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Black River/Bamboo Brook Trail Loop
For much of the route, this lollipop-loop hike runs along the scenic Black River, following an abandoned railroad grade for part of the way and passing through a spectacular rocky gorge.
Allowed on leash
Waterfall, Historic feature
Take I-80 West to Exit 27A and continue south on U.S. Route 206 for 8.0 miles. Turn right onto County Route 513 and follow it for 1.2 miles to the entrance to Cooper Mill Park, on the left side of the road.
From the northwest corner of the parking area, proceed south to the stone Cooper Mill. The mill, built in 1826, is open for tours in the summer. Descend the stairs alongside the mill and continue south on the blue-blazed Black River Trail, part of the Patriots’ Path system (also blazed with the path-and-tree logo), which crosses several tributary streams on wooden bridges. About a third of a mile from the start, the trail turns left onto an abandoned railroad grade – the former route of the Hacklebarney Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, built in 1873 to carry iron ore from mines along the river and abandoned in 1900. The trail follows this railroad grade for the next mile.
Half a mile from the start, you’ll pass Kay Pond (formerly known as Hacklebarney Pond) on the right. Here, the railroad had to be blasted through a rock cut, and the drill marks from the blasting may still be seen in the rock. The small building at the south end of Kay Pond was once used to store ice cut from the pond in the winter.
After passing the stone dam at the end of the pond, the trail goes by a fenced-in area to the left. This is the site of the former Hacklebarney Mine, where a considerable amount of iron ore was mined in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Just beyond, the trail reaches a bridge over the river and turns left, continuing to follow along the river. Soon, the railroad grade ends and the trail continues on a slightly rougher footpath parallel to the river.
About 1.2 miles from the start, after crossing two wooden footbridges over tributary streams, the trail reaches abandoned concrete abutments in the river – the remnants of a former bridge. Here, the trail bears left and begins to head uphill. It bears left at the next fork and soon begins to parallel a tributary stream. The trail now curves right and continues to climb, passing a stone wall on the right and continuing through former fields, now overgrown with dense vegetation.
Soon, the trail reaches a junction in a clearing, marked by a signpost. Turn left, now following both blue and red blazes, then turn left again at the next intersection. Just ahead, you’ll come to a parking area, with the Kay Environmental Center to the right.
Just past the environmental center, the blue-blazed Bamboo Brook Trail begins on the right. Continue along this trail, which follows a wide path through overgrown fields, turns left onto a dirt road, then joins the paved entrance road. It continues along the road for a quarter mile, then turns right onto Pottersville Road. After following Pottersville Road for 750 feet, the trail turns left and reenters the woods.
The trail continues along a relatively level footpath, then bears right at a fork and begins to climb the rocky hillside. After reaching the top of the hill, the trail descends to reach a junction with the red-blazed Conifer Pass Trail (marked by a signpost). Turn right and follow the red-blazed trail as it descends to recross Pottersville Road.
On the other side of the road, the trail enters a beautiful pine forest and descends past old stone walls to cross Cedar Brook on rocks. It ascends on switchbacks through a grove of fir trees, continues through a deciduous forest to the crest of the rise, and descends once again to the Black River, passing two mine pits on the right along the way.
The red-blazed trail now heads north through the rocky gorge of the Black River, running directly along the river for part of the way. This wild and spectacular section of the river is an interesting contrast to the relatively placid section that you followed at the start of the hike. After about a quarter of a mile, the trail begins to climb out of the gorge. At the top of the climb, it turns right at a T-intersection, bears sharply left in 100 feet, then bears left again at a Y-intersection.
The trail continues high above the river, with views of the river below through the trees. In another 0.4 mile, you’ll reach a T-intersection with a wide dirt road. The red blazes turn right, but you should turn left and follow a green-blazed trail that heads downhill along the woods road. In another 750 feet, you’ll reach a Y-intersection. Here, the green blazes bear left, but you should bear right and continue ahead on the woods road, now unmarked, which heads north, parallel to the river. Continue along the road for another 600 feet to its end at the blue-blazed Black River Trail. Turn left and follow the Black River Trail north along the Black River for 1.2 miles, retracing your steps to the Cooper Mill parking area where the hike began.