The 650-acre Merrill Creek Reservoir, owned by a consortium of power companies, is a pumped-storage facility, completed in 1988. It stores 16...
The 650-acre Merrill Creek Reservoir, owned by a consortium of power companies, is a pumped-storage facility, completed in 1988. It stores 16 billion gallons of water that can be released, during low-water periods, to the Delaware River to augment river water used by electric generating stations. Although the route of this hike - which encircles the reservoir -- is mostly level, portions of the treadway (especially towards the start of the hike) are rocky, so hikers should use care. You’ll be following the black-blazed Perimeter Trail for most of the way, but also use several other trails towards the beginning of the hike.
To begin the hike, walk to the rear of the visitor center, where a trail leads into the woods. Follow this trail for a short distance to a fork, then bear left, following the red markers of the Timber Trail. The trail passes through a wooded area, where many trees were uprooted by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and then runs along the shore of the reservoir. You’ll notice many dead trees in the water near the shore; these trees were flooded when the reservoir was filled with water in 1988.
Soon you’ll reach a small beach (with a bench) on the left, with a panoramic view over the reservoir. Here, the trail turns right and begins to follow a woods road which heads away from the reservoir. At the next junction, take the left fork. You are now following the blue-blazed Shoreline Trail.
A short distance beyond (at the top of a rise), concrete steps on the right lead to the stone foundations of the former Cathers farmhouse (surrounded by a wooden fence). After crossing a wet area on a boardwalk, you’ll pass more stone ruins on both sides of the trail.
Just beyond, the yellow-blazed Farmstead Trail comes in from the right. You should continue ahead, now following both blue and yellow blazes. At the next junction, the yellow-blazed trail proceeds ahead, but you should turn left to continue on the blue-blazed Shoreline Trail. On the left, you’ll notice the stone ruins of a lime kiln.
Soon, you’ll reach a viewpoint over the reservoir in an open area. Here, the trail turns right and heads uphill on a grassy road, shortcutting a peninsula that juts into the reservoir. Upon reaching a narrow arm of the reservoir, it right again and follows a rocky footpath parallel to the shore of the reservoir. You’ll notice more drowned trees in the water.
After paralleling the reservoir for some distance, the blue trail turns uphill and reaches a T-junction. Turn left, now following yellow markers. You’ll soon pass a 1.0-mile marker (actually, you’ve gone about two miles by this point) and reach another trail junction. Here, you should turn left, following the sign for the Perimeter Trail, and cross Upper Merrill Creek on a wooden footbridge (use caution, as the bridge was damaged by Hurricane Sandy). You will be following the black-blazed Perimeter Trail for the remainder of the hike.
After crossing the bridge, the trail turns left and follows an attractive footpath along the northern shore of the arm of the reservoir, passing through a dense stand of fir trees and running along the shore in several spots. In another three-quarters of a mile, after briefly joining a woods road, you’ll come to the first of four dams that hold back the waters of the reservoir. Here, the trail turns left and crosses the crushed-rock dam (shown on the map as "NW 2 Dike"), with paved Fox Farm Road just beyond. The dam affords a splendid view of the reservoir. Beyond the dam, follow a dirt road which curves to the right, with views to the north over the Kittatinny Mountains and the Delaware Water Gap.
The trail now crosses a paved access road, then bears right and continues around a locked gate to cross another crushed-rock dam (shown on the map as "NW 1 Dike"). The Inlet-Outlet Tower, which controls the flow of water between the Delaware River and the reservoir, is immediately to the left. Beyond the dam, the trail continues along a woods road through a forested area.
After passing through an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy, you’ll come to a junction. The trail to the left leads down to an observation point along the shore of the reservoir (an optional side trip – but you’ll be afforded many other views of the reservoir from the Perimeter Trail). Bear right at this junction, and almost immediately, you’ll reach another intersection. Turn left, passing a bench which overlooks a narrow slice of the reservoir, then turn right and continue on a footpath which descends gradually.
Bear left at the next junction to continue on the black-blazed Perimeter Trail. Just beyond, you’ll pass through a forest of red pines that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. After passing another viewpoint over the reservoir on the left, you’ll proceed through a section of the red pine forest that was not affected as severely by the hurricane and emerge onto a paved road. Turn left, go through a stile around a locked gate, and cross the main dam of the reservoir. (Do not follow a branch of the trail that leads right and descends below the dam.) The dam provides excellent views of the reservoir as well as a south-facing vista over the hills of Warren County. At the end of the dam, the trail continues along a wide gravel road, passing a 4.5-mile marker. It continues through a beautiful meadow and then crosses the fourth and final dam (shown on the map as "SE Dike").
A short distance beyond the end of the dam, you’ll pass the 5.0-mile marker. Soon, you’ll pass through another attractive meadow, this one dotted with cedar trees. A short distance beyond, you’ll reach the boat launch and boat trailer parking area. Continue ahead through the parking area, climb wooden stairs to the right of a small frame building (used by the attendant), and continue to climb on a footpath, bearing left at the next junction. The Perimeter Trail ends at a circular drive adjacent to the visitor center. Continue ahead to the main parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 09/21/2004 updated/verified on 01/01/2013
This loop hike circles the scenic Merrill Creek Reservoir, passing historic remnants of the former agricultural uses of the area and several panoramic viewpoints.
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
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- 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.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- 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.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- 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.