- Go Hiking
- Get Involved
- Be Informed
- Trail Store
- Our Community
- About Us
Hawk Watch at Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area
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.
Easy to Moderate
Allowed on leash
Views, Historic feature, Birding, Cliffs
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.
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.
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.
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.