Kittatinny Ridge and Appalachian Trail in Stokes State Forest

Overview

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.

Details
Time:
6 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate to Strenuous
Length:
10 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Sussex
State:
NJ
Maps/Books
Publication
First Published:
08/28/2003

Updated/Verified:
09/01/2016
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


View Stokes State Forest in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.18574,-74.795491
Driving Directions

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.

Description

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.

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

variety is the spice of the hike

Did the hike today (8/31/16).  If you're looking for a hike with variety, this is for you!  The part north of Sunrise Mtn Road is quite level, leaving you with a peaceful walk through a pleasant woods landscape.  Going up the the ridge on the Cartwright Trail is what I would call a moderate climb.  (The westward views on this section, indicated on the NY/NJ Trail Conference map 122, are pretty blah.)  Note that the initial part of the hike (Swenson, and then Cartwright Trails) are now co-aligned with the Blue Mountain Loop.  Not mentioned in Mr. Chazin's excellent writeup, is that the Blue Mountain Loop doesn't (or at least no longer) goes all the way up to meet the AT.  At  N 41º13'24.4"  W 074º43'03.8", there is an intersection, with the blue-blazed Blue Mountain Loop going left to ???.  You stay straight on the Cartwright Trail, which now has its brown-red blazes combined with blue blazes with the black dot in the center.  The AT section is mostly quite level.  The viewpoint to the SE (incorrectly indicated on the Trail Conference map; it's really about 0.07 miles further SW than the map shows it) is really quite stupendous.  As Mr. Chazin points out, the viewpoint from the CCC pavilion is not as good.  The view from the tower near the intersection of the AT and the Tower Trail is probably quite spectacular during the autumn.  As indicated in the writeup, the first 0.2 miles of the descent on the Tower Trail is quite steep (with several rock-scamble sections), so take it slow.  A final note:  As you approach Stony Lake on the Tower Trail, there appears to be a mistake on the Trail Conference map (2012 edition), which shows 2 parallel trails after the sharp left turn at N41º12'14.3"  W074º45'56.3", whereas, in reality, both the Tower (G) and Stony Brook Trail (Br) are co-aligned on the more southerly of the 2 trails shown on the map.

Hike description has been updated

Thank you very much for posting your comment.  I have just updated the hike description to include the new blue-on-white-blazed Blue Mountain Loop Trail, which was blazed in 2015.  As for the Trail Conference map, we are about to come out with a new edition of our Kittatinny Trails map set that corrects the various errors that you mention.

Awesome hike!

I did this hike this morning; was beautiful, and directions were easy to follow! Even though a holiday weekend, the trails from and to Stony Lake were empty - except me, which is why I like to start early (7am). Saw many hikers on the AT of course. The views are spectacular, especially those looking to the west. Tower Trail is the strenuous part, especially if you were to go up that way (I came down Tower Trail, according to directions here). Thank you for this amazing trail resource! I've been following your directions here for the past 6 years since moving to NJ. 

Nice hike !

 Did this hike on 8/23/15 and loved it. The views to the west are as pristine and vast as any. Not a road or a structure to defile the landscape as far as rhe eye can see. The Swensen Trail is well maintained and wide enough for use  by ATVs ( not that I saw any). There are some rocky sections but its mostly gentle grade changes.   The Cartwright Trail is where you will encounter some uphill hiking...if you don't miss the turn off like I did. The trail marker had been bent in half and the triple blaze was off to the right. I wound up at Croger Rd and added an extra mile or so after back tracking to the Cartwright trail.   The AT was a rockier endevour than the Swansen trail and I did not enjoy the eastern views as much as the western ones . It is not as pristine. I had been taking my time and it was a hot day, so I took the Stoney Brook Trail as my return route forsaking the tower views.    If I had not had to back track, I would not have encountered a soul along the Swanson Trail and then it was only one lone hiker. It's when I hit the AT that I ran into people at the parking area and Pavillion but no one after that all the way back to the start.  

Fun Hike

I've done this hike a bunch of times as my son attends an outdoor activity nearby.  Typically I enter at the Tinsley Trail near the School of Conservation (adds 1 1/2 miles to the hike and no charge for parking).   There are a lot of positives about this hike.  It's challenging in sections though not really difficult. 2 real steep areas on the Cartwright and Tower trails.  Expect to not see many people except during the AT section.  Wear bright colors if you go out in winter as there's hunting in this area part of the year.