Trail Map – surprisingly, there were printed brochures
Hike Distance: 6.09 miles
Trails – all (Glen Trail, Bridges Trail, Clayton Fields Trail, Doctor’s Creek, and Old Forge Trail)
I wanted to do something shorter and close to home, so off to Clayton Park, a Monmouth County Park. While a typical Monmouth county park, with very little signage or blazing, the trails were wide, dirt, with leaf covering and some roots. It was nice to not have rocks. Be warned though, there are LOTS of mountain bikes.
You can see by my map that I hiked almost the entire park, I tried not to double-back, but there were two spots I had to. You really can’t get lost, and you can make as many loops as you want. Bring a paper map or GPS to guide you around the unmarked trails.
With all the brown, it would be easier to pick out plants and mushrooms.
I did not see one blaze in the park. The closest thing to a blaze are the signs at trail junctions.
There is very little elevation, there are a couple of hills to ascend and descend.
I found some of my favorite, and I never just find one. Trees and logs are always covered with them.
I walked a good portion of the Clayton Fields Trail though I did not walk to the lake.
The weather was supposed to be nice, with rain coming in the week, so I figured I would head out again. When I reached the pond, with the sun out, it was pretty hot. But, overcast moved in, and the temperature dropped though out the day. I did this hike clockwise, which put the scrambling and the ups and downs at the beginning of the hike. As you move away from the pond, you will go downhill and finish up on a woods road, and a smaller trail.
A note about the pond, swimming is NOT allowed, not that I had planned it. There is ample signage both at the trailhead and at the pond. Bear in mind that much of the edge of the pond is surrounded by rock and if you get in trouble, search and rescue will take a while to reach you. While I was at the pond, it was starting to fill up with people – hiking just to the pond is a nice hike.
A note on parking: I got to drive on New Jersey’smosthauntedroad. I had read about this road often enough in Weird NJ, so it was fun to actually visit this landmark. I can safely say I didn’t experience anything. Park in lot P-7, when I arrived at 9:00 in the morning I was the third car; when I returned a little after 12:00, the lot was packed. Walk across the street to the trailhead.
The new blazes really stand out, and are spaced appropriately. They’re easy to see – maybe because they are so new. The hike starts out on nice wide trails, and early on you will cross some streams.
The big rocks are a nice touch.
After a short distance, you will arrive at a power-cut, make a right, and head up.
You won’t go up the whole hill, but will turn part way up. At that turn is a nice view.
There will be a couple of good scrambles before you reach the pond.
From the top of this scramble, there is another nice view.
With leaves down, it’s easier to pick out anything not brown. Unfortunately, no mushrooms on this hike.
Just before reaching the pond, there will be a good-sized scramble that ends at this fin-shaped rock.
The trail goes around the rock, but you can scramble to the top for a great view. I did not. There’s not a lot to stand on, and a sheer drop on the other side. Crawling most of the way to the top, I can vouch that the view is nice.
Eventually you will reach the pond, and connect with the Circular Trail (White.) I put the pond about a third of the way into the hike. While there is some minor scrambling after the pond, you’re mostly done with the hard stuff.
After leaving the pond, and going over some rocks, I came to this smallish cave. You can see that it goes back a bit, and there’s water; but I wasn’t willing to find out who might be napping in there.
There were a couple of sections of the trail that were just perfect to walk…wide dirt trails covered in pine needles.
Eventually the trail will wind down to a swamp, and join a woods road. You will go over three drainage pipes, that form small cascades across the road from the swamp.
Follow the woods road for a while.
Eventually, the road will veer left, with the trail making a hard right, and becoming more of a trail than a road. You will follow this back to the trailhead.
Just before descending to the trailhead there is a good-sized Rhododendron tunnel to pass through.
This is another great hike. I may attempt the northern loop in the future as a new trail has been cut to form a true loop. I can imagine this hike would be much more crowded in the summer and nicer weather. Because of the popularity of the pond, I did come across more people, but not the insane crowds on some of my previous hikes.
Tails: Orange, White, Blue (northern section), Red, Blue (central section) (The brochures have actual trail names, I’ve just used the colors from the trail map.)
Point Mountain has been a place I’ve been to a couple of times as I dropped off and picked up my daughter from Camp Bernie. It was time to climb to the viewpoint and explore the park. Arriving at the trailhead, it was in the mid 40s, yet when I reached the viewpoint, it was already in the upper 60s. The sun felt great, and I’m not going to complain about 70 degree weather the first weekend in November.
I have some mixed emotions about this hike, which I’ll get to. However, know that practically all of the leaves are down (which hasn’t happened yet at home.) This was a blessing and curse – the curse to be revealed later. However, as the ground and surroundings are brown, anything non-brown became picture-worthy.
From the trailhead, start on blue (for a very short time) until orange splits off.
And those were just within the first 100 feet.
Orange splits off, and you can see what you will be in for as the trail works its way up to the top.
Ultimately, you will wind your way around to the right, and come up the shoulder. Once to the top, there are numerous viewpoints looking north over the farmlands.
The Orange trail leaves and meanders northeast along the ridge. You’ll see a couple of rocks to scramble out on for more viewpoints.
The ridge walk was especially pleasant as temperatures had really warmed up. The trail was easy to follow and you can see views off to your left. To the right is all forest and an army of squirrels gathering food for the winter.
As you descend, you will reach an area with a small stream crossing.
I took the White trail north heading into the Northern Section of the park. This trail was well marked and easily followed. I had read that there were sections that were overgrown, I did not find that to be the case today. As the trail emerges by Penwell Road and a creek, I found these Turkey Tail fungi.
This tree was covered with Turkey Tail.
The trail comes out on Penwell Road and it is not immediately obvious where to go. Cross the road, and head to the left. There is a private driveway, with a “No Outlet” sign. Just to the right is a large cairn marking the continuation of the trail.
Head up. It’s another climb. And at this point, on this day, all the leaves were down. I felt like I was wading through water. The leaves were knee-deep in some parts, and it was very easy to lose the trail. I’m pretty sure I was off trail quite a bit. Essentially, I hiked blaze-to-blaze, when I saw the next blaze, I walked to it whether the trail could be seen or not. And, it was very loud, with all the leaves. Coming down I figured would be treacherous.
I took the White, which crested the mountain, then descended, to the Blue, to the Red, which connected back to the white. On the red you go through a large stone wall.
Don’t eat those…they’re toxic.
I backtracked on white to eventually get off the mountain, and head back to the central section of the park. What I found interesting is there a section of the white trail where it appears that someone walked with a portable blower and blew off the leaves. It’s only for about 100 feet or so, and you can see where this person’s trail heads back towards private property. It was a welcome, brief, respite from the noise.
Back in the central section of the park, I continued on Orange until it joined with Blue – which paralleled the Muscunetcong River.
While walking this section there are many nice rocks to sit on, take a break, and watch the river flow by.
The Blue trail splits, taking the left fork will take you back to where you parked. I went right and followed the river a bit more. Eventually the bridge comes into view.
I decided to cross the road by the bridge, and finish up that last section of the blue trail. You can see by my map that I didn’t finish the whole trail. There was a huge blowdown obscuring the path. Also, this section is wildly overgrown, and you don’t want to go off trail. I’m sure I picked up a hitchhiker here. On my way back, there were so many leaves down, that I’m sure I was off trail in spots.
The lot was full when I reached it after finishing the Blue trail. And it was warm, in the 70s by now. All in all, I really enjoyed the Central Section of the park. I do not think I would hike the northern section unless it is before the leaves dropping. I did not see a single person on this hike until I reached the river, and back at the lot. I would definitely hike to the viewpoint again. Trails were well marked, and aside for the overgrowth and leaves, were easy to follow.
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.)
Park Site (not really a park, though parts of the trail are in Norvin Green State Forest)
Trail Map (I made my own with CalTopo)
Hike Distance: 10.72 miles
Trails: Stonetown Circular
I’ve seen this trail listed as the most strenuous in New Jersey. I’ve seen it argued that it is the most difficult trail in New Jersey. I’ll agree that it’s the most strenuous; and it’s a combination of the length, the significant ups and downs, and the rocks. Oh the rocks. But it wouldn’t be New Jersey without them. Also, I’ve seen it mentioned that the trail is not the most well-marked. I did the trail counter-clockwise; and I can say that when the Highlands trail leaves, there are less blazes. There are lots of woods roads and if you do not pay attention, you can get off trail easy. Many of the woods roads reconnect with the trail. You can see by my map that I got off trail for about 200/300 yards or so, I was on a woods road; and fortunately, I ended up where I needed to be.
But, I will say that the trail is a real workout with some great views. And when else will you say you climbed 5 mountains on one trail? (Caveat: New Jersey mountains, but still.) It’s a lot of ups and downs.
When starting by the guardrail the trail is relatively flat.
And this for this hike, many birch leaves were down, which will play a small factor later. None the less, it looked picturesque. Probably the peak leaf season will be the next weekend into the following.
First up would be Little Windbeam Mountain. And what a way to start the hike, not twenty minutes in.
The view from the top of Little Windbeam was expansive, probably better without leaves.
Next it was onto Windbeam Mountain.
Even the bee was tired – sitting on this Princess Tree
There are multiple viewpoints on the way up Windbeam Mountain.
And yet another scramble.
The top of Windbeam was flat, and the trail was soft dirt, leaves; and a dream to walk on.
Next in line is Bear Mountain (not to be confused with Bear Mountain in New York.) The views were on the way up, not from the top. When I got to top I took a picture, but it’s all leaves.
And then it is on to Board Mountain. I read that there is a scenic overlook; so I decided to eat there – a little early, but by the time I reached the overlook, it had been four mountains of up and down, and I was hungry.
I sat for a while and relaxed.
From Board Mountain, it was a descent and meandering on to Monksville reservoir. After descending, the trails are wide and sandy; great to hike on. You come to a road – hop the guardrail, and cross the road. You’ll see:
Hop the guardrail again, go down the road (leads to a boatramp) and make a left, the trail is wide with crushed rocks.
It will take a bit before you see a blaze.
The trail meanders around Monksville Reservoir a bit.
After crossing the powercut for the second time, prepare. It’s at this point that you ascend your fifth mountain, Harrison Mountain. And the trail heads pretty much straight uphill. It’s a beast. I probably could have used more food at this point. Or maybe I was lulled into complacency by the relatively flat trails before climbing. After four major uphills (and downhills,) this one was rough. This occurs around the six mile mark.
When you get to the top, the Highlands trails heads right, and a connector trail (blue squares with a black dot) head left. It is from this point that there seems to be less blazes. Keep your eyes open.
At the top of Harrison Mountain (and the south peak) there are not one, but two cars rusting off the trail. Hey, it’s Jersey.
I can’t even imagine how they got there. There are woods roads all around, but the roads don’t really look drive-able.
Next up on the agenda would be Tory Rocks. It’s here where I started to think more about the leaves and pine needles on the trail. This is the first real scramble in the “down” direction that I can remember. And a mis-step on the leaves, or a slide, could lead to a very bad day.
Here’s a shot looking back up.
It’s hard to judge slope in the pictures.
The trail meanders for a while, then makes a hard left at a road. If you see this trail sign (for trails in Norvin Green) you know you just got off trail.
Immediately, turn around, go down about five feet, and head right. The trail sort of parallels the road. Yes, I missed the turn, turned left down the road before I realized I was off trail. There maybe shortcuts back onto the trail, but I didn’t find them.
With about a mile and a half you will come to two large rock scrambles, certainly not to the height of the five mountains from before, but definitely notable. My first thought was “This isn’t fair.” Coming down was pretty steep, and again, with plenty of pine needles and leaves.
The trail finally starts a long descent. You can see on my map where I missed a turn, and was on a woods road for a bit. I figured it would lead to where I wanted to go anyway – which fortunately, it did. The trail deposits you out on Magee Road. And it is a short walk to Stonetown Road and the parking lot.
You get a great shot of Windbeam Mountain as you walk to the car. Who knew that over five hours ago, I was at the top:
All in all this was a great hike. Plan for it to be long. If I had not done some of the hikes I did over the last couple of weeks, this might have been rougher. But it is a hike I’ve wanted to attempt for a while. I can confirm, it IS strenuous. The feeling of accomplishment is awesome, and the views going up each of the mountains is great.
I returned to the rec center, where my car was parked, to a PACKED parking lot, so make sure you get there early. It is a large lot, but youth soccer games were ongoing by the time I was leaving.
I ended up with free time today, unexpectedly, so it was off to Norvin Green State Forest; a place I’ve wanted to hike. Originally, I planned to do about seven miles; but called an audible and climbed Carris Hill. Starting out today, I drove through fog and drizzle, and expected rain later in the day. Fortunately, the rain held off, and the sun came out after lunch. The pictures of the views would have been much better had I gotten to them in the afternoon.
Trails are, for the most part, soft dirt; but it’s New Jersey, and you can’t forget two scoops of rocks.
I was the fifth car in the lot by 8:30, when I returned, the lot was packed.
It was off on the Otter Hole trail.
Eventually, that junctions with the Hewitt Butler and Highlands trail, which I took until that merged with the Wyanokie Circular trail. This was the route to Wyanoki High Point. It was here that I ran into the most amount of people – most going to the High Point and back. There were multiple views just going to the High Point.
There were a couple of nice scrambles all throughout the forest. This one was just before the High Point.
I didn’t stay at the High Point long as there were a lot of people up there. But the views were fantastic – and would have been better when the sun came out after noon.
Leaving Wyanokie High Point sent me deeper into the forest and for the most part, away from people. I took the Lower trail, with the intention of finding Chikahoki Falls.
When I junctioned with the Carris Hill trail I sat for a moment to think. It was here that I changed my plans and decided to climb Carris Hill. I really wasn’t sure when I would come back, it was early, and I figured I could have lunch at the top.
There were lots of good views from this trail.
And lots of other scenery.
I thought the Carris Hill trail the most difficult trail in the forest. At the top it was time for lunch, though it wasn’t quite noon. After eating, I looked up, and noticed these guys waiting for me to keel over.
I came down the Hewitt Butler / Highlands trail finding these Honey mushrooms along the way.
When the trail junctioned with the Lower trail I backtracked to the Chikahoki Falls, which didn’t have a lot of water going over it. In fact, I stood in a dry section, where you could tell the water would normally be, probably in the Spring after the rains.
I walked back to the Hewitt Butler / Highlands trail and took that all the way to the Otter Hole trail.
With a desiccated puffball next to it.
I walked past the Otter Hole trail to go take a look at the Otter Hole.
Then, it was 2.3 miles on the Otter Hole trail back to the car.
The Otter Hole trail is mostly a woods road, and alternates between nice flat, soft trails, and punishing rocks.
I really liked the forest and will come back to do some of the northern trails, and maybe Stonetown Circular one day. You’ll find most people around Wyanokie High Point, and with good reason – the views are great. But, you can hike in solitude on many of the other trails.
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.
Another great day and another great hike. As I got to the trailhead, it was 59 degrees out, and I was the fourth car. I seriously debated starting with a jacket on, but packed it – and after a few minutes, I was thankful. I started with the Blue trail (Falling Waters trail) to head to the falls. Just before the trail descended, I was able to get this picture of Lake George:
Just by the dam, the trail starts down – be prepared, this is rocky and steep in sections. It was perfect weather on my hike; I can only imagine this section on the wet rocks or with ice. However, the falls are awesome. You can scramble all over the rocks to get all kinds of views. It was nearing 60 degrees, had this been August with high heat and humidity, I might have taken a dip.
The Falling Waters trail follows Electric Brook beneath the falls. There are ruins of the old power station, but I did not find them. I followed the trail until the fence marking private property, where the trail bears left and goes straight up hill. At the top of the hill you will come to a junction of many trails and the end of the Falling Waters trail. There will be rocks on your right, walk out those for a view.
The map shows a point of interest that comprises a big rock outcropping. Even though I was making a big loop, I took the Pink trail (not named) to its end where it junctions with the Grand Loop trail. The Pink trail is more a woods road, so, wide with lots of crushed gravel. There is an unmarked trail to the right which shortly leads to the rocks.
Behind the rocks there should be a view, but with the leaves on the trees, there wasn’t much to see. I took Pink back to the junction.
At the junction, I turned left onto a White and Teal Trail (Patriot’s Path and the Highlands trail.) This I took to Fairview Avenue.
Along the way there was a junction and a sign for a Green trail, not named, but shown, on my map. On the sign was tacked “most difficult.” After walking about 100 yards I came to sign that said trail’s end, and a cliff. The map showed more trail, but I couldn’t find where it went, I must have missed it. Because what I walked was flatter than the Falling Waters trail. When I come back, I will have to further explore.
I got back on Patriot’s Path/Highland trail and took that to the parking lot at Fairview Avenue, where I would make a left onto the Yellow Dot trail (Beeline trail.) Approaching this junction and parking lot is where I ran into more people – this is a fairly busy lot. This trail has some steep sections as it climbs onto the back section of Schooleys Mountain. Junction with the Yellow (Grand Loop trail) and continue.
I rested at the junction of Red (High Cut) but stayed on Yellow to get back to the Orange (Upland Meadow trail.) Orange cuts through two meadows filled with plenty of wild flowers and trees, bird houses, and lots of crickets. Under a big tree I stopped for a snack though I was mostly done. The sun was out, and felt great as it pushed the temperatures into the upper 60s.
I walked back on Yellow to Red to cross over the top of Schooleys Mountain. Following my GPS, I estimated the summit to be right here:
It gets a little squirrlly at the top, I lost the trail a couple of times; and I suspect I wasn’t the only one. It doesn’t help when I find blazes in the following locations:
Red junctions with Yellow (again) and I took Yellow back to the car. This portion of the trail is a wide woods road of crushed gravel.
And just before my car I got one more picture of Lake George.
This was a great hike. By the time I got back to my car, there were more cars there and more people out and about. This is a really nice park, as are all of the Morris County parks I’ve hiked in. The trails are well maintained, well blazed and provide great maps (though print your own, there were none at the trailhead.)
(a note on my map, I forgot to un-pause GPS after sitting, but I essentially retraced my steps.)
There’s a lady who’s sure All that glitters is gold And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven When she gets there she knows If the stores are all closed With a word she can get what she came for Oh oh oh oh and she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
Like the famous song, this hike is usually listed in the top three hikes of New Jersey. The scenery is gorgeous. The boardwalks and suspension bridge are great. The “Stairway to Heaven” portion of the the Appalachian Trail is steep and rugged, but the payoff is totally worth it.
This had been on my to do list for a long time; but since I knew it was such popular hike I had to find the right time to do it. The Sunday of Labor Day seemed as good as any. Be warned, parking is crazy: lots are small, the parking on the road in the Pochuk Valley is limited, and the local towns are fierce with their ticketing. I left the house at 6:00 in the morning, figuring if I got there “too early” I could nap. I was the 5th car by the boardwalks, arriving at 8:00. But, I couldn’t nap, so I headed out.
This hike is an out an back. From Pinwheel Vista at the top of Wawayanda Mountain, retrace your steps. I’ve divided this hike up into three sections: The Pochuck Valley boardwalk, the middle, and Stairway to Heaven, with the terminus at Pinwheel Vista.
There’s a sign on the wall But she wants to be sure ‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings In a tree by the brook There’s a songbird who sings Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
The first section contains the boardwalks of Pochuck Valley, and there were plenty of people just walking the boards. It was 59 degrees when I started, and the temps were only supposed to get into the low 70s. Boardwalks are easy going, and I made the best time here. But the scenery is incredible; lots of wild flowers. There were tons of crickets, making a symphony of noise. Bozza’s Aria it wasn’t.
One of the neatest features is the suspension bridge over Pochuck Creek.
Ooh, it makes me wonder Ooh, it makes me wonder
The next section I deemed the middle, and it roughly started at the bike path at Canal Road. It was here that the boardwalk ended, and I moved into the woods; hard-packed dirt and a wide trail. Due to the constant shade, it was noticeably cooler on this section.
Also, there were a handful of stiles to go over the fences; though some of the fences were missing. (I still went over the stiles when I could.)
The stile above deposited you into a farm where there were cows (not until my way back.) And yes, you had to watch where you walked.
And yes, that’s Wawayanda Mountain in the background. Imposing.
There’s a feeling I get When I look to the west And my spirit is crying for leaving In my thoughts I have seen Rings of smoke through the trees And the voices of those who standing looking
Upon crossing the last stile you’re deposited in the roadway. Be careful crossing, cars go flying by. (There’s also a dairy farm a short trip up the road, I didn’t stop, it was too crowded.) Here, for a small lot, there were a ton of cars. All of these people were just climbing the mountain to head to Pinwheel Vista. I apologize, there are not too many pictures of the climb up….you’ll understand in a minute.
These pictures don’t do it justice. And really, there are a lot of “stairs.” A. LOT. Plus, in some sections it gets pretty steep. I didn’t break out the poles because there were sections where you needed at least one hand in addition to your feet to climb. Looking at my split times, this section had the slowest time. Parts of it were brutal. And it was slow going with the number of people out today.
And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune Then the piper will lead us to reason And a new day will dawn For those who stand long And the forests will echo with laughter
You’ll know you’ve reached the top when you reach the humongous pile of rocks. Head to the left to get to Pinwheel Vista.
I, however, wanted to see the mailbox for AT thru hikers, which was less than a half-mile down the path.
Coming back from the mailbox, make a right at the pile of rocks and head to Pinwheel Vista. It is easy to see why this trail ranks so highly, the views are definitely worth it.
It was so clear I could see the High Point monument directly across from me (way in the distance.) And you could just barely see Mt. Tammany in the Water Gap. I sat for quite a while, as it was an exhausting climb and I needed water and something to eat.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow Don’t be alarmed now It’s just a spring clean for the May queen Yes, there are two paths you can go by But in the long run There’s still time to change the road you’re on And it makes me wonder
To get back, retrace your steps. I left Pinwheel Vista at the perfect time, a little before noon. There was an endless stream of people coming up – switchbacks were jammed up, basically with traffic jams. And I saw people on those rocks with flipflops and crocs and no water or anything to eat. I tried to keep a good pace going down, but didn’t want to overtake the family in front of me. Two little girls were bounding on the rocks until one pulled up sharply and shrieked.
A New Jersey Black Rat snake. I got a good picture and high tailed it out of there.
I think I stopped counting around 300 people that I passed, and it surely had to be more.
Your head is humming and it won’t go In case you don’t know The piper’s calling you to join him Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?
On the way back down I was able to stop at Annie’s Bluff, which was packed with people when I was climbing. It was a limited view, but nice none-the-less.
Upon reaching the bottom it was a relatively flat return to the car. However, the cows were out.
And I spotted this guy basking in the sun.
There were tons of people on the boardwalk and I got back to my car around 1:00. The road was packed and there were people still showing up, I suspect many were only walking the boardwalk.
And as we wind on down the road Our shadows taller than our soul There walks a lady we all know Who shines white light and wants to show How everything still turns to gold And if you listen very hard The tune will come to you at last When all are one and one is all To be a rock and not to roll And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
All in all, this was a great hike; it’s easy to see why this hike ranks so highly in polls. The Pochuck Valley and middle sections are easy enough, you will work hard on “the Stairs.” But the payoff is worth it. The trail is super easy to follow, it’s the Appalachian Trail. Supposedly the trail to the vista is blazed blue, but I didn’t see any blazes.
My only concern is the amount of litter on the trail, presumably a factor of the amount of people. I saw masks, paper towels, tissues, etc. In fact, I kept my mask on from the time I left the Vista until I reached my car due to the number of people. If you can do this hike mid-week or in sub optimal weather, do it. I had no solitude today.
Thanks to Robert, Jimmy, John, and John for allowing me this cliche comparison.
I had been to this park before, though the other side of the street. Back in 2017, I hiked Pyramid Mountain with my dad in the rain – rain for most of the hike. It looked like a higher chance of rain on Sunday, so I made this a Saturday hike. I arrived at the parking lot at 8:30 in the morning, and it was already packed, so I had to park on Mars Court, across the street. Be careful parking here, you can only park on one side of the streets; and businesses have ominous signs in their lots. I was surprised it was that packed that early, though it was a really nice day. I believe I was the fourth car on Mars Court (and when I returned, there were cars all the way down the street, and on 511 south of the park.) That’s why there is a gap between my starting and ending points on my map, above. Almost everyone was on Pyramid Mountain, I had Turkey Mountain virtually to myself.
I like this park: trails are wide (for the most part) made up of mostly dirt and rocks. There is great signage and trails are very well marked (except when the turn symbol is on a blowdown.) I noticed at major trail junctions there were cairns, so it was kind of hard to get lost.
I wasn’t planning on taking the red trail right at the beginning, but I thought I saw a viewpoint on the map. About 300 yards in, I ran into:
There were numerous blowdowns all through the park, most easily navigable.
While scrambling in the lower portion of the park, it started to get HOT and very humid. Unlike High Point, I had to zip off the lower portion of my pants. Not my favorite thing to do, as I’m susceptible to poison ivy, and it’s too easy to get ticks from the fields and high grass. And no one needs to see my legs.
If you follow the route I took, you will cross the powercut at least four times. Twice you will go right under towers. I wasn’t totally prepared for that, as at the first tower, you could hear buzzing.
This guy almost got stepped on.
Following the Yellow trail along the roadside, it suddenly comes out on the road.
Fortunately, it’s pretty well marked, right after the guardrail, make a left into the woods. (I noticed a pullout parking spot for one car at this spot.)
At this point, you are heading up Turkey Mountain, I believe to the highest point in the park on this side of 511. While the trail is wide, I ran into a stone wall that crosses the trail.
When Yellow T-intersects with Red, I took a quick detour to the right to find the actual top of Turkey Mountain. I couldn’t find a marker, but GPS confirmed that I did in fact reach the highest point. I retraced my steps, and continued on Red. There’s a steep descent where you run into Green. Then a steep ascent, at the top of which are stone ruins. This area, at one time, was a limestone quarry.
Following Green you come to a great spot overlooking Lake Vallhalla. There are numerous overlooks along this route, however with the leaves out, many overlooks did not have views.
Finally, I followed Green until Blue, which traveled uphill and up the powercut. There were some great views from the base of the powerline tower.
This was the beginning of the 100 Stairs, the path down to the road and back to the car. In the bright, hot and humid sun, this was tough. In the Fall, it’s probably great. On a hot and humid day, it’s strenuous.
All in all this was a great hike. There were a couple of rock hops that probably are trickier in the spring with more water flowing. Also, it was nice to come back to this park on a day where it wasn’t raining. When I got back to my car, the street was packed, but I noticed more people returning from Pyramid Mountain.