Pine Swamp Trail Loop

Overview

This loop hike traverses less-used areas of this park, paralleling a cascading stream, passing the interesting Pine Swamp and reaching the highest point in Morris County.

Details
Time:
2.5 hours
Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate
Length:
4.5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Morris
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
03/28/2008

Updated/Verified:
06/17/2015
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. Pine Swamp Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

Parking


View Saffin Pond Mahlon Dickerson in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.013538, -74.563307
Driving Directions

Take I-80 to Exit 34B (Route 15/Jefferson/Sparta). Proceed north on Route 15 for about five miles, and take the exit for Weldon Road (Milton/Oak Ridge). After about one mile on Weldon Road, you'll pass a sign indicating that you have entered Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. In another 1.5 miles, you'll pass the entrance to Saffin Pond on the right. Continue for one mile beyond Saffin Pond, passing an entrance to a camping area on the left. Just beyond, you'll pass another entrance on the right. Turn left at the next park entrance - this one, an entrance to a picnic area on the left - and continue ahead to the parking area.

Description

The 3,200-acre Mahlon Dickerson Reservation is the largest park in the Morris County park system. It has a number of developed recreational facilities, but also many remote sections. This hike, for the most part, follows the white-blazed Pine Swamp Trail, but it also incorporates the scenic Purple Trail.

From the end of the parking area, follow a paved service road marked with the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail, passing through a picnic area. Soon, a sign marks the start of the white-blazed Pine Swamp Trail. Proceed ahead on the road as the paving ends, continuing to follow both white and teal blazes.

In 0.2 mile, you’ll reach a T-intersection, which marks the start of the loop of the Pine Swamp Trail. Turn right and head downhill on a gravel road, stillBrook on the Pine Swam Loop Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin. following the white and teal blazes. After crossing a brook, bear left at  fork and climb gradually.

At the top of the climb, you’ll reach a Y-intersection with a bench. On the right, a triple purple blaze marks the start of the Purple Trail. Turn right, leaving the road, and follow the purple-blazed footpath into the woods. After crossing a level area, the trail descends gradually and curves to the left. In a short distance, you’ll reach a viewpoint over the Jefferson High School and Middle School below and the hills beyond.

The trail continues to descend. As of this writing, the blazing of this trail section is sparse, but the route is obvious. At the base of the descent, the Purple Trail reaches a cascading brook and turns left to parallel it, heading upstream. The trail bears left, away from the brook, descends to the brook in an area where the brook widens into several branches, then again climbs away from the brook.

The Purple Trail ends at a wide woods road – the route of the white-blazed Pine Swamp Loop Trail. Turn right and follow the trail downhill to cross a stream on a wooden footbridge. The trail now climbs gently and bears left at a fork. After crossing a wet area on rocks, it proceeds through dense thickets of moSplit boulders along the Pine Swamp Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.untain laurel.

Soon, you’ll reach an intersection where the white-blazed Pine Swamp Loop Trail turns right. Continue straight ahead, now following the Red Trail, which crosses a stream on a wooden footbridge and uses puncheons to cross a wet area. The Red Trail continues along undulating terrain through mountain laurel and hemlocks, along the way crossing a stream and several wet areas on rocks.

When you reach the end of the Red Trail at a T-intersection with the white-blazed Pine Swamp Trail, turn left onto the Pine Swamp Trail (which you’ll be following for the remainder of the hike). You are now passing by the interesting Pine Swamp, after which the trail is named.  Characterized by spruce, hemlock, rhododendron and mountain laurel, this swamp is remote and gives a feeling of deep wilderness.

After crossing another stream, the trail climbs slightly to reach a junction. An unmarked trail begins on the right (on the park map, this is shown as an orange-blazed trail, although no orange blazes are visible), but you should continue ahead on the white-blazed trail.

Highest Point in Morris County Sign. Photo by Daniel ChazinStill on a wide woods road, the trail now climbs gradually to the highest point in Morris County (1,395 feet), marked by a bench and a sign placed by the Morris County Park Commission. The actual high point is a short distance to the right of the trail.

The trail now begins a steady but gentle descent, soon reaching a fork, where you should bear left. In another half mile, after a slight climb, you’ll reach another junction. Turn left here, then left again in another 75 feet. The second turn once marked the beginning of the green-blazed Boulder Trail, named for the interesting large boulders which can be seen on both sides of the trail. The green blazes have been obliterated (you should continue to follow the white blazes), but the boulders remain.

In another half mile, three pink blazes mark the start of the Pink Trail, which proceeds ahead on the woods road, but you should turn right onto a footpath, continuing to follow the white blazes. When the footpath ends, the trail turns right onto a woods road, then immediately left onto another road (following the sign to the “picnic area”). At the next T-intersection, you turn left again and soon reach the start of the loop of the Pine Swamp Loop Trail (marked by a sign), Turn right (again following the sign to the “picnic area”), and follow the road back to the parking area where the hike began.