Flat Rock Brook Loop Hike #1
Directions to trailhead
Take N.J. Route 4 to the Jones Road exit in Englewood. Turn right at the top of the ramp, and continue to the first stop sign, which is Van Nostrand Avenue. Turn right onto Van Nostrand Avenue and continue past the "dead end" sign to the nature center at the top of the hill.
This hike loops around the Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, a 150-acre tract that includes both the 75-acre Allison Woods Park, established in 1924, and an additional 75 acres acquired by the City of Englewood from 1968 to 1978.
The hike begins at a patio by the rear entrance to the nature center. With Quarry Pond on the left, follow the White Loop Trail on an easy uphill grade. After bearing right, the White Loop Trail bears left and crosses a grassy area on puncheons. Here, the Purple Trail crosses. The puncheons lead to the left at the junction, but you should continue straight ahead on the White Loop Trail. In another 250 feet, you'll reach an intersection, marked by signs. Turn left at the intersection and follow white and blue blazes along a wide path, with puncheons on the left. Soon, the Purple Trail joins from the left and then leaves to the right.
At the next Y-intersection, bear left onto the White Loop Trail, as the Blue Loop Trail continues straight ahead. Then, at the next junction, turn left onto the Red Loop Trail, and you’ll immediately arrive at a limited overlook to the southwest. Although it cannot be seen, I-95 is below you (you can hear the sounds of the traffic). If there are no leaves on the trees, you may be able to see the First Watchung Mountain in the distance on a clear day.
Now retrace your steps to the junction and continue straight ahead on the joint Red and White Loop Trails. You'll soon pass (on the right) one end of the Purple Trail. When the White Loop Trail leaves to the left, continue ahead on the Red Loop Trail. At the next intersection, the Blue Loop Trail is on the right and straight ahead, but you should bear left to continue on the Red Loop Trail, which now begins a gentle descent. The perimeter fence of the preserve (built to keep the deer out of the preserve) is on the right.
After passing through a gate in the fence, you’ll reach a Y-intersection. Bear right onto the Yellow Trail, which continues to descend a little more steeply. The Yellow Trail then curves to the left and levels off. Be alert for a sharp right turn in the Yellow Trail, adjacent to a yellow “B.C.U.A.” sign. Here, the Green Loop Trail joins. Continue ahead on the joint Yellow and Green Loop Trails, which cross Flat Rock Brook on large boulders (the crossing may be somewhat difficult when the water is high). On the other side of the brook, the Yellow Trail turns right, but you should turn left and follow the Green Loop Trail.
Continue along the Green Loop Trail as it parallels the brook, with private residences beyond a fence on the right. Soon the brook widens into MacFadden’s Wetland, named for the physical culturist Bernarr MacFadden (1868-1955), who lived nearby about 1930.
At the end of the wetland, the trail bears left and crosses a wooden bridge over a concrete dam. This bridge is known as the “Mystery Bridge” because it mysteriously appeared over one weekend. On the opposite side of the bridge, turn right onto the Red Loop Trail. Just below the bridge, you may observe attractive cascades if the water level in the brook is high.
Continue ahead downhill on the Red Loop Trail. At first, the trail has been routed away from the brook, but it soon moves closer to the brook and descends wooden steps. This is the most scenic portion of the hike, with the brook tumbling over rocks to your right. Beyond the steps, the trail levels off and continues to run alongside the brook.
When you reach a junction where the Orange Trail begins, turn left (following the sign for the "Nature Center"), go through the gate in the fence, and continue to follow the Red Loop Trail. After crossing a wet area on bridges and puncheons, the trail begins a steady climb. It passes a gate on the right at the end of a residential street, bends to the left, and continues to climb more steeply. At the top of the climb, turn right onto the wide White Loop Trail, and continue ahead to the paved road. With the Nature Center building directly in front of you, turn left to return to the parking area where the hike began.