Musconetcong Gorge Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take I-78 to Exit 7 (West Portal/Bloomsbury). Turn right at the bottom of the ramp and follow NJ 173 west for 1.3 miles. Where the road curves to the right, take the left fork (following the sign to Warren Glen/Riegelsville), and continue for about three miles on County 639. At the stop sign, bear left onto County 519. Proceed ahead for 0.3 mile, then turn left (continuing to follow County 519) and cross the bridge over the Musconetcong River. Continue for another 0.3 mile, passing the FiberMark paper mill to the left, and turn left onto unpaved Dennis Road. Proceed uphill for 0.1 mile to the parking area, which is on the left side of the road where the road makes a sharp hairpin turn to the right.
After picking up a trail map and a guide to the Nature Trail (which will be your return route) from a kiosk in the parking area, head northeast, following the white-blazed trail, which is also marked with the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail. The trail soon climbs over a slight rise and then descends. To the left, there are views through the trees of the Musconetcong River gorge.
In about half a mile, follow the trail as it bears left onto a woods road and crosses Scout Creek on rocks. Just beyond the stream crossing, the trail bears right, leaving the woods road, and ascends steeply on switchbacks. The grade soon moderates, with the trail continuing to climb along the side of the mountain on a rocky footpath. After passing several huge boulders to the left, the white trail reaches its highest point (920 feet), about a mile from the start. A short distance beyond, a red-blazed trail goes off to the left, but you should continue to follow the white blazes.
Soon, the trail begins a steady descent from the ridge. The teal diamond Highlands Trail blazes eventually end, but you should continue following the white blazes. About a mile and a half from the start, the trail reaches Pine Run. It turns left and follows a rather steep path along the scenic gorge of this rocky stream. After passing a small waterfall, the trail descends very steeply (be careful of your footing in this area) and reaches an abandoned railroad grade - formerly a branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad that served the paper mill that you passed on the road.
Turn left and follow the railroad grade parallel to the Musconetcong River, visible to the right downhill. The nearly level railbed is a welcome contrast to the rugged, rocky footpaths that you have been following up to now. The white blazes continue along the railbed, but they are less frequently seen. After about half a mile along the railbed, you'll pass a dam that was built to channel the river into a canal to provide power for the mill. Below the dam, the river is divided into a placid canal and a narrower channel in which the water follows its natural course over cascades and rapids. A short distance beyond the dam, you'll pass, to the left, the lower trailhead of the red-blazed trail (you encountered the upper end of this trail earlier on the hike).
After a pleasant walk of about a mile along the railroad grade, the paper mill will come into view to the right. Just beyond, the railroad grade ends (the trestle that formerly connected the railbed with the paper mill has been removed). Here, the white-blazed trail turns left, and it soon ends at a junction with the orange-blazed Nature Trail. Bear right and follow the Nature Trail, soon crossing Scout Creek on a wooden footbridge. The trail now bears right, uphill, then levels off, with a scenic view to the right over the stream below. You'll pass several numbered posts which indicate features of interest described in the Nature Trail brochure.
In about a third of a mile, you'll reach a fork in the trail. Bear left here, then bear sharply left at the next junction (marked by signpost #2) and proceed uphill to return to the parking area.
- From the parking area head northeast, following the white-blazed trail [also marked with the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail]
- ½ mile: follow the white-blazed trail as it bears onto a woods road and crosses Scout Creek
- ½ mile: white trail reaches its highest point of 920 feet
- Descend from ridge. Teal diamond blazes end. Continue on white trail.
- ½ mile Pine Run. White trail turns left and steeply descends to abandoned rail bed.
- Turn left and follow the railroad grade [white blazes continue sporadically]
- ½ mile: Dam along rail bed
- 1 mile: a paper mill will come into view.
- Just past mill rail bed ends. Continue to follow White trail which turns left.
- ? mile: Right at junction with Orange nature trail
- ? mile: Cross "Scout Creek"
- 1/3 mile: Bear left at fork, then bear sharply left at next junction marked by signpost 2. Proceed uphill to return to the parking area.