Hawk Watch at Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area

Overview

This loop hike in the Farny Highlands climbs to a panoramic viewpoint over the Rockaway Valley from the Hawk Watch and goes by an interesting beaver pond.

Details
Time:
2 hours
Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate
Length:
2.4 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Historic feature, Birding, Cliffs
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Morris
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
09/25/2003

Updated/Verified:
08/15/2016
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

View from the Hawk Watch - Wildcat Ridge - Photo by Daniel Chazin

Parking


View Upper Hibernia Road in a larger map

See also
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
40.956599,-74.477584
Driving Directions

Take I-80 to Exit 37 (Hibernia/Rockaway) and bear left at the end of the ramp. Continue north on Green Pond Road (County Route 513) for 6.5 miles and turn right onto Upper Hibernia Road.  (Alternatively, you can take N.J. 23 to Green Pond Road, head south for 5.2 miles, and turn left onto Upper Hibernia Road.) Follow Upper Hibernia Road for 2.5 miles to the end of the paved road. Continue ahead on the gravel road for about 750 feet to a parking area on the right, with a kiosk for the Wildcat Ridge WMA on the left. 

Description

Proceed ahead (southwest) on the gravel road. In 100 feet, follow the road as it turns sharply left (with a locked gate ahead), passing white gateposts on either side. In another 100 feet, turn right onto a footpath between two large rocks (before reaching another locked gate).

You’re now following the orange-blazed Flyway Spur Trail. Although this trail is rather sparsely blazed, the footpath is clear and obvious. After a relatively level stretch, the trail climbs to reach an exposed bedrock slab with glacial striations, then descends through a deciduous forest with an understory of blueberry bushes. On the way down, it passes a rail with a pointed tip embedded in the ground to the left of the trail. This unusual feature once served as a boundary marker.

Panoramic view from the Hawk Watch. Photo by Daniel Chazin.After passing through a valley, the trail climbs rather steeply, levels off, and crosses a woods road. It continues ahead on a level footpath, then climbs a little to reach a T-intersection with a woods road. Turn right onto the road, and in 125 feet you’ll reach a junction with the white-blazed Four Birds Trail (marked by signs). You’ll be heading north on this trail, but for now, continue ahead on the orange trail for another 500 feet to the Hawk Watch – an open rock ledge that provides a panoramic view over the Rockaway Valley below. During the fall and spring migratory seasons, volunteers continually record the numbers of migratory birds observed here. On a clear day, portions of the New York City skyline can be seen on the horizon to the left.

Even if you’re not a hawk-watcher, you’ll want to spend some time at this beautiful location. When you’re ready to continue, retrace your steps to the white-blazed Four Birds Trail and turn right, now heading north. The trail crosses a gravel road (which, to the right, leads to a television transmission tower) and begins a long, steady descent. In half a mile, at the base of the descent, the trail traverses a rocky area, crosses a stream on a wooden footbridge, and begins a steady climb.

In another quarter mile, you’ll reach a junction with the red-blazed Beaver Pond Trail, marked by an arrow that points to “Beaver Pond” and a single red-on-white blaze. Turn left onto the Beaver Pond Trail (solid red blazes), which climbs gradually. At the crest of the rise, a short side trail on the left leads to a limited south-facing viewpoint from a split rock covered with sassafras sprouts (the view is partially obscured by vegetation). The tower on the ridge ahead (visible when there are no leaves on the trees) is the television transmission tower just north of the Hawk Watch.

Beaver Pond. Photo by Daniel Chazin.After a short level stretch, the trail descends slightly to reach the large Beaver Pond (which may be covered with water lilies during the summer). A beaver lodge is directly ahead, with two abandoned telephone poles incongruously sticking out of the water. Here, the trail turns left and follows along the southern shore of the pond. Beyond the pond, the trail widens to a gravel road. After passing an abandoned stone building on the right – a remnant of the Marcella Mine that was once active here – you’ll come to a locked gate, where the red-blazed trail ends.

Continue ahead on the gravel road, bearing left at the fork. Just before reaching Upper Hibernia Road, you’ll notice a triple-yellow blaze on a tree on the left, with a sign for the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Turn left and follow this trail into the woods on a footpath. Soon, the trail turns right and begins to run along a berm that parallels a ditch – once used to carry a wooden conduit that supplied water to the Marcella Mine complex.

Follow the yellow-blazed Wildcat Ridge trail for a quarter mile until it passes between two large rocks and ends at a gravel road (the start of the orange-blazed Flyway Spur Trail is just across the road). Turn right onto the gravel road, and in 100 feet turn right again to reach the parking area where the hike began.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Nice hike.

The white trail runs through a pretty stretch of woods. Fall color just starting. Many people going out to the hawkwatch. White trail was much quieter. A good map on jorba: jorba.org/sites/default/files/wildcat_081912_HR_0.pdf

Description of start of hike seems wrong, alternate ending nice

When I tried to follow the start of this hike I had a hard time finding the trail head. Here is what I think it should say to begin this hike. From the Kiosk head West about 50 feet down upper hibernia road, turn left (South) to find the orange blazed trailhead. My GPS coordinates for the trailhead are 40.95424, -74.47945. The rest of the description was accurate. As an alternative end to this hike, instead of finishing by walking down the road you can follow the yellow-blazed trail through the woods that parallels the road. It seems to follow an old drainage ditch from the mine buildings and ends near where the orange trailhead is. When you reach the orange trail you turn right (North) and follow the orange trail to its terminus.

Hike description has been updated

I rehiked this hike today.  I, too, had trouble finding the trailhead, and I agree that description needed to be clarified.  I have now updated the description, and I think that the revised description makes it easy to find the trailhead.  The yellow trail has indeed been reblazed, and I have incorporated this trail into the hike.