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Watchung Reservation Short Loop
This loop hike passes an historic village, a cemetery from the 1700s and an attractive lake.
Allowed on leash
Take I-78 West to Exit 43 (New Providence/Berkeley Heights). At the first traffic light, turn right onto McMane Avenue, then turn left at the T-intersection with Glenside Avenue in 0.7 mile. In 1.2 miles, turn right onto W.R. Tracy Drive (County Route 645) and enter the reservation. When you reach the traffic circle in 1.3 miles, take the first right onto Summit Lane, then bear right onto New Providence Road. The parking area is to the right, where the road makes a sharp left turn.
Proceed west (downhill) on the extension of New Providence Road, marked with the white blazes of the Sierra Trail. At a large sign that reads "Nature Trail," turn left, and follow the white-blazed Sierra Trail, now joined by the Green Trail, across a brook. The trails climb to reach a T-intersection. Turn right here, continuing to follow the green and white blazes, which are also joined by yellow blazes.
At the base of the descent, the green blazes continue ahead, crossing a wide wooden bridge. Turn left here, now following white and orange blazes. Continue ahead at the next junction, where the Orange Trail leaves to the right and the Yellow Trail begins, but at the following junction, turn right, now following only white blazes. Soon, you'll begin to parallel a scenic gorge to the left. Along the way, the Blue Trail joins, and the path begins to descend.
At the end of the gorge, the Blue Trail leaves to the right, but you should turn left, continuing to follow the white-blazed Sierra Trail, which parallels Blue Brook. When the white blazes turn left, uphill, continue ahead on an unmarked footpath along the brook. The path soon descends to the brook, then turns right and crosses it on rocks. On the other side, climb the bank and turn left onto an unmarked path that follows a berm along the side of the hill.
When the path ends at a wide dirt road, bear right and continue uphill to a T-intersection, then turn right onto a paved road, entering the Deserted Village of Feltville. The village was named for David Felt, who founded it in 1845, and several historic buildings have been restored.
The Sierra Trail follows the paved road through the village, passing several restored buildings. In a quarter mile, just beyond a private residence, the trail turns right onto a bridle path. In 200 feet, it turns right again and soon passes a small cemetery with graves of settlers from the 1700s.
The road soon narrows to a footpath which meanders through the woods. In a third of a mile, the white-blazed trail turns right, descends on a dirt road for 400 feet, then turns left, leaving the road, and immediately bears right onto a footpath.
Soon, the trail reaches the stone dam of Surprise Lake, built in 1845 to provide power for David Felt's paper mill. The Sierra Trail continues along the northwestern shore of this long but narrow lake for almost a mile, then turns right at paved Tracy Drive, crossing the lake on the shoulder of the vehicular bridge. On the other side, the white blazes turn left, crossing the road.
Follow the white blazes for only 100 feet and turn right onto an unmarked bridle path. Just beyond, another wide path goes off to the left, but you continue ahead. In 0.2 mile, the white-blazed trail rejoins the bridle path. Continue ahead for the next 0.4 mile, but do not turn left where the white blazes leave the path near the traffic circle; instead, bear right, continuing to follow the unmarked bridle path across the paved road.
n 500 feet, leave the bridle path and bear right onto the white-blazed Sierra Trail, which crosses the Red Trail and then joins it. In about half a mile, the trail reaches the Trailside Nature and Science Center. Turn right onto the path leading to the center, then turn left to reach the parking area where you began the hike.