Southern Loop at Apshawa Preserve


This hike follows woods roads and footpaths through the southern area of the preserve, climbing to a viewpoint and passing beautiful cascades and interesting historical remnants of a century-old water purification plant.

3 hours
3.5 miles
Route Type:
Allowed on leash
Views, Waterfall, Historic feature
First Published:

Daniel Chazin


View of the Butler Reservoir. Photo by Daniel Chazin.


View Apshawa Preserve in a larger map

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Driving Directions

Take I-287 to Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. When you reach a fork in 1.3 miles (from I-287), bear right, but at the next fork (in another 0.1 mile), bear left to continue on Hamburg Turnpike. Follow Hamburg Turnpike for another 1.1 miles, then turn right onto Macopin Road (County Route 693). In 1.9 miles, turn left onto Northwood Drive. Proceed for 500 feet and turn right into the parking area for the Apshawa Preserve.


The Apshawa Preserve is a rugged 576-acre tract owned by Passaic County and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. About seven miles of trails traverse the preserve, and this hike features the trails in the southern section of the preserve. The trails are marked with paint blazes and with colored plastic diamond blazes that incorporate the logo of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

At the northern end of the parking area, go through a gate in a deer fence and follow the Blue Trail, which first proceeds along a woods road, but continues on a footpath. After crossing a wet area on puncheons, the Blue Trail bears left and descends to cross a stream. It then climbs a hill on a woods road, passing on the left the start of the Purple Trail. Continue ahead on the Blue Trail, which bears right at a high point and passes interesting rock formations on the left. Just beyond, the trail turns left, leaving the woods road, climbs over a rise and descends steeply into a ravine, where it turns left onto another woods road.

A short distance ahead, the White Trail begins on the right, but you should continue on the Blue Trail, which follows a relatively level woods road. After looping around a vernal pond, you’ll pass the start of the Orange Trail on the left. This will be your return route, but for now, continue ahead on the Blue Trail.

Dam. Photo by Daniel Chazin.Soon, the trail crosses a broad expanse of open rock with several cedar trees and descends to Apshawa Brook, where the Blue Trail ends at a junction with the Green Trail. Turn right onto the Green Trail, which loops around and crosses the brook on a metal bridge just below the dam of the Butler Reservoir (due to safety concerns, the historic stone dam has been breached and a concrete spillway constructed to lower the water level of the reservoir). Here, the Red Trail joins.

Continue to follow both green and red blazes as the trail climbs to a T-junction with a gravel road. Turn right onto the road, which leads in a short distance to a viewpoint over the reservoir. After taking in the view, return to the junction and continue ahead on the road.

After passing a small wetland on the right, follow the Green Trail as it turns left, leaving the road, and goes through a gate. Just beyond, the trail is obscured by a series of blowdowns, and you should bear left to avoid the fallen trees.

Summit. Photo by Daniel Chazin.The Green Trail now begins a gradual but steady climb. For much of the way, it follows a woods road, but it sometimes detours from the road, so pay careful attention to the blazes. After passing through mountain laurel thickets, the trail reaches the summit of a hill. Rock outcrops on the right afford views to the south and west, although the views are partially obscured by trees.

After pausing to take in the view, continue ahead on the Green Trail. You’ll pass interesting rock formations on the left, skirt some blowdowns, and begin a steady descent on a rugged, winding footpath. Parts of the descent are rather steep.

At the base of the descent, the trail turns left onto a woods road which parallels Apshawa Brook and passes beautiful cascades in the brook, below to the right. A short distance ahead, you'll come to a fork. Bear right, following the green blazes, and descend to the brook.Rusted Tanks. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

To your right, you'll notice four huge rusted tanks that were installed as part of a water purification system in the early 1900s. Here, the trail crosses the brook on rocks and turns left, passing the ruins of two small stone-and-concrete buildings. Follow the green blazes upstream along the brook. Soon, you'll come to the base of a curved concrete dam, also built in the early 1900s to regulate the flow of water in the brook. The trail bears right and climbs to the top of the dam, with a nice view over the small reservoir that has been impounded behind the dam.

The Green Trail climbs through mountain laurel and hemlock, then  turns left at a gate in the deer fence (don’t go through the gate). The trail now descends a little, then follows a relatively level route for a quarter mile. After a short climb, the Green Trail bears left, but you should continue straight ahead, now following the Orange Trail. The Orange Trail continues to the top of a rise, levels off, then descends to end at a junction with the Blue Trail. Turn right onto the Blue Trail and retrace your steps back to the parking area where the hike began.

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Quick hike

Hiked this Southern Loop trail today, and completed it in 2 hours flat. I pushed through because of a very late start,1pm. Just wanted to mention this so folks know it is doable in a shorter than listed time. Also, the blue, orange and purple trails are not shown on the Jersey Highlands trail map 125 1st edition but the blazes are clearly marked which makes the map unnecessary.

New Apshawa Trail Configuration

Thank you for noting the map discrepancies on our Jersey Highlands map 125.  The Apshawa trail system was reconfigured in 2013 with some new trail routes as well as changes to blaze colors, so our 1st edition map (published in 2011) does not show these trails entirely correctly.  We will be sure to show the new configuration on the next 2nd edition revision of the maps.A map available on the preserve's website shows the recent changes: is great to hear the trails were well-marked, although it is still recommended that one carry a map!~Jeremy, TC Cartographer

Somewhat of an adventure!!

 We attempted to follow the Green Trail today but lost the way several times due to all the blowdowns! The first  stream crossing went fine until we found ourselves in front of several downed trees without a clue as to where the markers/trail were. Then we spied a new (?) metal footbridge closer to the dam & were able to re-connect with the Green Trail. The deer fences we found made things more confusing.  On our way to the lovely cascades we again encountered a lot of downed trees & needed to wander around a bit til we were back on course on the other side of the brook.  Enjoyed seeing the old concrete dam and pond.  The rest of the trail was easier to follow .   All in all a great trail but one had to proceed slowly & do some back-tracking at times.  Think the trail needs some replacement blazes & perhaps a few arrows too!

Great hike!

Followed the trail exactly as mentioned here, it was a great experience. The rocky terrain up and down hills makes it a moderately strenuous hike. Very well marked trail. Seems like not much effort has been made to clean the trail path off fallen trees etc, which makes for a true hiking experience. Thanks to the forest cover, we got good shade - important since we started relatively late at 9:45am. The hike took 2.5 hours excluding a short break next to the waterfall. We were the only folks hiking there this Saturday, surprising but made the hike even more enjoyable! Highly recommend this hike for folks in Jersey city and nearabouts because its so close to us - just a 45 minute drive away. Apshawa Preserve Virtual Tour!

Check out a virtual tour of the Apshawa Preserve! Plenty of pictures of flora, fauna and views!