see a sign pointing the way to Bouchoux Trail. Make that right onto Lordville Road and go for about 3 miles into the hamlet of Lordville. A quirky little community, Lordville is worth a look around before you head up to the trailhead.
As of this writing, once you get into Lordville, there are no visible signs (that we could see) to guide you the rest of the way to the trail head. Just before the train tracks and the river, you’ll see a dead end dirt road to your left (Bouchouxville Road). Follow that dirt road all the way to the end to the Bouchoux Trail Head. Park your car, put on your gear, and get ready for a challenging and rewarding hike!
We say “challenging,” but it’s really not that bad. In total, the hike is about 2 miles out and back. Back is all downhill. Which means out is all (mostly) uphill. But it’s only the first 3/10 of a mile that will really make you sweat. You’ll gain about 500 feet in elevation by the time you reach the top — most of it realized in the first half mile. That’s a pretty respectable gain for any hiker, and we met a few youngsters on our way back down who were heading up and having a rough time of it.
To add insult to injury, the first quarter of a mile or so of trail is rock. This is, after all, the road to a now-abandoned bluestone quarry. And we’re not talking smooth ledge or small pebbles — we mean ROCK. Or, rather, rocks. Lots of them. Rocks that are just the right size to cause all manner of ankle-twisting, sole-burning misery both up and down. We argue that it’s actually harder going down than up because of the rocks! They move under your feet, and the way is steep, so there’s a real risk of slipping and falling on the way down. Caution is advised, and thick-soled hiking boots are highly recommended.
Now that we’ve managed to scare off the more timid explorers, let us reassure you that this author is a middle-aged (if I live to be 100!), admittedly out-of-shape avid hiker who has seen far worse than what The Ledges will throw at you. You can still do this hike even if you’re not a seasoned hiker. You can stop and rest as often as needed and, after the first half mile, it’s like a walk in the park. And the amazing views at the top (with bonus waterfall!) are well worth the effort — just check out the photo gallery above for proof!
On the morning we chose to hike Bouchoux Trail, it was unseasonably cold with spotty rain. Even so, the woods were alive with the fresh, sweet scent of nature, bird calls, and animals rustling through the leaves that have already started to fall — the first signs of the arrival of Autumn in Hancock. As we prepared for what we knew would be a difficult first half mile, we pondered the history of the trail and what life must have been like for the quarrymen who worked this mountain so many years ago.
On the way, it’s easy to be distracted by the seemingly never-ending UP. But frequent stops to rest are rewarded with views of The Big D (The Delaware River) peeking through the foliage on the right and imposing rock outcroppings and lush forest on the left.
Just before the summit and “The Ledges,” there is a Y in the trail to the right that leads to a beautiful tiered waterfall. On the day Destination: Hancock was there, even though we’ve had quite a bit of rain this season, the stream was somewhat dry and the water was not flowing as much as we’d have liked. Even so, the rock ledge of the falls is irresistible, and you’ll want to stop and take many photos of this magical place. More adventurous souls could spend hours here climbing down farther along the falls and exploring the nooks and crannies behind the rocks and water.
Just a short distance up the path after crossing the stream, another Y to the right brings you to The Ledges. The first thing you’ll notice is the piles of bluestone chips that are the remnants of the quarry that was worked here in past decades. Visitors over the years have used these chips and larger rocks to build cairns (towers) and “thrones” (see photo gallery) as monuments to their time spent in this special place. Before moving on, take a few moments to explore this section of The Ledges and add your own rock to the towering cairns. Through the trees, get a sneak preview of the Big D in the valley below.
The quarry section of Bouchoux Trail is not yet the end of the line. Follow the trail a few steps more and you’ll come to the jewel in the crown: a rock ledge cliff with sweeping views of the Upper Delaware River valley right at the point where the Delaware River bends in a horseshoe as it heads south towards New Jersey, Philadelphia, and the Delaware Bay, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
The top of Bouchoux Trail at The Ledges is a terrific spot to sit and rest, enjoy a picnic lunch, and take photos to make all your friends envious. Although we’re of the opinion that photos simply can’t do justice to this incredible natural wonder.
Plan to spend at least two hours on this hike — and wander the area around The Ledges to your heart’s content. Bring your dog along on the adventure, and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while you soak in the view. But always remember that much of the property that you’re exploring is privately owned, and all of it is sacred to those of us who call Hancock home, so please be respectful and leave no trace that you were ever there — except maybe one more rock that you place on the stone towers overlooking the river.
Have you hiked The Ledges? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below!