A.T. Stairway to Heaven
Directions to trailhead
Take I-287 to Exit 52 (N.J. Route 23) and proceed north on N.J. 23 for 13.7 miles to Stockholm-Vernon Road (County Route 515). Turn right and head north for 8.5 miles to the junction with N.J. Route 94. Continue straight ahead and proceed north on N.J. 94 for 2.3 miles to a parking area for the Appalachian Trail on the right (the parking area is 0.6 mile north of the intersection of N.J. 94 with Maple Grange Road).
This hike climbs a section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) that was constructed about 1990 by Trail Conference volunteers and rehabilitated between 2016 and 2019 by the West Jersey Trail Crew. It leads to Pinwheel's Vista, a spectacular viewpoint named for Paul DeCoste, who helped build this section of the trail.
From the parking area, proceed up a small embankment on stone-and-log steps and continue on a wide footpath, passing a kiosk on the right. After crossing under power lines, the trail reenters the woods, but it soon emerges onto a successional field, with many young cedar trees. Looming ahead is the imposing Wawayanda Mountain, which you will soon climb. The trail is marked with the 2-inch-by-6-inch white paint blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) (where the trail crosses open fields, the blazes are on wooden posts).
Soon, the trail crosses an old stone wall and re-enters the woods. It curves to the right and begins to run along the base of the mountain, weaving its way through an area of jumbled boulders that have tumbled down from the mountain. The trail then bears left and begins its 900-foot ascent of Wawayanda Mountain.
The climb basically follows two long switchbacks - first to the right, then to the left. Although, for the most part, the grade is moderate, the treadway is quite rocky, and you’ll want to exercise caution with each step you take. After climbing about 250 vertical feet in 0.3 mile, you’ll reach a rock outcrop on the right, with a steep drop. Known as Annie’s Bluff, this spot affords a view of the Heaven Hill Farm below and Pochuck Mountain in the background. A short distance beyond, the trail switches back to the left.
You’ll know that you’re getting near the top when the trail turns left, runs along a ledge on the side of the mountain for a short distance, then turns right and steeply climbs several sets of rock steps (these steps are the ones that have been nicknamed “Stairway to Heaven”). Not far beyond the top of the rock steps, you’ll come to a huge cairn. Leave the A.T. and continue straight ahead on a blue-blazed trail to Pinwheel’s Vista. "Pinwheel" was the nickname of Paul DeCoste, who helped build this section of trail. Vernon Valley is directly below, with Pochuck Mountain in the background and the Kittatinnies beyond. On a clear day, you can also see the Shawangunks and Catskills in the distance to the north. You'll want to rest here and enjoy the views.
When you're ready to continue, return to the A.T. and resume your descent. Retrace your steps on the A.T. all the way back to the parking area where you left your car.