Trails – Appalachian (white), Mt. Minsi Fire Road, green, and some unmarked trails
Mountain – Mt. Minsi
My map –
I have been on Mt. Minsi, but it was over 30 years ago. And, we came from the ridge, I believe we climbed to the ridge at Totts Gap and we walked to the Minsi Lookout. This time, I started at the Appalachian Trail trailhead in the town of Delaware Water Gap, which is a nice quaint small mountain town. I got the last (legal) spot in the lot just before nine in the morning. When I came back, there were cars all over the place. And, there was trail magic in the parking lot.
The parking lot is right next to Lake Lenape, which was in full bloom of water lilies. The AT is part of the Mt. Minsi fire road for a couple of hundred yards, so it is nice and easy walking.
Once off the fire road, the walking becomes typical Appalachian Trail (at least for this section.)
Crossing Eureka Creek was fun, the water was low, and the trail heads off into a small Rhododendron tunnel. As typical, there was Rhododendron all over the place.
Shortly after, I zipped off the leggings of my pants – it was just too hot and humid. After that I quickly made it to the first viewpoint, Lookout Rock.
After Lookout Rock, it’s pretty much up and up and up until you get to the viewpoint looking across the river at Mt. Tammany.
Birch trees already have their leaves changing color. I don’t want to think about that yet – it’s still August.
Getting closer to the next lookout is a long Rhododendron tunnel, that ends with a small scramble.
I made it to the overlook that looks east and towards Mt. Tammany. However, there were ten kids making all kinds of noise at the overlook, so I headed off to the summit. From that overlook to the top, it’s all uphill. You’ll know you are at the summit as there is a cell tower at the top (?) and the remains of what look like a fire tower.
About a quarter mile west of the summit and on the left is a small overlook that looks south with views of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the Delaware River. The view would be bigger without the leaves on the trees.
After sitting a bit, I headed back the way I came.
When I reached the viewpoint, there was no one around, which afforded me time to eat something. It was sunny (and hot) and I had a great view of Mt. Tammany.
While sitting, I noticed a bunch of hawks flying around. Some came suspiciously close.
On the return trip, I took the Mt. Minsi fire road. Before reaching the fire road, it was back through a Rhododendron tunnel, that was very dark. I tried to get a picture, but the camera took in too much light. This picture doesn’t do it justice, it was really dark in the tunnel.
I was looking for Table Rock, so I turned off the fire road to a trail labeled Green on AllTrails. It’s just marked as an unmarked trail on the NY NJ Trail Conference map. I never did find Table Rock, maybe I should have stayed on the fire road longer. This trail was definitely not used as much, but was interesting none the less.
Two more unmarked trails took me to Lake Lenape, though from a different side. There were tons of frogs all along the banks that jumped in the water as I approached.
There were lots of people out and about today; not so much when I went off the fire road. When I reached the parking lot, there were cars all over the place, but a welcome sight (and one I hadn’t see before) was Trail Magic – a van set up with food and cold drinks for AT thru-hikers.
Trails: Fairview (yellow), AT (white), Buckwood (turqoise), Sunfish Fire Road, Dunnfield Creek (green), Holly Springs (red)
For those wondering, this isn’t the typical Sunfish Pond loop. That loop starts at the Dunnfield Creek lot, and uses the full sections of the Appalachian Trail and Dunnfield Creek trail (and may be a tad longer too.) I wanted to stay away from the circus of people and chose to head to the Fairview lot off of Old Mine Road. When I pulled in around 8:20, I was the second car in the lot, and the first left while I was lacing up my boots. When I drove by the two hiker lots (of which one is the Dunnfield Creek lot) they were already mostly full. When I finished my hike, there was one other car in the lot. That’s not to say I didn’t see people; I saw a bunch of thru-hikers on the AT. But I “missed out” on the huge crowds at Mt. Tammany.
When I arrived at the Gap, there were lots of low clouds. Fortunately, once the sun came out it burned off all the clouds and became a great day. I thoroughly enjoyed the Fairview trail, though coming back I did not get to hike the whole Dunnfield Creek trail – and that’s a trail I really like.
Starting up the Fairview trail, the trail is nice and wide. At this time of year, there is lots of green,with ferns out all over the place.
The sun burned off the clouds early.
I passed a couple of spots with bear droppings, one really fresh. But alas, no bear sightings today.
I quickly came to the junction with the Appalachian Trail, and found this marking on the ground. 1300. I’m assuming miles, but I don’t know from which end.
The trails seemed damp, as if it had rained the night before. I don’t recall getting rain the day before. However, the mushrooms were out.
In case you have forgotten, or just don’t know what the AT is like in New Jersey…here is a typical section:
After stopping at the backpacker campsite to check things out, I quickly made it to Sunfish Pond. I had hiked this route close to 40 years ago, and I just don’t remember Sunfish Pond at all. On this day, it was gorgeous. The only sound were the frogs, and there were plenty. Here is Sunfish Pond, looking East.
I followed the Appalachian Trail along the northern edge – be advised there’s a small amount of rock scrambling at water’s edge. I took the Buckwood trail to continue going around the pond, as the AT heads north towards Raccoon Ridge. There is an overlook on the Buckwood trail that is (in my opinion) one of the best views of Sunfish Pond. It looks west, back from where I came.
Those clouds in the distance did start to build, but by the time I left the park, nothing had happened.
I was worried about what the Sunfish Fire Road would look like, as it is not “blazed” and that was my connection to the Dunnfield Creek Trail. I needn’t worried, it was not only pretty obvious, but signed. Further, the fire road is wide and pleasant to walk.
The junction with the Dunnfield Creek trail leads uphill, to the point of my highest elevation. And I’m glad I did the hike in the direction I did, as I would not have wanted to climb that hill with all the rocks. Going down was tough enough. I like the Dunnfield Creek trail, especially when it joins Dunnfield Creek. Be advised that there are a handful of stream crossings; all pretty easy as I had rocks sticking up above water. It could be a different story with higher water.
I almost stepped on this guy.
Mountain Laurel was still blooming; in some spots more than others.
The junction with the Holly Springs trail is pretty muddy. And it’s uphill almost all the way back to the junction with the AT and the Fairview trail.
All in all, this was a great hike. It was hot, the car said 84 when I returned to it. And it was a little muggy. I’m glad I chose the Fairview lot (and trail) as the Dunnfield Creek lots were jammed when I returned, I assume cars were in the overflow lot on the other side of Route 80.
This was the trip I was hoping for two weeks ago when I went out chasing Fall foliage. While there were spots of brilliant colors, there were also spots with leaves down. It depended on where you were. So, for this post, be on the lookout for bonus pictures.
What the heck, bonus picture number 1. This picture was taken on the road (before Mountain Road) on the drive in. Fortunately, at that hour of the morning, there were no other cars.
On the drive in, if you’re coming from 206, follow Struble Road until you reach Wallpack Cemetery (you will pass two parking lots for Tillman Ravine.) Make a left at the cemetery and proceed down Mountain Road. A note on Mountain Road, it’s a dirt road, with many potholes, and some water crossings. It’s definitely doable in most any car, though you have to be careful, play a lot of dodge-pothole, and be wary of cars coming in the other direction.
As I entered Mountain Road, I couldn’t believe all the cars I saw before me. Until I saw all the blaze orange and the shotguns. Fortunately, by the time I reached the parking lot for the falls, I had left the hunters behind me. I pulled into the parking lot at 8:30 and was the first car there. It felt darker, but that was because the sun was on the other side of the ridge and had not risen high enough yet. I guess the other reason there was no one in the lot was due to the fact it was 23. That’s Fahrenheit.
So, let’s get the money shot out of the way.
If it were not so cold, I could have sat there a while. Which is why this place gets so crowded. I headed off with a fleece, hat and gloves on; knowing that enough activity would warm me up and keep me warm.
Not in the picture are the stairs that wind their way up the side to reach the top of the falls. Most of it was pretty easy, except for the last stairway to the top.
I was only a couple of hundred yards in. I couldn’t back out now. Head down, I plowed on up. Though, in the back of my mind the entire day was how I was going to get back DOWN those stairs. There’s a viewing platform at the top, that sort of looks down the falls. I didn’t even go look.
The entire Buttermilk Falls trail is a little less than two miles. But, it is almost straight up onto the ridge. In fact, it was the only serious climbing I did the entire day. Right after the falls is a section that is pretty steep. It was during this portion that I shed the gloves; the hat and fleece stayed on all day.
Did I mention the colors?
Just before the Woods Road trail would bisect the Buttermilk Falls trail, there is a portion to walk on the top of some exposed (large) rocks. I took this picture of the frost.
When I came back this way a little later, the sun was up and had melted the frost. When the sun was out, it was really nice. However, when the sun was behind the ridge or blocked by the trees, you could tell it was much cooler. And, when the sun was hidden, it looked a lot like this:
Eventually making it onto the ridge, I prepared myself for a typical New Jersey section of the Appalachian Trail.
This was downright pleasant. Where were the rocks? Where was the tortuous ups and downs? If the 2×6 white blazes were not visible every so often I would have thought I was someplace else. It was .9 miles to Crater Lake, and that went by quickly.
The Appalachian Trail junctions with the Crater Lake Loop just passed the trail to Hemlock Pond. I would come back to this spot momentarily. First, it was a trip to Crater Lake. I chose to go counter-clockwise, which meant a stop at a viewpoint.
Right after the viewpoint, the AT and the Crater Lake Loop sort of split. I wanted to take the shortcut, so I should have stayed on the AT. I stayed on the Crater Lake trail, and ended up adding about a half mile more. Definitely worth it, the Crater Lake Loop is almost entirely a woods road.
There’s one section where the land passes Crater Lake on the left and big pond on the right. I found out why there are many trees down in the area.
While most of the time was spent looking up, I did manage to look down once or twice to find some Mountain Laurel.
Upon reaching Crater Lake, there’s a parking lot with a small spur trail to the lakeside.
Absolutely serene. No wind. And no one was around. I had it to myself. I sat for quite a bit, but was interrupted by two cars entering the parking lot with real loud music blasting. Not wanting to leave, I stuck around until it became apparent that people were headed in my direction.
The rest of the loop was rather short. I did notice this old structure in the woods. And if it was a house at one time, the occupants had one heck of a view.
The Hemlock Crater Connector trail was the only other trail that was not a woods road; but at .4 miles long, I wasn’t on it enough to worry or matter. Mostly, it descends to the Hemlock Pond trail; another woods road. Though, it’s easy to see where Hemlock Pond gets its name.
Opposite the junction of the (Blue Mountain) Outer Loop trail is a small spur trail to the pond. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by these types of spur trails in the past, so I gave it a shot.
I definitely stayed here a few minutes. Again, no one around. And quiet. Real quiet. Life could percolate for a few minutes here. Feel free to pause a few minutes. I can wait.
The trail winds up the western shore until you reach a large rock outcrop.
You can just barely make out my earlier stopping point on the right.
I followed the Hemlock Pond trail on my way to the Woods Road trail. The Hemlock Pond trail would branch off to head down the eastern shore of Hemlock Pond. The Woods Road trail heads back to Buttermilk Falls. Why is this trail named the Woods Road Trail?
It passed through a small swamp. And the mystery of downed trees was solved once again.
One small stream crossing was a little trickier than it needed to be as the bridge (log) has been washed away. Still fun though.
The forest was very very quiet, which made for some great hiking. The only noise was my traipsing through leaves. It wasn’t quite noon, but the sun shining through the Hemlock trees was pretty magical.
I ran into people on my way back down the Buttermilk Falls trail. And the number of people without maps was astounding. I’m not sure where they all were going. The thought of the stairs popped back into my head. And when I reached the stairs, there were a lot of people milling around. I waited until no one was coming up…..then just put my head down and went down. It certainly wasn’t “fun” but I made it without thinking too much about it. And holy moly, the lot was full. Not just full, but packed, with cars waiting to get in. Most people were just stopping to view the falls, then leaving.
As I was leaving, I got a shot of one of the water crossings on Mountain Road.
Bonus Pic 2, for those of you that read this far. The drive out.
Mention the bonus word “Color” to receive a free hike.
Disclaimer: Elevation not guaranteed, colors not guaranteed, weather not guaranteed, trip not guaranteed.
Trails: Appalachian (white), Iris (red dot), connectors (2) both blue (one to the shelter, and one an AT connector)
Looking back at previous posts it has been almost exactly a month since the last time I was on the trails. It has been too long. And life certainly has gotten in the way. Initially, I thought I would be walking, enjoying the outdoors, unwinding and not taking many pictures. However, the day was just perfect: 60 degrees at the trail head, bright blue skies, and almost no humidity. It was the first time all summer that I left a trail without being absolutely soaked.
One note on today’s hike. The remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through on Wednesday and I wasn’t thinking. While the trails were relatively dry, all creeks became streams, and streams became torrents. There was still runoff. And while there were not many blowdowns, there were plenty of branches down.
The Appalachian trail portion of the hike took place almost exclusively on the Kittatiny ridge. After scrambling up there is a nice viewpoint, though partially obscured due to the summer leaves.
I really like the Appalachian trail…once you get a mile or so in, there’s almost no one. I didn’t see any through-hikers today. However, there’s only one way to describe the trail itself (as it pertains to New Jersey):
After a couple of short miles on the ridge I came to Dutch Shoe Rock, which has two viewpoints to check out. Unfortunately, it was much too early to eat by the time I reached the overlook.
Back on the ridge, it was off to the junction with the Iris trail, which would take me back to the car and complete the loop. On the way, I found:
Challenge accepted. After consulting the map, it would be only .4 miles to the shelter. There are a couple of water crossings that under normal circumstances would be pretty easy with many exposed rocks. Today, with all the water, they were a little trickier.
No one was here when I arrived. It’s definitely a nice shelter, and would make a great spot for a backpacking trip. Another time.
It was here that I helped out a fellow hiker who was a little lost. He had been following me, and didn’t realize I was just checking out the shelter. I’m not sure where he thought he was going. I let him take a picture of my map and he was on his way – I didn’t see him again.
Back to the AT, it was a short distance to the junction of the Iris trail. I really thought about extending the loop as both the Iris and the AT continue and I could have added about three miles to the loop. But, remembering some of my past decisions, I decided to keep to my original plan – and turn left on the Iris.
What a pleasure. Yes, most of it was downhill. And, for the most part, it was much like a woods road. But the real reason this was so nice:
There were a couple of stream crossings, and with the water running the way it was, I took the bridges when possible.
The Iris trail headed around Lake Rutherford’s western edge and had a couple of viewpoints. The first two I came to were on large rocks overlooking the lakes and if it were not for the trees with full canopies, I would have stopped to eat. I was certainly hungry, but there wasn’t much of a view. A little longer on the Iris trail a small unmarked spur trail appeared on the right. It dropped down about fifty feet or so, and landed right at the lake shore; a perfect spot for lunch. The water was clear, I could see fish and salamanders swimming about, and the breeze was right in my face.
It would be a short walk to the parking lot from this spot.
High Point is a great place to hike, I’ve been here before. It is one of my farther drives in NJ. And, I would certainly consider coming back to camp at the shelter.
Trails: Garvey Springs (orange), Appalachian (White), Buckwood (turquoise), Coppermine (red), Kaiser Spur (blue/red), Kaiser (blue)
Mountains: Mount Mohican
Rain was supposed to come in later in the day (it didn’t) so I thought I would try and beat the rain, knowing I probably won’t get out next week. There were a couple of times that dark clouds hung around for a few minutes, but I didn’t get wet. And it was an otherwise perfect day with temperatures in the high 70s with low humidity.
To get to my starting point, take the last exit in New Jersey on Route 80 (heading west), and wait at the light. It’s a long one, as it controls the portion of Old Mine Road that is one lane. Incidentally, as I drove by the Mt. Tammany lot, I could see that it was bedlam already just before 9:00 a.m. I parked in the Douglas lot, which is after the driveway to the Worthington office – about four miles from the light on Old Mine Road.
To get up on the ridge I took the Garvey Springs trail which is short (1.2 miles) but steep; only leveling out where it joins the Rockcores trail briefly. As the trail climbs there is a nice creek to your right.
It rained the night before, so I would see all kinds of mushrooms and flora.
Once Garvey Springs junctions with the Appalachian Trail, I took a right to head to Sunfish Pond, which I hadn’t been to in about 30 years. I took the Buckwood trail to a rock outcropping that had great views of the pond – and you could see where people had walked down to the pond to swim. After climbing Garvey Springs, it certainly would have been refreshing to jump in.
I rested there for a good twenty minutes. It was back to the AT to head towards Raccoon Ridge.
Both sides of the trail were lined with all kinds of berry bushes. I admit, I helped myself to some big fat blueberries.
You get an idea of the quantity of berries in this picture:
Raccoon Ridge had some great views, both north and south. South overlooked the reservoirs, and north had distant views of the Delaware River.
After hiking off Raccoon Ridge you enter the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area. My plan was to reach Catfish Pond Gap (where I was two weeks ago) and take the Coppermine trail to make a loop.
As I mentioned, it was a great day, and I was passed by numerous through-hikers (some multiple times) as they made their way from Georgia to Maine. They all commented on the great views, but all mentioned the rocks – all thinking they were done with the rocks after leaving Pennsylvania.
All the way to Catfish Pond Gap there were great views of Lower Yards Creek Reservoir.
The trail off the ridge was steep heading into the gap, and I was glad I was not coming back up this section of the trail.
I took a left onto the Coppermine trail. After a little way I found the largest fungi I had ever seen.
Right after the above picture was taken I was approached by a couple heading the opposite direction. They asked how far I was going, because they had just seen three bears! A mother and two cubs. The bears immediately bolted into the woods. They saw the bears beyond where I was turning, but now I kept my eyes open more than normal. (Spoiler – I never did see them, it would have been cool.)
I took the Upper Kaiser Spur trail to connect from Coppermine to Kaiser (I would have come to the bear sighting location if I continued on Coppermine. I thought about it, but my route was long to begin with.) While the spur trail is short (less than a quarter of a mile) there were three stream crossings. And the rhododendron were just starting to bloom.
The Kaiser trail is only about a mile (from this point – back to the AT) and mercifully is a long slow gradual incline; nothing steep like coming down the AT to the gap, or Garvey Spring.
Taking the AT back (towards Garvey Spring) you cross back into Worthington State Forest.
From there it was back to Garvey Spring and the descent down. This was a long hike (longer than I normally do) and I was looking forward to getting back to the car. The descent was grueling, especially late in the afternoon.
Garvey Spring is surreal as there are times you fell like you are in a sea of ferns. Ferns as far as you can see.
This was a great hike, with a near miss on bears. After having two successive trips in the Kittatinys, I’m ready for something a little different.
Ticks: 5 (There was lots of high grass. Two ticks were found on my pack.)
It was supposed to rain later in the day, I was prepared for it. It didn’t. I wish it did. It was oppressively hot and humid. Heat and humidity lead to bad decision making, and I got greedy for miles.
Note: I parked here, a pullout on Millbrook Road. This was not the easiest to find, and bear in mind (with Verizon) there is very little cell service in this area. That’s kind of my point, I want to get away from civilization, but this was the first time that I had NO service. There are a couple of pullouts on Millbrook Road, however, only the pullout for the Catfish Fire Tower has a gate (that I saw.) If the pullout looks like the picture at the top, you’ll know you are at the coordinates I’ve linked to. Google Maps in Satellite view shows the pullout, and some overflow pullouts. (Don’t rely on your phone to look at the maps when driving around.) I was the second car at the trailhead, the first left as I was getting ready; and when I returned, there were two others.
This hike was classified Bon Jovi, it was Slippery When Wet. Rain happened in early morning, and all rocks were extra slippery. Fortunately there were no scrambles; there were plenty of steep sections, and it’s the AT, there are plenty of rocks. I slipped more on this hike then ever before – I thanked my trekking poles and vowed to offer a sacrifice later.
From the pullout, walk down the woods road. You’ll come to where the Appalachian Trail goes left (and to the tower.) I continued a little further to reach the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail.
This is a great trail that skirts the edge of Rattlesnake Swamp. The swamp will be on your right, the ridge that the AT follows will be on your left. This trail is mostly dirt and roots, with some rocks. Mountain Laurel was out, and there are a significant number of Rhododendron tunnels. It will be another month for those blooms though.
Lots of Mountain Laurel in bloom.
The moist ground made for a lot of mushrooms, these were hard to photograph due to the humidity.
While walking along, I startled this guy and he dove under a leaf.
Look in the center of this picture for yet another frog.
Before ascending the ridge to the Appalachian Trail, I took a little spur trail to the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center, a camping spot on the AT for through-hikers. This looked pretty cool, and I wanted to cut through to see Catfish Pond up close, but there was a group of people in a class by the pond access. I regret not getting a picture of the pond, it looked like a really nice spot. The spur trail was all boards.
From there it was back to the Rattlesnake Swamp trail and a big climb to get up on the ridge.
As I got near the top, I thought I saw a limited viewpoint.
20 Feet further down the trail:
Amazing views. Fortunately it was a great day for views. I’m not sure how I would feel with snow and ice at this location as it was a sheer drop off at the cliff’s edge.
It’s also here where I got greedy for miles. The sensible thing to do would have been to make a left and head to the fire tower and my car for a nice loop. However, I made a right and headed for Catfish Pond Gap along the Appalachian Trail. This was a nice walk, except I had to descend into the gap. That also meant, I had to climb back up to head back to the junction on the AT. Brutal.
In the gap there was a nice stream to sit by, which was cool and shady – and it allowed me contemplate my last decision. There were plenty of cars here, and I passed numerous people as I was descending; many of whom I caught up with on my way back.
Getting back up on the ridge was murder in the heat and humidity. Once up on the ridge, it’s a pleasant walk. There are some great views to your right as you head to the fire tower. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts as the walk it relatively flat. Yes, there are plenty of rocks, but it’s the AT, and that comes with the territory.
On one such rock (which by this time had dried out) I went to step, heard a loud hiss, and used a pole to vault off the rock.
Not a rattler, and the jury is out on if it was a Copperhead. The colors are right, but the markings are not. I took a bunch of pictures, but let him be. And I was certainly more aware of the rocks.
Eventually, I reached the Catfish Fire Tower. Again, I didn’t climb. There was a group of 8 or so that were at the picnic table – they all climbed. And with some hilarity as well.
That’s 60 feet tall. Supposedly, the views are awesome from the top. I’ll take everyone’s word for it.
I’m really enjoying the various sections of the AT that I’ve been hiking. Rattlesnake Swamp is a great trail that is quite different from the AT. I saw a couple of big groups of people, but for the most part it was quiet and empty. This is definitely an area worth checking out even if it is pretty remote.
The day before this hike we received a storm that was biblical in nature. It wasn’t long, but it was hard with lots of cloud to ground lightning. I didn’t think much of it until I got to the trailhead parking, and wondered if I was going to be in for a lot of mud. I needn’t have worried; while there were a couple of spots that were muddy, it was mostly soft dirt – which made walking extremely pleasant. Rocks were wet; but with temperatures reaching into the 90s, by lunchtime most everything was dry.
This picture doesn’t really capture what the forest looked like. It was early in the morning, with the sun out, the leaves were still wet, and it sparkled everywhere.
From the Culver’s Gap trailhead parking lot, there is a steep climb to get up onto the ridge.
There were lots of these guys scampering around, apparently enjoying the moist forest floor. Once I reached the ridge, I saw less and less of them.
More Mountain Laurel was blooming.
Once on the ridge there is a great view southwest.
The ridge is pleasant, with a few ascents and descents, but nothing serious until you come to Sunrise Mountain. Note, Sunrise Mountain is the second highest mountain in New Jersey. (Sort by elevation.) The Appalachian trail on the ridge makes for a great walk; I did see a bunch of section hikers during this time.
The first point of interest you will come to is the Culver’s Gap Lookout Tower, originally known as the Normanook Fire Tower. You can climb the stairs, but unless it’s manned you can’t get into the top. I didn’t even consider it.
There’s a great view out towards Blue Mountain.
There are three trail junctions before Sunrise Mountain, and plenty of views, some probably better after the foliage has fallen. There are a couple of streams to rock hop, and at least one section with small boardwalks.
Throughout the whole trail I encountered lots of millipedes; way more than I am accustomed to seeing.
After a small rock scramble you will come to the top of Sunrise Mountain. A small concrete cairn holds the summit disc.
Here’s a shot looking south:
It was hot at this time, and I had lunch on a bench in the pavilion.
While there, I met a section hiker who was hiking the Appalachian trail in New Jersey. He mentioned that he was in a shelter the night before when the storm hit, but he heard from hikers that were still on the ridge. They said it was more than frightening.
The walk back was pretty uneventful other than it was oppressively hot.
As this was an out and back, I was essentially retracing my steps. On the way TO Sunrise Mountain I passed a small spur trail, but I couldn’t see where it led. On the way back, I decided to investigate. It looked like it led to a viewpoint on the NY/NJ Trail conference map. Sure enough, it did. Probably the best view of the day. I apologize for the picture, it was in the 90s at the time, and I was beat.
I hadn’t been in Stokes State Forest before, and I think the next time I come I may hike south on the Appalachian Trail. Or, I may backpack to the shelter for a short trip. The lot was packed when I arrived at 8:45, though there were still spots available. When I returned to my car, the lot was fairly empty.
Mountains: Island Pond Mountain, Surebridge Mountain, Hogencamp Mountain
Trails: Appalachian, Arden-Surebridge, Lichen, Ramapo-Dundberg, White Bar, Dunning, Stahahe Brook
Two weekends of hockey trips, a short work week, but it felt like two weeks of work, and I was ready to get back on the trails. This trip, as fun and as awesome as it was, was more about getting out, recharging, and finding some quiet. All of those boxes were ticked.
The last time I hiked Harriman State Park had to be in the middle to late 80s with my scout troop. I have no idea where we hiked; I remember a winter hike to one of the shelters, but I couldn’t tell you which shelter – it was a long time ago. The park is huge.
I left at my usual time, traffic was light; I was headed for the Elk Pen lot – which I later read was used to house Elk from Yellowstone at one point. I missed the turn for Arden Valley Road, GPS took me to Arden Road – which is NOT what you want. Arriving at the lot, I found it FULL, and this was before 8:30. I couldn’t believe it – though fortunately, someone was leaving; so I waited five minutes and took their spot. At the end of the day, cars were parked on both sides of the road to the lot, AND on the road TO the lot. Get there early. And, note to self, start getting up even earlier.
In this case there were at least TWO large groups of hikers, which I would see numerous times throughout the park.
I jumped on the Appalachian trail and was off.
It’s not long before I came to the first junction.
For the most part (in this section) trails were nice and flat, dirt, with only nominal amounts of rocks and roots. Obviously, that would change.
The first stop was Island Pond. This is no ordinary pond, to me it seemed much bigger than a pond, more of a lake. This seemed bigger than Surprise Lake or Terrace Pond. Because it was warm, with no wind, I could have stayed at this spot for quite a while. But, I had places to be, with things to do.
Right after the pond I crossed a spillway which was built for an unfinished dam.
Soon enough, I encountered the Lemon Squeezer.
This was a lot of fun and an interesting workout. Upon going through the opening, you’re greeted with:
I really had to shimmy through there to get through. Completing that, you are presented with a scramble up a good-sized rock. There is a route around it, if you so choose, but I came here to at least give it a try. I had read that it was pretty difficult, but I found a foot hold, pulled myself up, then realized it wasn’t as bad as I had read.
I went back downhill, around the Lemon Squeezer to jump on the Arden-Surebridge trail.
This, I took to the Lichen Trail, which I had read is one of the under-rated trails in the area. This climbs to the top of Hogencamp mountain and has some amazing views.
Heading towards the junction on top of Hogencamp, I came across these Half Scented ferns.
At the top of Hogencamp, I looked for Ship Rock, and it wasn’t hard to find.
On the Ramapo-Dundenberg, there was an interesting water crossing.
All along the trail were lots and lots of blueberry bushes. It was a little early in the season, so nothing worth eating. I’m sure the bears have a field day.
Coming down the Dunning trail I came across the Boston Mine. This was a really neat site, though not easily explored. You can see in the first picture that there is easily six inches (maybe more) of mud in the entrance. Fortunately (for me) someone had laid branches and rocks along the left side of the entrance in order to peek in. The mud was deeper the farther you went in, with full on water of an undetermined depth. I could hear water dripping, but I couldn’t tell you from where.
Right after the mine I came across Green Pond, which is a pond in all senses of the word. I couldn’t find access to it, but the sky clouded up (for a few minutes) and I didn’t want to stick around and test the weather.
Around this area the Dunning and Nuran trail intersect at times. I don’t think I followed Dunning to the proper end, I think I jumped on Nuran early. It’s not hard to figure out why.
I noticed many blowdowns on this hike.
While coming down the Nuran, and descending some rocks, I almost stepped on this guy. Fortunately (for me) he got out of the way quickly. I’d guess he was about three feet long.
Next, I descended Nuran farther into the Valley of Boulders.
Just before getting back onto the Arden-Surebridge trail, there was a watercrossing at a cascade.
After that, it was smooth sailing back to the parking lot.
Harriman is huge. I did a real small section. I plan on coming back for more. Due to the number of blowdowns, the Nuran and Dunning trails get confusing. And the junction of the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Dunning trail is very difficult to find. I got lucky and happened to spot a marker. I came across two other hikers that were looking for it, and they totally missed it. I had read that there was to be a cairn at this intersection, but I did not see one.
Trails: Red Dot (Mt. Tammany), Blue (Pahaquarry), Green (Dunfield Creek), White (Appalachian)
Nothing says Fall like driving north on Routes 31 and 46 north of Route 78. The colors, the farmstands, the cool air; it’s all there. This was not my intended destination, but I figured I would give it a whirl since my initial destination was before this, and I figured if the lots were full I could go back to where I initially intended to go. I got lucky.
It was in the 40s when I left, and it was probably 50 when I got back to my car after the hike. The top of Mt. Tammany was definitely cooler.
Be warned. The lots fill up fast on a weekend. I just missed getting into the lot by the trailhead by one car. So, it was down to exit one, go under 80, and back to the visitor’s center; which, by my arrival had plenty of spots left. However, I had a good half-mile walk to the trailhead. Do not park on 80.
I have fond memories of hiking Mt. Tammany (and Mt. Minsi) back when I was much younger, but it had been a long long time since I was last here. The visitor’s center seemed very different (it wasn’t open for obvious reasons) from when I was here last.
Even though I was early (9:00 a.m.) the Red Dot trail was crowded going up. That’s an understatement. I felt like I was in a conga line and I thought back to Stairway to Heaven a couple of weeks ago. So, you won’t see many pictures of the way up. In fact, I wore a mask almost the entirety of the ascent. You will see all types of people heading up.
The overlook on the shoulder still afforded a great picture.
As I mentioned, it has been a long time since I was last here. While there was lots of scrambling on the way up, there was a particular rock I remembered, and the trail turned left just before that rock. I feel like the trail has been re-routed. What seemed new to me was a real long scramble to a rock-strewn trail to the top. I have vague recollections of a forest walk before coming to the top that I did not pass through.
It took me about an hour to reach the top, due mainly to having to stop and wait for the line in front of me to make it up the rocks. Once to the top, you can’t help but take the iconic picture:
It was very crowded at the top, and much colder. I stayed to eat a little (it was only 10:00) and enjoy the view. Then it was off before the rest of the crowd got there.
I took the Blue trail back down, and for the most part the trail was exactly as I remembered it. Fortunately, I had the trail mostly to myself, which allowed me to grab some pictures.
The ridge walk is pleasant, before it heads downhill.
And then, it’s all downhill from there. Welcome to New Jersey trails:
I stepped off the trail to let some hikers ascend, and found the following off trail:
On the way down I came to a section where all the leaves were down. This area is about a week ahead of where I live in terms of colors and leaves on the trees.
Eventually, I merged with the Green (Dunfield Creek) trail. I’ve always liked hiking by Dunfield Creek. It’s a little darker, as the sun is blocked, and the sounds of the creek follow you in either direction. Plus, the trail is much flatter, with less rocks.
Just before the parking lot, there was a grove of brightly-colored trees.
This is a fun hike, the view is definitely worth it. I could do without the crowds, and have only myself to blame; as I called an audible to come in the first place. Make sure you either arrive early or come on a weekday. When I got back to the visitor’s center, every space was full, including along the visitor’s center road (this was around noon.)
But also look here and here for improvements and changes.
Hike Distance 7.7 Miles
Trails: Bearfort Ridge, Ernest Walter, Appalachian, State Line
Note on trails: See the extra maps above. What was known as the Quail Trial/Jimmy Glick trail appears to have been renamed to make up the Bearfort Ridge Loop. Also, as of now (September 2020) The Bearfort Ridge Loop trail has been reblazed a lime green color. It looks like there will be a new trail as well. Bearfort Ridge used to be white.
I was blessed with another perfect day to go out, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all day. It was in the low 50s when I left home, yet high 40s when I got to the trailhead. As I might not be able to hike for a couple of weeks, this was a great way to go out. This route has been on my list for a while as it is described in 50 Hikes in New Jersey; the next time I go, I may try Terrace Pond to the south.
This was a long day though; I was not prepared for the amount of scrambling I would be doing. when I come back, I may just do the loop for the views. However I highly recommend this hike.
Starting out, the trails are fairly wide, and soft dirt. It wouldn’t be north Jersey without rocks. And lots of rocks. There were lots of trees down, but the trail is well maintained.
I went left when the Bearfort Ridge trail split as I wanted to head up to the Appalachian trail before I got to Surprise Lake. The trail heads up steeply, then sort of levels out as you near the ridge. I felt like walking on the ridge was like walking on someone’s spine. There were plenty of rock scrambles, each affording it’s own view.
Right near the top of the ascent, I noticed a big rock to my left and scrambled up that for a great view to the south / southwest. Coming down that I was faced with:
I was glad to have to go up that, and not down. However, there was more to come. This was a good scramble, and with a crazy good view as the payoff.
It seemed every scramble had a view, and I was blessed with great weather. Walking northwards on the ridge was pleasant with multiple scrambles and rocks to walk along.
I came to a swamp with a large rock that seems to have been detached from the rest of the rock.
When the Bearfort Ridge trail junctioned with the Ernest Walter trail, I went left, through a small field, then to some large rocks. Fortunately, I was going down. Here’s a shot looking back up.
Just beyond, I ran into a group of three, and warned them of what they were going to have to go up. They mentioned that I had a big rock in store for me that they just came up. I didn’t think I would have anything more difficult than the above. They were right. I don’t have any pictures (I didn’t want to stick around) but I basically came to a twelve foot cliff that had two spots that sort of looked like steps. After not finding a way around this, I chucked my trekking poles down, slid out on the ledge, kind of twisted over and lowered myself down. I regret not getting a picture, but I was more content on getting out of that spot.
Eventually, I junctioned with the Appalachain trail, and saw one thru/section hiker going by. While waiting for a large-ish group of hikers to come scrambling down some rocks, I found a pretty cool looking web.
Scrambling up wasn’t too bad, though the rocks were in the sun and I thought about snakes sunbathing on top. I figured the snakes would be gone after the group I waited for had left.
I met up with the State Line trail. However, I wanted to see how far New York was up the Appalachian Trail. It was much shorter than I expected.
The State Line trail mostly descended until it junctioned back up with the Ernest Walter trail. Then it was a mad climb back up the Ernest Walter. Again the payoff would be worth it as there expansive views of Greenwood Lake. My pictures cannot do it justice. There was a long walk on a large rock and view kept getting better and better as I climbed. Stitch these next two pictures together.
It would be easy to sit on the rock and look at the view, but I was hungry and wanted to eat at Surprise Lake, a glacial lake.
And then it was down on the old Quail Trail, now part of the Bearfort Ridge Loop.
Many of the rocks were covered with Smooth Rock Tripe. It was all over the place.
There were a couple of water crossings, mostly dried up, a few with trickling water. This would probably be much more interesting in the Spring after the rains.
Finally, it was back to where the connector trail led to the parking lot.
This was an awesome hike; it didn’t hurt that I had absolutely phenomenal weather. I highly recommend this; though if you are going to do the Ernest Walter trail be prepared for some big scrambles. It seemed that every facet of the this trail was awesome, there were no dull parts. And for the most part, it is one big view.