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Hanks Pond in Pequannock Watershed
This loop hike traverses interesting rock outcrops and parallels the scenic Hanks Pond.
Allowed on leash
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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take N.J. Route 23 to the Clinton Road exit (just north of Newfoundland). At the end of the ramp, bear left onto Larue Road, then turn right onto Clinton Road and follow it for 1.6 miles to Van Orden Road. Turn right onto Van Orden Road and park at one of the small turnouts at the side of the road.
PERMITS: Hiking in the Pequannock Watershed is by permit only. An annual permit ($12.00) must be obtained in person at the office of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation, 223 Echo Lake Road, West Milford; (973) 697-1724. The office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and until 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.
The hike begins at a gate on the north side of Van Orden Road, just east of Clinton Road. Here, a triple-white blaze marks the start of the Hanks East Trail. Follow this trail, which heads north on a wide woods road. In about a quarter of a mile, you'll come to a fork. Bear right and continue to follow the white blazes along a narrower woods road. Soon, you'll be able to catch glimpses of Hanks Pond to the left, through the trees. Towards the northern end of the pond, the trail narrows to a footpath.
About a mile and a half from the start, the blue-blazed Newark Connector Trail begins to the left, but you should continue ahead along the white-blazed trail. In another quarter of a mile, the trail climbs to a wide rock outcrop that resembles a causeway. Here, the trail turns left and follows the outcrop. The trail becomes more rugged and interesting, although the blazes along this section of the trail are faded and difficult to locate.
After a short, steep climb, the trail reaches the top of another rock outcrop, and it turns right to follow it. The outcrop soon narrows, then widens again, with a blueberry swamp down to the left, and pitch pines on the rock ledge above. After descending from this outcrop, the trail reaches an open area, with the ridge of Bearfort Mountain visible to the left.
Just beyond, a cairn marks the junction with the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail, which joins from the right. This is the mid-point of the hike. Take a few steps to the right to reach a viewpoint over Union Valley and Kanouse Mountain to the east, then return to the junction, turn right, and continue north along the joint Hanks East/Highlands Trail. When the trails diverge a short distance ahead, bear left and follow the Highlands Trail.
The Highlands Trail heads west and, in about a quarter of a mile, reaches a grassy woods road. Turn left onto this road, the route of the blue-over-white-blazed Hanks West Trail.
In another three-quarters of a mile, after crossing a stream on rocks, the blue-blazed Newark Connector Trail joins briefly. Continue ahead on the blue-over-white Hanks West Trail, which soon reaches the northern end of Hanks Pond, with a nice view over the pond to the left.
For the next half mile, the trail runs along the west shore of the pond. Vegetation obscures views of the pond for part of the way, but there are many openings where the pond is clearly visible. Along the way, you'll pass a cracked concrete foundation, with only a stone chimney remaining from a large structure, and another smaller abandoned stone building.
As you reach the southern end of the pond, you'll come to an intersection with another woods road. Here, the blue-over-white Hanks West Trail turns sharply right, but you should bear left, now following a wide but unmarked woods road. After passing some more views over the pond to the left, you'll reach the point where the white-blazed Hanks East Trail rejoins from the left. Continue ahead on the woods road, retracing your steps to your car.