Blue Mountain Loop/A.T. Shorter 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. Turn right onto the Tinsley Trail, which climbs on a woods road, first rather steeply, then more gradually. After crossing an embankment and descending a little, the blue-triangle-blazed Geologic Trail joins from the left. The joint Tinsley/Geologic Trail continues to climb, passing several numbered wands of the Geologic Trail.
After a short level stretch, the Geologic Trail leaves to the left. Continue ahead on the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail, which continues to climb more gradually. It crosses paved Sunrise Mountain Road diagonally to the left and soon ends at a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Turn right onto the A.T., which climbs steadily for about 500 feet. 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.