South Mountain Reservation

Overview

This loop hike includes a panoramic viewpoint, a scenic waterfall, and a stroll along a pleasant stream.

Details
Time:
4 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Length:
5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Waterfall, Public Transportation, Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Essex
State:
NJ
Maps/Books
Web Map:

Map:

South Mountain Reservation trail map (available from the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs, (973) 268-3500 x238)


Publication
First Published:
02/24/2004

Updated/Verified:
05/15/2010
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


View South Mountain Reservation in a larger map

See also
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
40.726645,-74.304805

Driving Directions

Take Interstate Route 78 to Exit 50B (Maplewood, Millburn) and continue north on Vaux Hall Road for 0.7 mile. After crossing a bridge, turn left onto Millburn Avenue. In 0.5 mile, the traffic is routed to the right, onto Essex Street. After passing the Millburn railroad station, turn right onto Lackawanna Place. At the next intersection (Glen Avenue), turn right and then make an immediate left into the Locust Grove parking area.

Train

To reach the trailhead by public transportation, take the NJ Transit Morristown Line to the Millburn station. (From Bergen County, you can take a train on the Main Line/Bergen County Line to Secaucus Junction and transfer there to a Morristown Line train.) From the western end of the platform at the Millburn station, walk north along Lackawanna Place to Glen Avenue, then cross Glen Avenue and enter the park at the Locust Grove parking area.

Description

From the kiosk at the northeast corner of the parking area, follow the yellow-blazed Lenape Trail, which bears right onto a gravel road leading to a picnic area. The trail continues through the picnic area, then bears left and begins to climb the First Watchung Mountain on a wide path. It bears right at a fork, then turns right at a T intersection (marked by a chain-link fence) onto a woods road, continuing to climb. At the top of the ascent, follow the yellow blazes as they turn left, leaving the road, and continue on a footpath to the paved Crest Drive (closed to vehicular traffic), where they turn left along the road.

As the road curves to the right, the New York City skyline may be seen to the left on a clear day (if there are no leaves on the trees), with the towers of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge visible in the distance to the right. Just ahead – before reaching a plaque on a boulder commemorating a Revolutionary War battle that took place near here – the trail turns left, leaving the road, and descends to an observation platform with stone pillars at the site of Washington Rock, from which George Washington surveyed the countryside during the American Revolution. The view from here is to the southwest, with Millburn and the NJ Transit railroad tracks visible below (partially obscured by the trees), and Watchung Reservation – the continuation of the Watchung range beyond the Millburn-Springfield gap – ahead in the distance. This is a good place to take a break.

When you’re ready to continue, turn left and follow the Lenape Trail, which descends on a footpath. Soon, you’ll notice an unmarked side trail to the left that leads to a fenced overlook over an abandoned quarry, with Millburn and the Watchung range in the distance. A short distance beyond, the Lenape Trail crosses a bridle path and enters a remote, less-used area of the reservation. After a short descent, it crosses a small stream, with the Maple Falls Cascade – where the stream plunges down a 25-foot sluiceway of exposed basalt – to the left, downstream.

The trail now follows a relatively level footpath. After crossing another bridle path, it turns sharply right at Lilliput Knob and reaches Beech Brook Cascades – where two brooks converge – about two miles from the start. Beyond the cascade, the trail begins a gradual climb, paralleling a brook in a shallow ravine to the right. After bearing left and crossing a bridle path, the trail climbs to reach Mines Point – named for exploratory pits dug by copper prospectors circa 1800. Here, the trail bears right and heads north, first climbing gently through a relatively open area, then descending to reach Ball’s Bluff, where old stone pillars are remnants of a picnic shelter built in 1908.

The Lenape Trail continues to descend, crossing a bridle path on the way. Towards the base of the descent, it begins to parallel a stream in a ravine to the right. After crossing the stream and turning left, it reaches an eroded road, turns right and climbs to the top of a rise. The trail bears left, leaving the road, descends along a switchback, then turns sharply left. Just beyond, it reaches the base of Hemlock Falls, a scenic waterfall, and crosses a footbridge over the stream. A red-blazed trail climbs stone steps to the top of the waterfall, and benches afford an opportunity to rest and enjoy the beautiful setting.

From the falls, the Lenape Trail heads west along the stream. After again crossing the stream, it turns left and soon reaches a junction with a wide bridle path, marked by a signpost for the Rahway Trail. The Lenape Trail turns right at this junction, but you should continue ahead, now following the white blazes of the Rahway Trail. This trail will be your route for the remainder of the hike.

After curving to the left, the trail turns right and crosses the Rahway River on rocks. It immediately turns left to parallel the stream. Soon, it climbs gradually to run along the side of the hill. This is a particularly beautiful section of the hike.

In about half a mile from the stream crossing, you’ll reach an intersection with a bridle path. Turn left, following the white blazes, recross the river on a stone-faced bridge, and immediately turn right onto a footpath.

The white-blazed trail now heads south, running between the bridle path (to the left) and the river (to the right). For most the way, the trail closely parallels the river. In half a mile, the road on the opposite side of the river (Brookside Drive) begins to run directly along the river. Just beyond, in a rhododendron grove, the white blazes briefly join the bridle path, then continue ahead when the bridle path bears left. The trail joins the bridle path briefly several more times, so pay careful attention to the blazes.

You’ll pass to the left of Campbell’s Pond, where a large abandoned brick building – which once served as a pumping station for the City of Orange – may be seen along the river. After passing Diamond Mill Pond, the Rahway Trail turns left, away from the river, and it ends at the Locust Grove parking area, where the hike began.

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

River crossing still tricky

Did this as a trail run again a few weeks ago, and the water crossing on the Rahway Trail is still tricky, as noted. Some work with stones to make it a bit easier (and drier) to cross would be a big help.

River crossing and tricky sections of Rahway trail

We did this trail today and should say we really enjoyed our time here. Fall colors is gorgeous. From that perspective, I guess this is the best time to hike here. But the foliage, wetness etc also make some sections in the Rahway trail tricky to pass.

Of course, we are novice hikers, but no strangers to uneven terrain or long walks. As Elena mentioned below, we found the rock hopping across Rahway tricky. Probably the river must have been fuller than it would have been in summer. We managed to cross, but not before getting our boots fully submerged into water (ah that ickyness :|).

Probably Irene had its toll here. We found many fallen trees and sections of Rahway trail which had a good deal of overgrowth (one section in Rhododendron grove had to be walked around since it was difficult to pass through). This also made the crossing the woodlands section (the section where we climb gradually from the river to walk along the side of the hill) a bit scary. There were places where we could not get proper footing and had to depend on our balance to get through.

Also, towards the end of the trail (sometime after the Diamond Mills pond I guess), there was a section which went down near the river and curved sharply. We found it difficult to pass through (may be it's just us).

That being said, Rahway trail was gorgeous and the scary, treacherous section (for us) was the also the most beautiful :) Lenape trail was also good, but comparatively easier to complete and the payoff (Hemlock falls) provided for a nice break.

We would definitely visit again, but will tread cautiously in Rahway trails (or take the alternative bridle paths where things get tricky).

Rocky river crossing

I did this hike yesterday and it was BEAUTIFUL in the fall leaves. A warning--the river crossing just after you get on the white-blazed trail is tricky: "After curving to the left, the trail turns right and crosses the Rahway River on rocks"--maybe the river is fuller than usual, because I thought the rocks were too far apart for this crossing! I am about 5'2" and made it across with my hiking companions, but we all were a bit concerned we'd end up in the river!

 

Also, the blazes can be hard to see since they are just white or yellow paint splotched on trees. Some of the blazes were faded and almost invisible.

 

We did see lots of woodpeckers, some hawks, many chipmunks and squirrels. Completed in about 4.5 hours (with a lunch-stop).

Trail conditions

Can anyone who's done this hike comment on how these trails compare to the trails in Harriman? Are they as rocky/rooty? Or are they a little easier on the feet? :)

Thanks

S. Mountain Reservation Hike

It's not as rocky as Harriman trails. Last part of hike is along the river so you can expect to walk on some roots in spots. It's a nice hike considering the park is close to suburbia.

Thanks!

Thanks for your reply- i actually went and did it today, although i ran it, and added the Orange-blazed Turtle Back Trail to make it an even 8 miles. I agree, much less technical than Harriman in most spots (i asked, because trying to run in Harriman is an exercise in frustration for me), and once you get "in deep", you would never know how close you are to suburbia.

Also, this is one of the best hikes/runs for anyone like myself who relies on public transportation- the reservation couldn't be more convenient to get to from the train station.