Blue Mountain Lake and Hemlock Pond Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take I-80 West to Exit 12 (Blairstown/Hope). Turn right at the bottom of the ramp and follow County Route 521 north for 4.7 miles to N.J. Route 94. Turn left onto Route 94 and follow it for 0.2 mile to a traffic light. Turn right at the traffic light, but then continue straight ahead on Bridge Street (do not follow signs for Route 521, which immediately makes a second right). Proceed to a “stop” sign at the top of the hill, turn sharply right, then almost immediately turn left onto Millbrook Road. Follow Millbrook Road for 7.2 miles, climbing up to the Kittatinny Ridge and then descending. At the base of the descent, in Millbrook Village, turn right onto Old Mine Road and continue 1.5 miles north to a large white house. Turn right at this house, following the sign to Blue Mountain Lake, and continue for 1.3 miles to the parking area on the left.
This hike loops around two scenic lakes – Blue Mountain Lake and Hemlock Pond. Blue Mountain Lake, situated close to the parking area, is heavily used in summer months, as swimming is permitted (swimming is allowed in natural bodies of water in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area even if lifeguards are not present), while the beautiful but remote Hemlock Pond is much less visited. The hike follows the Blue Mountain Lake Trail, which includes both an Inner and Outer Loop, as well as several connecting trails, and the Hemlock Pond Loop.
From the northeast end of the parking area, near the kiosk, head into the woods. In 40 feet, bear right onto a blue/red-blazed connecting trail that heads downhill. At the next intersection, the western leg of the red-blazed Inner Loop begins on the left, but you should proceed ahead on the paved road, continuing to follow the blue/red-blazed connecting trail.
Soon, you’ll cross a culvert over a stream. Just beyond, the blue-blazed Outer Loop begins on the right, but you should continue ahead, now following the red blazes of the eastern leg of the Inner Loop. Soon, you’ll reach an open grassy area. The woods road you have been following continues ahead, but you should turn left and climb to Blue Mountain Lake. Continue to follow the red-blazed trail, which turns right onto a footpath that closely parallels the lakeshore, with views over the lake. Blueberry bushes are plentiful in this area, with the fruit ripening during the month of July.
As you approach an arm of the lake, the trail bears right and heads away from the lake, soon reaching a T-intersection with a grassy woods road. Turn left onto the road, continuing to follow the red blazes. Soon, a branch road begins on the left, but continue ahead on the main road.
At the next junction, turn right onto another blue/red-blazed connecting trail, which climbs gradually. Follow this connecting trail for about 750 feet to its end at a T-intersection, then turn left onto another woods road – the route of the blue-blazed Outer Loop. The trail descends to cross a stream on a culvert, then climbs gradually through an oak, birch and maple forest, with an understory of mountain laurel and blueberry bushes. After leveling off and then descending slightly, you’ll pass a small pond on the left that is beginning to grow in. Soon, the road curves to the left and passes through a hemlock forest, with an understory of mountain laurel.
At the next T-intersection, turn left onto a blue/green connecting trail, but in 60 feet, turn right onto a path that leads down to the shore of Hemlock Pond, whose entire shoreline is dominated by evergreens. This is a good place to stop and take a break, surrounded by the beauty of this scenic pond.
Return to the main trail and turn left to follow the green-blazed Hemlock Pond Trail in the counter-clockwise direction around the pond. You’re now proceeding through a dense stand of hemlocks. The hemlocks grow so thickly here that hardly any sunlight reaches the ground, with the result that there is no understory in this area.
A short distance ahead, you’ll reach an intersection where the orange/green-blazed Hemlock-Crater Connector begins on the right. Continue ahead on the green-blazed trail, but you might first want to follow another path (opposite the orange/green connector) down to the pond. From here, you can see the dam at the opposite end of the pond.
In half a mile, after continuing through a more open forest, you’ll reach another T-intersection. Here, the yellow-blazed Woods Road Trail begins on the right, but you should turn left to continue along the green-blazed Hemlock Pond Trail.
Soon, you’ll reach the dam of the pond. Bear left and cross the dam, which affords more views of the lake. Rock ledges at the southwest corner of the pond provide a nice place to stop and savor its beauty.
Proceed ahead on a gravel road, and in 300 feet, you’ll come to another T-intersection. Turn right onto the blue-blazed Outer Loop and continue through an area dominated by young black birch trees, with occasional rows of boulders on your left. In about a mile, you’ll arrive at a fork in the road. Bear right here and, in 300 feet, turn right onto a footpath that leads up to slabs of glacially polished bedrock. Continue ahead through the woods to an excellent viewpoint, with stunted pitch pines. This rocky outlook, known as Indian Rocks, offers views over the Delaware River valley and the Pocono plateau in Pennsylvania.
After taking in this view, return to the fork in the road, bear right onto a red/blue-blazed connector trail, then in 50 feet turn left (here the blazes switch to blue/red) and descend. When you reach a T-intersection at the base of the descent, turn right and follow the red-blazed Inner Loop along a crumbling paved road built for a development (the houses in this former residential community were demolished when the federal government acquired the property for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in the 1960s).
As you descend, you’ll notice Blue Mountain Lake through the trees on your left. At the end of the lake, follow the red blazes, which turn left, leaving the road, and descend on a footpath to the dam of the lake (with another fine view over the lake). Turn right at the dam and continue along the red-blazed trail to the next intersection, then turn right and follow the blue/red blazes back to the parking area where the hike began.