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Mahlon Dickerson Reservation Short Loop
This loop hike follows the Highlands Trail across several scenic streams and climbs to two panoramic viewpoints.
Allowed on leash
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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take I-80 to Exit 34B. Proceed north for 5.0 miles on N.J. Route 15, and get off at the exit for Weldon Road and Milton. After about 1.3 miles on Weldon Road, you will pass a sign marking the entrance to the Saffin-Rock Rill area of Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. Continue for another 1.5 miles (2.8 miles from Route 15) and turn right into the Saffin Pond parking area.
On the southeast side of the parking area, you will notice a triple black-diamond-on-teal blaze, marking the start of a connector trail to the Highlands Trail. Follow the black-diamond-on-teal blazes, which head east along Saffin Pond. Several side trails on the right lead to viewpoints over the pond.
At the southeast corner of the pond, turn right and proceed along the dam until you reach the bridge over its outlet. Do not cross the bridge; rather, bear sharply left onto a gravel path – the route of the teal-blazed Highlands Trail. Continue to follow the Highlands Trail as it ascends gradually along a woods road. At the top of the climb (marked by a bench), bear right at a T-intersection and continue to follow the teal diamond blazes as they descend along an eroded woods road. At the base of the descent, bear left and continue along a relatively level stretch of the Highlands Trail, with Weldon Brook – the outlet of Saffin Pond – to your right.
After bearing left, away from the brook, the trail crosses a stream on a wide wooden footbridge. It bears left again but soon bears right and begins to climb. At the crest of the right - just beyond a large boulder topped with ferns to the left of the trail - you’ll reach a T-intersection. The white-blazed Beaver Brook Trail begins on the right, but you should turn left to continue on the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail. The trail descends to cross a tributary stream, climbs over a knoll, then descends to recross the main stream on rocks. Once more, the trail climbs through a rocky area – with interesting rock formations on the left – and descends to cross the main stream, for the third and final time, on rocks.
The Highlands Trail now begins to climb. Several steep ascents are interspersed with level sections, some of which cross open rock ledges. After crossing a yellow-blazed woods road in a large clearing, the trail resumes its climb on a moderate grade. Soon, you’ll reach a broad overlook to the southeast from a rock ledge to the right of the trail. Except for a few power line towers, no civilization is visible from here; you see only forested hillsides, with Lake Hopatcong visible in the distance to the right. After a slight dip, the trail climbs through a canopy of mountain laurel to reach another viewpoint. This viewpoint, marked by a bench and designated on the map as the Headley Overlook, is more popular because it is nearer the road, but the first overlook provides a less obstructed view.
Continue ahead on the Highlands Trail, which descends on a woods road through more mountain laurel. When you reach the next intersection (marked by a sign pointing to the Headley Overlook), leave the Highlands Trail and bear sharply left onto an unmarked woods road. In about a third of a mile, you'll come to a fork, with both legs blazed yellow. Bear right, now following a yellow-blazed woods road which descends to cross a stream (the same stream you previously crossed three times) on a wooden footbridge.
The yellow-blazed woods road now climbs gradually to the crest of a rise. Soon after beginning a gentle descent (about 0.4 mile from the footbridge), you'll come to another fork in the road. A sign indicates that Saffin Pond is to the left, but you should take the right fork, continuing to follow the yellow blazes. With paved Weldon Road in sight ahead, the yellow-blazed trail turns left, leaving the road, and follows a footpath for a short distance back to the parking area where the hike began.