This hike follows a section of the Morris Canal, which connected the Hudson and Delaware Rivers via a route that traversed Morris County. When it was opened in 1831, the canal was considered an engineering marvel. It used 23 locks and 23 inclined planes to ascend from sea level to the 914-foot-high Lake Hopatcong and then descend to the Delaware River. Railroads made the canal obsolete, and...
This hike follows a section of the Morris Canal, which connected the Hudson and Delaware Rivers via a route that traversed Morris County. When it was opened in 1831, the canal was considered an engineering marvel. It used 23 locks and 23 inclined planes to ascend from sea level to the 914-foot-high Lake Hopatcong and then descend to the Delaware River. Railroads made the canal obsolete, and much of the canal was obliterated when it was abandoned in 1924.
Begin the hike by proceeding ahead along the long, narrow parking area, which is actually a filled-in section of the old Morris Canal. Soon, you will reach a section of the canal that has been restored. Signs along the towpath relate the history of the canal and include a map of the canal in Wharton. Continue ahead on the canal towpath, with the Rockaway River below on the right. As you walk along, look up at the hillside across the canal and note the extensive stone retaining wall. This wall was built to support the tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s High Bridge Branch. The railroad was abandoned many years ago, and this section of the roadbed has been converted to a hiking trail and will be your return route.
Soon, you’ll reach Lock 2 East of the Morris Canal. When the canal was abandoned in 1924, the lock was buried in debris, but it has since been restored. Most of the stone used to reconstruct the lock is original. The Lock Tender's House (occupied as late as the 1970s and restored in 2022) is across the canal.
Continue ahead on the grassy towpath. The wetland on your left formerly served as a basin for the canal. A short distance beyond, the canal towpath ends at a cinder slope. Climb the path leading up the slope to the railbed of the abandoned Lake Hopatcong Railroad, a subsidiary of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The scrap-metal yard west of the railroad has obliterated the remains of the canal in this area (before it was abandoned, this was the site of Inclined Plane 4 East of the canal).
Turn left and follow the railbed. In a short distance, bear left at a fork and follow this branch of the railbed as it curves to the left. Just ahead, you begin to follow the former High Bridge Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
The right-of-way now emerges onto the power line clearing, with the former canal basin below on the left and the canal itself beyond. From this high vantage point, you can get a good view of the Lock Tender's House and Lock 2 East. Beyond the clearing, the right-of-way enters a wooded area, with an attractive forested slope on the right, and the canal and towpath below. This is a particularly beautiful section of the hike.
Towards the eastern end of the parking area, the railbed ends as it approaches a home which has been built on the right-of-way. Bear left and follow a wide gravel path which descends to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 06/13/2013 updated/verified on 08/23/2022
This loop hike parallels a restored section of the historic Morris Canal and returns on the embankment of an abandoned railroad.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.