Highlands/Blue/Yellow Trails Loop from Saffin Pond
Directions to trailhead
Take I-80 to Exit 34B. Proceed north for 5.0 miles on N.J. Route 15, and get off at the exit for Weldon Road and Milton. After about 1.3 miles on Weldon Road, you will pass a sign marking the entrance to the Saffin-Rock Rill area of Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. Continue for another 1.5 miles (2.8 miles from Route 15) and turn right into the Saffin Pond parking area.
On the southeast side of the parking area, you will notice a triple black-diamond-on-teal blaze, marking the start of a connector trail to the Highlands Trail. Follow the black-diamond-on-teal blazes, which head east along Saffin Pond. Several side trails on the right lead to viewpoints over the pond.
At the southeast corner of the pond, turn right and proceed along the dam until you reach the bridge over its outlet. Do not cross the bridge; rather, bear sharply left onto a gravel path – the route of the teal-blazed Highlands Trail. Continue to follow the Highlands Trail as it ascends gradually along a woods road. At the top of the climb (marked by a bench), bear left at a T-intersection and continue to follow the teal diamond blazes along a woods road.
In a third of a mile, you’ll reach a junction with the Yellow Trail and the Blue Trail. Turn right, leaving the Highlands Trail, and continue on the Blue Trail, which follows a relatively level, winding route, crossing a number of low rock outcrops. Soon, it begins a gradual descent, but after traversing a long, open rock, it begins to climb. After reaching the crest of the rise, the Blue Trail begins a steady descent on a winding footpath. It levels off, crosses an open rock ledge with a balanced boulder, and continues to descend.
After leveling off again and passing cliffs on the left, the Blue Trail resumes its descent. In a short distance, the trail crosses a trench, bears right, and continues along a berm parallel to the trench. The berm and trench are remnants of mining operations in the area, likely the remains of the water supply system for the Moses Hopping Forge at the Weldon Mine, which operated from 1823 to 1890. Soon, the Blue Trail bears left, away from the trench and berm. It crosses a stream on a wide wooden footbridge and bears left. After a level stretch, the trail bears right and begins a short climb. At the crest of the rise—just beyond a large boulder topped with ferns to the left of the trail—the Blue Trail turns right onto a woods road. The road soon narrows to a footpath as the trail continues to ascend, crossing several rock outcrops along the way.
After a short descent, the Blue Trail reaches a junction with the Yellow Trail. Turn left onto the Yellow Trail, which descends gradually on a woods road. At the base of the descent, the trail crosses a stream on rocks. In another 500 feet, it crosses another stream on a wooden bridge.
A short distance beyond, follow the Yellow Trail as it turns left, leaving the woods road, and begins to climb on switchbacks. On the way up, it twice crosses the woods road, which is eroded and blocked by fallen trees. At the crest of the rise, turn right, leaving the Yellow Trail, and head uphill on the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail.
After climbing climb on a moderate grade, you’ll reach a broad overlook to the southeast from a rock ledge to the right of the trail. Except for a few power line towers, no civilization is visible from here; you see only forested hillsides, with Lake Hopatcong visible in the distance to the right. After a slight dip, the trail climbs through a canopy of mountain laurel to reach another viewpoint. This viewpoint, designated as the Headley Overlook, is more popular because it is nearer the road, but the first overlook provides a less obstructed view.
From the overlook, follow the Highlands Trail as it descends on a woods road through more mountain laurel, and bear left at the next T-intersection onto an unmarked gravel road. At the following intersection, bear right as the Highlands/Yellow Trail joins from the left. You’ll be following the Yellow Trail all the way back to the parking area.
The trail now begins to descend. Near the base of the descent, with a paved road visible ahead, the trail turns left. It soon crosses a footbridge over a stream and begins to climb. After passing a road that leaves to the right (it leads to Weldon Road), the Highlands/Yellow Trail reaches the crest of the rise, levels off, and descends a little.
Soon, you’ll reach a fork in the trail. Here, the Highlands Trail takes the left fork and the Blue Trail begins on the left. You should bear right, continuing to follow the Yellow Trail along a woods road. In about half a mile, follow the Yellow Trail as it turns left, leaving the woods road, and continues on a footpath. With Saffin Pond in view ahead, the Yellow Trail turns right and climbs to the parking area where the hike began.