From the kiosk at the southwest comer of the parking area, follow a blue-blazed trail gently uphill. In 0.2 mile, the blue-blazed trail joins the red-dot-on-white-blazed Iris Trail. Turn right and follow the joint blue/red trail a short distance to a four-way junction, with a four-foot-high drainage pipe on the left. Here, the red-on-white-blazed Iris Trail turns right, and the yellow-on-white...
From the kiosk at the southwest comer of the parking area, follow a blue-blazed trail gently uphill. In 0.2 mile, the blue-blazed trail joins the red-dot-on-white-blazed Iris Trail. Turn right and follow the joint blue/red trail a short distance to a four-way junction, with a four-foot-high drainage pipe on the left. Here, the red-on-white-blazed Iris Trail turns right, and the yellow-on-white-blazed Mashipacong Trail continues ahead. You should turn left onto the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.), which you’ll be following for the next 3.3 miles.
After passing an interesting cliff on the right, the A.T. continues ahead on a old woods road. Soon, it bears right and begins to climb to the ridge of the Kittatinny Mountain. It reaches a rocky summit and continues along the ridge, with many jagged rocks along the footpath.
About a mile from the start, the Blue Dot Trail leaves to the right (it leads down to Sawmill Lake). Continue ahead on the A.T. A short distance beyond, you’ll reach a west-facing viewpoint, with Sawmill Lake visible below. The trail now turns left and descends on a rocky footpath to a valley between the two ridges of the mountain. It then climbs very steeply to the eastern ridge. At the top of the climb, there are views to the right of the western ridge. After continuing to the eastern side of the ridge, you’ll reach another viewpoint (elevation 1,622 feet) – this one, facing east, is largely obscured by vegetation. The trail continues south along the ridge, descending gradually.
In another mile along the ridge, you’ll come out on a panoramic east-facing viewpoint from open rocks to the left of the trail. Lake Rutherford, which you’ll be visiting on your return trip, is visible to the left, and the rural Wallkill Valley is beyond. You’ll immediately pass another viewpoint, after which the trail goes back into the woods. In another 0.2 mile, you’ll reach another east-facing viewpoint from open rocks on the left. This viewpoint, known as Dutch Shoe Rock, offers a broad view over the Wallkill Valley, but Lake Rutherford is not visible.
The trail now bears left and begins to descend. At the base of the descent, a blue-blazed side trail on the left leads 0.4 mile to the Rutherford Shelter – a wooden shelter with a nearby spring, where overnight camping is permitted. A side hike to the shelter and back will add about half an hour to your hike.
After climbing a little and turning sharply right, you’ll reach a junction with the red-dot-on-white-blazed Iris Trail. Turn left here and follow the Iris Trail, an old woods road. This trail, for the most part, is relatively level with a grassy surface, and it is a welcome contrast to the jagged rocks along the A.T.
In three-quarters of a mile, you’ll come to a junction with another woods road. Turn left here, staying on the Iris Trail, then bear right at the next fork. In half a mile, you’ll cross a wooden footbridge over the inlet of Lake Rutherford and begin to parallel the lake.
Soon, you’ll pass a rock outcrop on the right with a view of the lake. Then, just before the trail bears left, away from the lake, a side trail on the right leads down to the lake. This is another good spot to take a break and enjoy the views over the scenic lake. Swimming is not permitted, however, since the lake serves as the municipal water supply for the town of Sussex.
After another mile and a half on the Iris Trail, you’ll cross a footbridge over a stream and reach the junction with the blue-blazed trail you followed at the start of the hike. Turn right onto the blue-blazed trail and follow it back to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 08/01/2002 updated/verified on 08/14/2019
This loop hike ascends to several viewpoints, parallels the shore of scenic Lake Rutherford, and combines a walk on the rugged Appalachian Trail (A.T.) with a stroll along the Iris Trail, which follows a gentle woods road.
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.