Rattlesnake Swamp Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop from Millbrook Road

Overview

This loop hike combines a stroll through a dense forest along an interesting swamp with a ridgetop walk, featuring panoramic views and a fire tower.

Details
Time:
3 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Length:
5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Warren
State:
NJ
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Buy Book:
Publication
First Published:
09/22/2006

Updated/Verified:
05/29/2016
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

South-facing view from the Catfish Fire Tower. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

Parking


View Rattlesnake Swamp/AT parking in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.058110,-74.964450
Driving Directions

Take I-80 West to Exit 12 (Blairstown/Hope). Turn right at the bottom of the ramp and follow County Route 521 north for 4.7 miles to N.J. Route 94. Turn left onto Route 94 and follow it for 0.2 mile to a traffic light. Turn right at the traffic light, but then continue straight ahead on Bridge Street (do not follow signs for Route 521, which immediately makes a second right). Proceed to a “stop” sign at the top of the hill, turn sharply right, then almost immediately turn left onto Millbrook Road. Follow Millbrook Road for six miles until you reach the crest of the Kittatinny Ridge. The hike begins where the white-blazed Appalachian Trail crosses Millbrook Road and heads south. Here, a gravel road, blocked by a gate (marked “Fire Road – Do Not Block), goes off to the left. Limited parking is available at the trailhead, but if no spaces are available, continue ahead for another 500 feet to a second parking area on the right side of the road.

Description

Boy Scouts take in the southeast-facing view from the intersection of the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail with the A.T. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

From the gate, proceed ahead on the gravel road, marked with the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). In about a quarter of a mile, the road curves sharply right and enters a rhododendron grove. A short distance beyond, the white blazes of the A.T. leave to the left, but you should continue ahead along the gravel road.

About 300 feet beyond the A.T. turnoff, you will see a sign for the orange-blazed Rattlesnake Swamp Trail on the right side of the road. Turn right, leaving the road, and enter the woods on a footpath. The trail proceeds through a dense forest of mountain laurel, hemlock and rhododendron, with the swamp to your right and a secondary ridge beyond. You are now traversing a wild, remote area, and although you probably won’t encounter any rattlesnakes, you are likely to see other wildlife.

At one point, the trail detours to the left, climbing a little further up the hill to avoid a wet section of the former trail route. When the trail goes back down to the level of the swamp, you’ll tunnel under dense rhododendron thickets and then cross a stream, the inlet of Catfish Pond, on rocks. Soon, the swamp ends, the vegetation becomes less dense and the trail descends a little.

East-facing view from the intersection of the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail with the A.T. Photo by Daniel Chazin.After crossing the stream three more times, the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail approaches Catfish Pond, which is visible to the right. It does not reach the shore of the pond, though, and it soon bears left, away from the pond. The trail emerges onto a woods road, which it follows, past an abandoned concrete slab on the right, to a T-intersection. To the right, the road leads to the Mohican Outdoor Center, operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club, which offers lodging to hikers (for more information, go to www.outdoors.org/lodging-camping/Lodges/mohican/index.cfm), but you should turn left, continuing to follow the orange blazes.

The trail now begins a gradual climb up the Kittatinny Ridge, following a woods road with a rocky treadway. After a while, the grade steepens as the trail narrows to a footpath. The trail then levels off, only to climb again. Finally, after another level stretch, you’ll climb once more to reach the crest of the ridge. The Rattlesnake Swamp Trail now descends briefly, and it ends at a junction with the A.T. on the eastern face of the Kittatinny Ridge.

The rock ledges at the junction afford a panoramic east-facing view over the Great Valley. To the south, you can see the Upper and Lower Yards Creek Reservoirs, which are pumped-storage facilities used to generate electricity. This is a good place to take a break and enjoy the view.

Catfish Fire Tower. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

When you’re ready to continue, proceed north along the A.T. The trail runs close to the edge of the ridge, and you’ll be afforded more views over the Great Valley to the east. In another mile, you’ll reach the base of the 60-foot-high Catfish Fire Tower, which affords panoramic 360° views. If the fire tower observer is present, he may invite you to climb the tower to enjoy the views.

From the fire tower, the A.T. begins to descend along a gravel road (the access road to the tower). Soon, the white blazes turn left, leaving the road, and descend on a rocky footpath. Continue to follow the white-blazed A.T., which will lead you back to the starting point of the hike. After briefly rejoining the road, the A.T. again leaves the road, this time to the right, and follows a footpath downhill. The trail goes under power lines, passes through a dense rhododendron thicket, and reaches another junction with the road. Turn right, now retracing your steps along the road you followed at the start of the hike. In another ten minutes, you’ll reach the trailhead where the hike began.


To view a photo collection for this hike, click here.

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

Rattlesnakes

We hiked this today, 6/26/16, and ran into a young rattlesnake on the AT portion!!

Rattlesnakes and bears

Hmm, when I hiked this loop about 10 years ago, I ran into five (5) bears on the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail portion of the hike.  Didn't see any bears or snakes on my most recent hike of this loop (last month), though.

Update - April 2016

We hiked this loop starting at the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center instead of Millbrook Rd. The trail is in great shape, not too wet, and fairly well blazed. This is actually one of the trails we supervise the maintenance for, so we were happy to see that it was well kept and frequently used. It will be spectacular when the rhododendron and mountain laurel are blooming! Views from the AT are also not to be missed. Kori & Bill Phillips

Trailhead coords

Exact trailhead coords are: 41.058110,-74.964450.  Luckily trail is relatively easy to follow because blazes are poorly marked.  Though hike description is excellent, wise to download Map #121 to verify your path.