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India Brook Park and Buttermilk Falls Natural Area (Mendham, NJ)
This loop hike parallels a scenic brook, passes several ponds, and goes by a number of historic sites.
Easy to Moderate
Allowed on leash
Waterfall, Historic feature
Take I-80 West to Exit 43 and head south on I-287 (towards Morristown). Take Exit 39B of I-287 (NJ 10) and head west on Route 10 for 8.6 miles. At a sign for Dover-Chester Road, turn right, then turn left onto Dover-Chester Road and cross Route 10. Proceed south on Dover-Chester Road for 3.0 miles and bear left onto South Road. Continue along South Road for 1.8 miles and turn left onto Ironia Road (do not turn right onto Ironia Road in Randolph, which you will pass along the way). In 0.2 mile, turn left at a sign for India Brook Park, and continue a short distance to a large gravel parking area on the right.
From the kiosk at the end of the parking area, proceed downhill along the left edge of a grassy field, following yellow arrows on posts. At the end of the field, enter the woods and head downhill on a wide path, following the sign to “Buttermilk Falls.” At the base of the descent, turn right (following the yellow arrow) and head downstream along India Brook to an old stone fireplace. Just beyond is Buttermilk Falls, an attractive cascade.
Retrace your steps to the junction and continue ahead along the brook on a footpath. You’ll soon begin to climb the hillside, passing under several fallen trees and through a narrow passage between rocks. A short distance ahead, you’ll pass the site of the Lewis Forge, marked by a sign.
Soon, you’ll come to a footbridge over the brook. Turn right and cross the bridge, then turn right and proceed south along the brook. When you reach a berm (a remnant of the dam built for the Lewis Forge), turn left and head uphill to a trail marked with yellow (and some white) blazes. Turn right onto this trail, which heads south along the brook, soon reaching Buttermilk Falls (now viewed from the opposite side of the brook).
The yellow trail ends here, and you should continue ahead on the white trail, which gradually climbs the hillside, bears left, then descends a little to a junction marked by signs. Continue ahead on a red-blazed trail, following the sign to “Wood Duck Pond.” After descending a little more, the trail turns left and climbs to the pond – actually, a phragmites-filled wetland. At the end of the pond, turn left and climb to a wide, grassy road (shown on the hikemendham.org maps as the “Buttermilk Falls Walkway” or the “Woodchip Trail”).
Turn left onto this unmarked road, following the sign to “Frog Pond.” The road climbs to the top of a rise and descends to the pond, also filled with phragmites. Here, you’ll reach another junction. Continue ahead on the grassy road, following the sign to “Combs Hollow Road.”
In another 0.6 mile, you reach a trail junction. Continue ahead on the grassy road. Just beyond, at an abandoned building, the blue trail begins on the right, but you should continue ahead towards Combs Hollow Road, following the wide, grassy road. In 0.2 mile, a sign on the left points to the Lewis Mine. Turn left, leaving the grassy road, and follow a green-blazed footpath about 500 feet to the mine, marked by several mine openings, tailings piles, and an interpretive sign.
After taking a look at this interesting historical feature, return to the grassy road and turn left. Just before reaching the parking area, a sign on the right marks the start of the blue trail (the sign faces the opposite direction, so if you come to the parking area, turn around, head south for a short distance, and you will see the sign on the left). Turn right and follow the blue trail, which begins as a footpath through the woods, then bears right and joins a woods road. Soon, you’ll pass two small ponds (once part of the water supply for the Borough of Mendham) and reach the end of the blue trail at the abandoned building. Turn left onto the grassy road, but almost immediately, at the next junction, turn right onto a yellow-blazed trail, following the sign “To Falls.”
Head south along the yellow trail, parallel to the brook, below on your right. When you reach a sign for the “Bridge,” turn right and descend to the brook. Turn right, follow the brook upstream to the bridge, cross the bridge, turn left, and retrace your steps back to the parking area where the hike began.