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Hacklebarney State Park
This loop hike follows several picturesque streams, including the wild and scenic Black River
Easy to Moderate
Allowed on leash
May be available at park office
Take I-80 West to Exit 27A and proceed south on US 206 for 8.3 miles to Chester. Turn right onto County 513 West (West Main Street) and continue for 1.3 miles, passing the entrance to Cooper Mill Park on the left. After crossing the bridge over the Black River, turn left onto Parker Road, then immediately turn sharply left onto State Park Road. Follow this road, with the Black River on the left, for 1.8 miles, then bear sharply right to continue on State Park Road. Proceed ahead for another 0.6 mile to the park entrance on the left. Follow the entrance road for about 0.2 mile to the main parking area.
Established in 1924 by a gift of local residents Adolphe and Sarah Borie, Hacklebarney State Park now includes 978 acres along the Black River. The park is heavily used on summer weekends, with many picnic tables along the trails, but at other times, there are few visitors. Trails run along three scenic streams – Rhinehart Brook, the Black River and Trout Brook - and this hike parallels all three streams.
From the main parking area, backtrack along the park entrance road to a gated road that heads uphill at a “Smokey the Bear” sign. Turn sharply left onto this road (its paved surface is now covered with moss and gravel) and bear left at a fork in 350 feet. After passing a side trail to an overlook (the view from the overlook has grown in, so you won’t miss anything by skipping it), the road reaches a clearing, with playground equipment on the right. At the end of the clearing, turn right, passing in front of a park bench, and continue on a dirt path.
Soon, you will notice a triple-yellow blaze to the right, which marks the start of the yellow trail. Continue ahead on a wide path, following the yellow blazes. The trail climbs gently, then descends gradually along the side of a hill. Towards the base of the descent, it goes down stone steps, curving sharply to the left, and soon begins to parallel Rhinehart Brook.
The yellow blazes end where the trail intersects a gravel road, with an abandoned stone water fountain on the left. Turn right and cross a wooden bridge over the brook (you’ll notice a triple-white blaze, which marks the end of the white trail). On the other side of the bridge, bear left and follow a red-blazed trail uphill, with the brook to the left. After descending slightly, you’ll reach another intersection, where you should bear left, continuing to follow the red blazes (the trail straight ahead leads in a short distance to the park boundary, marked by two stone pillars).
The trail now descends to the Black River. After crossing a wooden bridge over a small tributary and a longer footbridge over Rhinehart Brook, the graded trail ends. For the next half mile, you’ll be following a narrow, rocky footpath along the river. The route may be indistinct in places, and the red blazes are not always apparent, but you can’t get lost if you closely follow the river, keeping it to your right.
This section is the highlight of the hike, as the Black River is one of the wildest and most scenic rivers in the State of New Jersey. It is particularly spectacular after a heavy rain, but the rushing river, with its rapids, cascades and boulders, is beautiful any time of the year. You’ll want to take some time to cover this stretch of the trail so that you can fully appreciate the magnificent scenery.
After passing a huge boulder in the river, the trail briefly joins a gravel road which comes in from the left. The road offers a welcome respite from the rock-hopping, but you may want to detour to the right to get better views of the scenic river. Benches and picnic tables have been placed along the way, affording the opportunity for a break to contemplate the rushing river.
Soon, the road ends, and the red trail continues ahead on a footpath. It eventually emerges in a clearing, with a group of picnic tables and a restroom building to the left. Here, the trail joins a gravel road which curves left, soon reaching a footbridge over Trout Brook (which is crossed by the red trail). Do not cross this bridge; rather, continue ahead on the gravel road for another 100 feet and turn right onto a blue-blazed footpath that soon passes a picnic table and crosses the brook on another footbridge.
Continue ahead on the blue trail, which crosses a rocky area and bears right. The trail soon becomes wider and smoother, proceeding through an area with both hemlocks and deciduous trees, high above the Black River. Until recently, hemlocks dominated this section of the trail, but many hemlocks have succumbed to the woolly adelgid, an invasive pest.
In about a third of a mile, the trail swings left and ends at a junction with a wide fire road. The blue blazes end here, but you should turn left and follow this road, which is nearly level. After descending slightly, the road begins to parallel Trout Brook.
As you approach the brook, you’ll notice stone steps to the left that lead down to the brook. It is worthwhile to take the short side trip down to the brook, as there is an attractive waterfall a short distance upstream that is best viewed from the brook level.
A short distance beyond, you’ll come to a bridge over Trout Brook. Turn left, cross the bridge, then turn right and head uphill on a blue-blazed road. At the next intersection, turn right and continue along a white-blazed road which leads to the parking area where the hike began.