Hike to Hemlock Falls – South Mountain Reservation

Rock hopping!  Woohoo!  What fun.  Not having to have done that before on a hike, this was a real treat, and a great hike that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I learned of this hike when my co-worker mentioned taking his girlfriend to the park to hike and to see the waterfall; they parked close to the falls and took a few of the popular woods roads.  After stealing their idea, I plotted a hike.

Some (strong) advice:  Not only print out the map from here, but I would copy the directions to a text document and print that out.  There are so many side trails and woods roads that one can easily get turned around, make a wrong turn, or end up going in a direction you don’t want to.  While there was a big board with the map at the trailhead, there were not printed maps to take with you.  I suppose you could take a picture of that.

On the day I went, it was a gorgeous 75 and sunny.  I arrived around noon and parked in the Locust Grove lot, which was packed by that time.  I checked my map, and started up the Lenape (yellow) trail.  Ok, I like steep, and I like strenuous, but I wasn’t expecting this opening to a trail.  The trail basically goes straight up the ridge, no switchbacks to speak of, just a rocky trail straight up, with the ascent stopping at Crest Drive.  I noticed people doing this portion in flip flops and sneakers, and there were some really young kids too.  I could foresee some trouble ahead.  The first time I pulled out the directions was after walking down Crest Drive a bit.  The Lenape trail isn’t really well marked here.  Essentially, head to Washington Rock.

From Washington Rock you will see the lookout, with a great view right in front of you.  Head down and spend a few minutes enjoying the view.  You will notice that many people are here, many have parked and walked to Washington Rock – and honestly, if you are not in it for the hike, this is a great idea.  Back to the Lenape trail.  When I was there, finding the trail was not intuitive.  From the view, turn around and face up the hill.  The trail is IMMEDIATELY to your left, going slightly downhill.  It was overgrown when I was there, and fortunately, I heard voices coming up the hill.  Off I went.

While walking the trail I came to a couple of stream beds.  I suspect that at other times in the year, water flows, cascades may be present, and you’ll hear some gurgling.  Nothing, on this hike.  Barely a trickle in some parts.  The board-bridges are still there to help you cross.

Along the way, I came to a couple of rock piles.  On the other side of the rocks, there is a steep downslope with many roots.

The trail winds its way around, and you will ultimately come to the falls.  When I arrived, there were many people milling around.  And because I did not see many people on the trail I could not understand how that many people were at the falls.  I later found out you could drive to a lot right near the falls and take a short, relatively easy, hike down to view the falls.  As it had been been sunny and dry for a couple of weeks, there was not much water coming down the falls.

To get back to the lot, I thought I would take the Rahway (white) trail.  From the falls I had to follow the Lenape to the Rahway.  A small note here, while following the Lenape, you’ll come to a four-way intersection.  The Rahway trail is right in front of you – sort of into the bushes.  After a couple of steps, you’ll see the white blazes and know you are on the right path.  Fun times will be right in front of you as you reach the Rahway river.  Time for some rock hopping!  When I hiked through, the river was at the right height, not too fast, and if I fell or slipped, it would not be that deep.

After crossing the river, follow the trail for a while until you come to an intersection of a few trails and a gravel road.  Cross the bridge that is to your left (I believe there where white/red blazes,) and before you get to the woods road, the trail goes to the right.  It’s not easy to spot.  Once you make the turn, you will spy the white blazes.  The trail follows the river and has some nice views.

One nice surprise was the end of the White Trail (which ended up at the Locust Grove parking lot) are the fairy houses.  I’ll leave the surprise to you, you will definitely see one, and then look for more as you finish up.  It’s awesome to see, however leave them for the next person to find.  I saw numerous young kids at the end, and fortunately, no one was disturbing the houses.

Hiked:  9/4/2017

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