Blue Mountain Loop Trail - Southern Section
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, turn right at a sign for Stokes State Forest, and park in the parking area just ahead.
This hike follows the southern section of the new Blue Mountain Loop Trail, blazed with a blue dot on white. This trail, constructed by the park in the summer of 2015, incorporates a number of pre-existing trails, and as of this writing, the old blazes remain (although the intention is to remove the old blazes in late spring 2016).
From the parking area, proceed ahead on the paved Coursen Road that leads into the park, passing the toll booth. Just before a bridge over Tuttle Creek, you’ll see a sign on the right for the Blue Mountain Loop Trail (also the route of the black-on-white blazed Lackner Trail). Turn right onto the Blue Mountain Loop Trail, which follows a woods road parallel to the creek. In a third of a mile, follow the trail as it turns right, leaving the woods road, and crosses the creek on a wooden footbridge.
The trail now begins a gradual climb. At the crest of the rise, a clearing on the right features pitch pines growing out of cracks in a large expanse of open rocks. The trail begins to descend, soon passing on the left the trailhead of the Lead Mine Trail.
After passing an abandoned mine pit on the right, the trail approaches Stony Lake, which is visible through the trees on the right, and it passes on the right the trailhead of the Stony Lake Trail. A short distance beyond, the trail turns right onto paved Coursen Road and follows the road bridge over Stony Brook. Just beyond the bridge, it turns right and reenters the woods.
The trail crosses a parking area, passes a sign for the Stony Lake Day Use Area, and continues ahead. It soon reaches a fork, where it bears left, following the red-on-white-blazed Swenson Trail, 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 parking area at Stony Lake, the trail crosses a stream on rocks, climbs briefly, 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. You should turn left here, following yellow, blue-on-white, and red-on-white blazes along a woods road that descends rather steeply. In 500 feet, the blue-on-white and red-on-white blazes leave to the right, but you should continue ahead on the woods road, now following only the yellow blazes of the Tinsley Trail.
In about half a mile, the Tinsley Trail joins a gravel road that comes in from the right (to the right, this road leads to the Spring Cabin). After a rather steep descent, you’ll pass the trailhead (on the right) of the Black Bear Trail, maintained by the New Jersey State School of Conservation. Continue ahead along the gravel road, marked for some distance with the blazes of the Purple Finch Trail (and also with the yellow blazes of the Tinsley Trail).
When you reach the paved Skellenger Road, turn left and follow the road. Just before reaching a fork in the road, turn left onto the blue-on-white-blazed Blue Mountain Loop Trail (the trail is also blazed with brown/green-on-white blazes). The trail follows a footpath past a tangled group of fallen trees and soon bears left onto a woods road. In about half a mile, the orange-blazed Silver Mine Trail begins on the left.
In 0.7 mile, the green-on-white blazes continue ahead, while the blue-on-white blazes turn left. Follow the blue-on-white blazes, which parallel a wide stone wall and continue on a footpath. Soon, the trail reaches Stony Brook, where it turns right and crosses the brook on a wooden footbridge.
For the next mile and a half, the Blue Mountain Loop Trail closely parallels the brook. This is the most beautiful section of the hike, with many cascades along the brook, especially when the water is high. A short distance ahead, the trail crosses Kittle Road, and about 500 feet beyond, Stony Brook merges with the Big Flat Brook.
The trail follows the Big Flat Brook for over a mile until it reaches a wide wooden bridge on the right. Here, the trail turns left (away from the brook), follows a dirt road through fields, and passes the dam of a pond on the left. The trail now climbs gradually on a gravel road for a third of a mile. You’re less than half a mile away from Route 206, and you can hear the sound of the traffic on the road below.
At a fork at the crest of the rise, bear left onto an intersecting road, then almost immediately turn right and follow the blue-on-white blazes into the woods. The trail continues on a footpath along the shoulder of the ridge for about a mile.
After crossing two branches of a road that leads into the Shotwell Camping Area, the Blue Mountain Loop Trail continues along the Tibbs Trail, marked with blue/green-on-white blazes. It crosses stepping stones over the outlet of a large unnamed pond on the left, continues parallel to the shore of the pond, then climbs rather steeply on a woods road.
At the crest of the rise, the Blue Mountain Loop Trail turns right and continues to climb more gradually on a woods road, which soon narrows to a footpath. After a level section, the trail descends to Tuttle Creek. It turns left, follows the creek for about 500 feet, then turns right and crosses the creek on rocks. On the south side of the creek, it turns left and continues along the creek to Coursen Road, where the loop began. Turn right onto Coursen Road and follow it back to the parking lot. (If the water is high, you may not be able to cross the creek. If so, continue ahead along the north bank of the creek to Coursen Road and use the road bridge to cross the creek.)