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Cape Henlopen State Park

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Cape Henlopen State Park
Copyright: - Delaware Division of Parks & Recreation
Cape Henlopen State Park
Description - The 5,133-acre park contains a wealth of natural beauty. In addition to the attractive bay and ocean beaches, the Gordon's Pond Wildlife Area features a unique saltwater impoundment. Along the coast, the Great Dune rises 80 feet above sea level, and further inland, the famous "walking dunes" slowly move across the pine forests. A broad salt marsh stretches along the park's western boundary. The variety of habitats within the park makes it a valuable home to many species of birds, reptiles, and mammals. During the summer, the park protects nesting areas along the coastline for piping plovers, a threatened species of shorebird.

Attractions - Cape Henlopen has always been a popular area, valuable for its natural resources as well as for commercial shipping, military defense, and recreation. The beaches attract thousands of visitors who enjoy ocean swimming and sunbathing. Two designated swimming beaches provide lifeguard patrols between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Umbrellas can be rented during the summer. The northern swimming area also features a modern bathhouse with showers, changing rooms, and a food concession. The park's open spaces feature many other activities. A picnic pavilion and the "Officer's Club" building can both be reserved for group events. An 18-pole disc golf course encourages friendly competition, and basketball courts promote exercise that is more active. Winter hunting is permitted in some areas of the park; a hunting permit is required, and information can be obtained from the park office. Annual events such as the Kite Festival and the Halloween Spook Trail are family favorites. The park also conducts a variety of entertaining recreational programs, including the annual Shoretalk series, outdoor concerts, seaside seining, and bird-watching, to name but a few. The Seaside Nature Center offers environmental education programs and recreational activities year-round, and is a good place to stop for park information. Marine aquariums and displays there let visitors meet ocean creatures face to face. An auditorium for audio-visual programs and gift shop complete the attractions at this popular facility. Hiking trails and interpretive displays throughout the park help visitors to learn about these fascinating natural features. In addition, several WWII-era bunkers provide scenic overlooks, and one of the concrete observation towers has been renovated to provide a panoramic view of the Cape. Housed in a renovated naval training facility, the Biden Center is located right along the Atlantic Ocean providing accommodations for conferences, meetings, retreats and educational programs. Facilities include overnight dormitory-style rooms, dining room and meeting space. The center is handicapped accessible and provides space for between 30 and 80 persons.

Recreation - The recreations enjoyed at Cape Henlopen include surf and pier fishing, nature hikes, family and youth camping, picnicking, attending a meeting or environmental education program in the Biden Center, swimming, playing Frisbee golf, wildlife viewing and more.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is located northwest of the park offering hiking, primitive camping, canoe trail, and wildlife viewing.

Climate - The Chesapeake and Delaware Bays moderate Delaware's climate. The state experiences four distinct seasons. Winter can be bitterly cold. Highs during this season average near freezing with low temperatures near 0 degrees F. Spring comes to this region in mid to late March. This is a pleasant time to visit with moderate temperatures and low humidity. Summer brings temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees F. Humidity is highest inland with ocean breezes cooling the shoreline. Fall brings cooler temperatures and low humidity. The forested regions of the state often have brilliant foliage displays.

Location - Cape Henlopen State Park is located one mile east of Lewes, 1/2 mile past the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Number of People Encountered: 50+ ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Dune Overlook Trail: We were driven to the trailhead, where we first enjoyed the overlook's view of the Ocean, then crossed the street to the trail. It was unclear where the first spur was, and we never found the tower mentioned as being on this path. November is off-season for camping & active archery hunting season on this trail. However it remains open, though the spurs were closed. Waterproof boots are best for this trail; it is a wetlands and many parts of the trail looked more like a creek than a trail. However, it was a fun challenge, with overall easy hiking and plenty to see along the way: geese, toads, minnows in the trail, some wildflowers, marsh grasses, and wooded areas. At the end of the Dune Overlook Trail, we picked up the bike trail that led to the Observation Tower. This was such a fun visit that we back before traveling home. Over 100 steps in a circular Army tower that has been restored and is open for use leads to a great way to see the lighthouse, other towers, the beaches and woods, and is a real treat for the eyes. From there, we headed right back into the campground to our site. Bathhouses were open but not very clean. Sites are nice, but be prepared for sand--lots of it. Nice change from other campgrounds we've been to. Easily 50+ ppl in camp. Pinelands Nature Trail: We drove to the trail head, parking at the Nature Center. Hunting must be close by, for we could hear shots throughout the hike, and there was actually a blind ON the trail at one point (though it wasn't in use). The trail was open to hikers, and it was a beauty. Easy hike, though some areas are a little soft due to sand, but uneven areas are smoothed over by bridges. That's a nice touch. Saw one deer, 4 ppl, some wildflowers still in bloom, and really liked the sand and pine mix. From here, we drove to the Point. After a walk on the beach (25-50 ppl on the beach), we watched the sun set over the Delaware Bay from the parking lot. At 4:30, the parking lot was filling up; they stayed for the sunset, then everyone cleared out. Both the beach and the sunset were highlights of this afternoon. Off-season, we didn't plan on going anyplace to eat. We packed all we needed in the way of hygiene, water, food. On the trails, we packed the same way, taking all we might need with us. Ages 4 - 40, we all enjoyed Cape Henlopen and plan to head back. Our goal is early spring or late fall; the campground was very busy and full off season, but the trails were lightly traveled, and we try to avoid crowds in order to enjoy the environment (hard to do with lots of people noise :)).

More Information

Contact Information:
Cape Henlopen State Park, 42 Cape Henlopen Drive , Lewes, DE, 19958, Phone: 302-645-8983

Additional Information:
Delaware State Parks - The Delaware State Park system includes fourteen parks with recreation facilities, many historic and cultural buildings, and an extensive trail system.
Southern Region - Sussex County - Tucked between the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and Atlantic Ocean, Southern Region - Sussex County is lush with natural beauty, rich history, fabulous outdoor recreation, and heart pounding nightlife.

Delaware State Parks - Official Agency Website


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