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Kittatinny Ridge and Appalachian Trail in Stokes State Forest
This loop hike follows a woods road through an attractive forest, climbs to the Kittatinny Ridge, and proceeds south on the Appalachian Trail along the ridge, with many fine views.
Moderate to Strenuous
Allowed on leash
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take I-80 to Exit 34B and continue north on NJ 15 for about 17 miles. When NJ 15 ends, continue ahead on US 206 North for 6.5 miles, and turn right at a sign for Stokes State Forest. After passing the park office (where a park map may be obtained), you'll reach a kiosk where a seasonal parking fee is charged ($5 weekdays, $10 weekends). Continue ahead on the main park road for 1.8 miles, following signs to the Stony Lake day-use area. When you reach a T-intersection, turn right, and continue ahead for another 0.2 mile to the parking area at Stony Lake.
From the parking area, head north on the blue-on-white-blazed Blue Mountain Loop Trail. In 300 feet, you’ll notice a signpost for the Swenson Trail. Turn left here, now following both the blue-on-white-blazed Blue Mountain Loop Trail and the red-on-white-blazed Swenson Trail. The trail climbs gradually on a rocky woods road through an attractive mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. Upon reaching the top of a rise, it descends slightly and levels off, now passing through a largely deciduous forest, with an understory of mountain laurel and blueberry.
About a mile from the start, the trail crosses a stream on rocks, climbs briefly, and again levels off. Then, in another three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach a T-intersection. Here, the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail comes in from the right. You should turn left here, following yellow, blue-on-white, and red-on-white blazes along a woods road that descends rather steeply. In 500 feet, at the next junction, turn right, leaving the Tinsley Trail, and follow the blue-dot-on-white blazes of the Blue Mountain Loop Trail, as well as the red-on-white blazes of the Swenson Trail, which descend on a rocky footpath.
In a third of a mile, you’ll reach a clearing with a locked cabin on the left. This is a good place to take a break (there is a picnic table alongside the cabin). When you’re ready to continue, proceed ahead on the Blue Mountain Loop/Swenson Trail (marked by a signpost for the Swenson Trail beyond the cabin). The trail now once again follows a relatively level woods road – a welcome respite from the rocky footpath. In about half a mile, it crosses several branches of a stream on rocks.
Just beyond the last branch of the stream, turn right, leaving the woods road, and continue to follow the Blue Mountain Loop Trail. The brown/red-blazed Cartwright Trail begins here, and you will be following both blue and brown/red blazes.
The Blue Mountain Loop/Cartwright Trail climbs on a footpath. After crossing a stream on rocks, the trail levels off and continues through a dense understory of ferns. It then climbs a little more to cross the paved Sunrise Mountain Road. The climb steepens on the other side of the road, and the trail soon reaches a panoramic west-facing viewpoint from an open rock ledge, with several pine trees. You can see the Delaware River valley and the Pocono Mountains beyond. This is a good spot to take a break.
A short distance beyond, you’ll come to another junction. Here, the Blue Mountain Loop Trail leaves to the left, but you should continue ahead, now following both the brown/red blazes of the Cartwright Trail, as well as black-on-blue blazes that signify a side trail to the Blue Mountain Loop Trail. The grade now moderates somewhat, and after a brief level section, the Cartwright Trail ends at a junction with the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
Turn right and follow the white-blazed A.T., which heads uphill on a wide, clearly defined path. Soon, you’ll notice a parking area on the right. A short distance beyond, a path to the right leads to the southern end of the parking area, and the A.T. climbs stone steps. At the top of the steps, a side trail leads left to a panoramic east-facing viewpoint over the Kittatinny Valley from a rock ledge. A bench has been placed here, making it a good spot to take a break.
A short distance ahead, the A.T. reaches a pavilion with stone columns, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. Here, there are views both east and west, but the viewpoint you just passed offers a more pristine setting. The A.T. continues from the southeast corner of the pavilion and begins to descend. After a short level stretch, the trail climbs over a rise and descends to an area with low vegetation, with scrub oak and mountain laurel predominating.
About a mile from the pavilion, the A.T. comes out onto a grassy clearing, where the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail begins on the right. You should continue ahead on the A.T., which climbs steadily for the next 0.1 mile. At the top of the climb, amid a cluster of pines, a short side trail to the right leads to a viewpoint from a rock ledge over the Pocono Mountains to the west.
For the next mile or so, the A.T. follows a rather level footpath along the west side of the ridge, traversing a deciduous forest with an understory of mountain laurel and blueberry. After passing a large vernal pool on the left, the trail crosses a wet area on puncheons and reaches a junction with the brown-blazed Stony Brook Trail and with a short blue-blazed trail that leads to the Gren Anderson Shelter. Continue ahead on the A.T., which crosses Stony Brook in another 500 feet. After a level stretch, the trail begins to climb, and about a mile from Stony Brook, it reaches a junction with the dark-green-blazed Tower Trail at a west-facing viewpoint studded with pitch pines.
The Tower Trail will be your return route, but you should proceed ahead a short distance on the A.T. to the Culver Fire Tower, which may be open to the public when a fire observer is present. There are panoramic views from the top of the tower, but excellent views can also be obtained from its base, where there is a large picnic table.
After enjoying the views, return to the Tower Trail and follow it down the mountain. The first part of the descent is rather steep, but the grade soon moderates. On the way, you’ll cross Sunrise Mountain Road. In 1.2 miles, the Tower Trail crosses Stony Brook and turns left on a woods road, joining the brown-blazed Stony Brook Trail. Make sure to follow the dark green and brown blazes where the road makes a sharp right turn in a quarter mile. In another 500 feet, you’ll reach an intersection with the Blue Mountain Loop Trail. Turn left and follow the blue-on-white blazes back to the parking area where the hike began.