Blue Mountain Loop/A.T. Longer Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take I-80 to Exit 34B and continue north on NJ 15 for about 17 miles. When NJ 15 ends, continue ahead on US 206 North for 6.5 miles, and turn right at a sign for Stokes State Forest. After passing the park office (where a park map may be obtained), you'll reach a kiosk where a seasonal parking fee is charged ($5 weekdays, $10 weekends). Continue ahead on the main park road for 2.1 miles, following signs to the Stony Lake day-use area. Park in the Stony Lake parking area.
From the kiosk at the entrance to the parking area, proceed ahead on the co-aligned Blue Mountain Loop (blue), Stony Brook Trail (brown) and Tower Trail (green), which follow a woods road. In 300 feet, turn left at a double blue blaze and continue on the Blue Mountain Loop, which climbs gradually on a rocky woods road through an attractive mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. Upon reaching the top of a rise, it descends slightly and levels off, now passing through a largely deciduous forest, with an understory of mountain laurel and blueberry.
About a mile from the start, the trail crosses a stream on rocks, climbs parallel to the stream, and again levels off. Then, in another mile, you'll reach a T-intersection. Here, the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail comes in from the right. You should turn left here, following both yellow and blue blazes along a woods road that descends rather steeply. Watch carefully for a turn in only about 500 feet, where the blue blazes leave to the right. Turn right here, and follow the Blue Mountain Loop as it descends on a very rocky footpath.
Soon, you'll reach a clearing with a cabin on the left. This is a good place to take a break (there is a picnic table alongside the cabin). When you're ready to continue, bear right and proceed ahead on the Blue Mountain Loop. The trail now once again follows a relatively level woods road - a welcome respite from the rocky footpath. In about half a mile, it crosses several branches of a stream on rocks.
Just beyond the last branch of the stream, the Blue Mountain Loop turns right, leaving the woods road, and climbs on a footpath, paralleling a stream on the left. After crossing the stream on rocks, the trail levels off. Soon, it crosses another stream and continues through a dense understory of ferns. It then climbs a little more to cross the paved Sunrise Mountain Road. The climb steepens on the other side of the road, and, in a short distance, the trail reaches a panoramic west-facing viewpoint from an open rock ledge, with several pine trees. This is a good spot to take a break.
After climbing a little more, you’ll come to a junction with a side trail with black/blue blazes. Turn right and follow this trail uphill. After a brief level section, this black/blue side trail ends at a junction with the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
Turn right and follow the white-blazed A.T., which heads uphill on a wide, clearly defined path. Soon, you'll notice a parking area on the right side of the trail. A short distance beyond, a path on the right leads to the southern end of the parking area, and the A.T. climbs stone steps. At the top of the steps, a side trail leads left to a panoramic east-facing viewpoint over the Kittatinny Valley from a rock ledge. A bench has been placed here, making it a good spot to take a break.
A short distance ahead, the A.T. reaches a pavilion with stone columns, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. Here, there are views both east and west, but the viewpoint you just passed offers a more pristine setting. The A.T. continues from the southeast corner of the pavilion and begins to descend. After a short level stretch, the trail climbs over a rise and descends to an area with low vegetation, with scrub oak and mountain laurel predominating.
Soon, the A.T. reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail, which begins on the right. You should turn left and continue ahead on the A.T., which climbs steadily for the next 0.1 mile. At the top of the climb, amid a cluster of pines, a short side trail on the right leads to a viewpoint from a rock ledge over the Pocono Mountains to the west.
For the next mile or so, the A.T. follows a rather level footpath along the west side of the ridge, traversing a deciduous forest with an understory of mountain laurel and blueberry. After passing wetlands and a vernal pond on the left, the trail proceeds through mountain laurel thickets. It then crosses wet areas on stepping stones and puncheons and reaches a junction with the brown-blazed Stony Brook Trail, whicht leads down to the Gren Anderson Shelter. Continue ahead on the A.T., which crosses Stony Brook on rocks in another 500 feet. After another level stretch, the trail begins to climb, and about a mile from Stony Brook, it reaches a junction with the dark-green-blazed Tower Trail at a west-facing viewpoint studded with pitch pines.
The Tower Trail will be your return route, but you may wish to proceed ahead a short distance on the A.T. to the Culver Fire Tower. There are panoramic views from the top of the tower, but excellent west-facing views can also be obtained from its base, where there is a large picnic table. After enjoying the views, return to the Tower Trail and follow it down the mountain, back to the parking area where you started the hike. The first part of the descent is very steep, but the grade soon moderates. On the way, you'll cross Sunrise Mountain Road. In 1.2 miles, the trail crosses Stony Brook on a wooden footbridge and turns left onto a level woods road. Make sure to follow the main woods road and the dark green blazes where the road makes a sharp turn to the right after 0.2 mile.