I spotted this hike on the NY-NJ Trail Conference’s “North Jersey Trails” map. I like doing loops, so as not to have to cover the same territory twice on one hike, and I also like hikes of about 8–10 miles, so this was perfect. This hike covers a number of different properties, as I will describe. I moved in a clockwise direction. I later found reviews that others had written about this hike, and many of them moved in a counterclockwise direction. It doesn’t matter, though the character of the east and west portion are different.
I drove on I-287 to Wanaque, took Ringwood Avenue north, then took West Brook Road across the Wanaque Reservoir, turned right onto Stonetown Road and left on Mary Roth Drive into the Recreational Area, where I parked.
10:57 a.m.: I began hiking north on Stonetown Road, following the red triangular blaze of the Stonetown Circular Trail, which would guide me all day. After 0.3 miles, I turned left onto Magee Road. I followed that for another 0.2 miles, crossing a bridge, then followed the red triangular blazes into the woods to the right. This is land owned by the Passaic River Coalition.
11:35 a.m.: At first the trail was only wooded, but I soon came to a few rocks, over which the trail scrambled.
11:39 a.m.: More rocks.
11:40 a.m.: After about 0.6 miles in the woods, I came to a bit of a scenic view.
11:51 a.m.: This dead tree caught my eye.
11:54 a.m.: I don’t know how old this bi-level hunting platform is, but it was well-constructed.
12:06 p.m.: After another 0.7 miles, I reached the second scenic view on the trail.
12:10 p.m.: This is Tory Rocks. According to legend, British Tories hid out in the caves here during the American Revolution. The rocks didn’t look that big or the “caves” too extensive to me, but maybe I missed something.
Looking down at a scramble:
After successfully making my way down, here’s a view looking up at the rocks.
12:26 p.m.: On the western half of the hike, I encountered a few abandoned cars. Here was the first, a quarter mile from Tory Rocks: a Volkswagen Beetle crushed by a falling tree.
12:38 p.m.: Another scramble.
The trail continued through a stand of young birch trees.
1:17 p.m.: I was moving slowly. In part it was because I was on my own, so I didn’t feel rushed to keep up with someone else, and I was stopping to explore, take photos, etc. In part it was because it was a hot and humid day, so I stopped frequently to sip some water and cool off. At this point in the hike, 0.4 miles past the VW, I had just exited the Passaic River Coalition land and entered Norvin Green State Forest. The trail intersected Burnt Meadow Road and the orange-blazed Sonoma Trail. I continued on the red trail.
1:25 p.m.: I crossed several small brooks on the hike.
1:52 p.m.: A pickup on its side. I’m not sure how it ended up on its side: if that was an accident, or if someone did that after it had been abandoned.
It didn’t appear to have been there very long, either—certainly not many years.
Around this time the trail exited Norvin Green State Forest and entered Long Pond Ironworks State Park.
2:08 p.m.: I only saw two people on my entire hike. The first was a man who walked past me carrying fishing poles as I was examining debris from the truck. He told me that he had seen a rattlesnake on the trail in the direction I was heading. That slowed me even more, as I made sure to walk slowly and to keep an eye on where I was stepping. But I didn’t see or hear the rattler.
2:15 p.m.: About 0.8 miles after the intersection with the orange trail, the red trail came to high-voltage power lines, which were sizzling overhead.
I found a big feather, which I believe is the tail feather of a wild turkey.
Beside the tower of the electric transmission line was a frame and rear bumper of a vehicle. If someone was going to go so far as to remove the rest of the vehicle, why leave the frame and rear bumper?
2:23 p.m.: The trail moved past rocks.
2:26 p.m.: After another 0.2 miles, the red trail intersected the white-blazed Horse Pond Mountain Trail and the teal-blazed Highlands Trail. The Highlands Trail continued to run with the red trail for most of the remainder of the hike.
2:27 p.m.: Another nice rock.
2:38 p.m.: The red trail again passed under the transmission lines, with a scenic view of Monksville Reservoir (to the northwest of the much larger Wanaque Reservoir).
2:49 p.m.: The red trail once again passed under the transmission lines. Here they may be seen cutting across the Monksville Reservoir and heading for the Monksville Dam (a spillway between the Monksville Reservoir and the Wanaque Reservoir).
3:00 p.m.: This low-elevation area was flat and easy to traverse, so I made better time. After another 0.9 miles, the red-blazed and Highlands trails crossed Stonetown Road. Across the road, the land on the eastern part of the Stonetown Circular Trail is owned by the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission. Just in the woods on the eastern side of the trail, I encountered the second person I saw that day, another man. This one looked like he was hiking, as I saw no fishing poles. I decided this was about the halfway point in the hike, and I finally stopped for lunch.
3:48 p.m.: After another 1.3 miles, the trail intersected the HT Connector, a short trail that led to a parking area. I continued on the red trail, which was climbing from around 400’ (the elevation of the reservoirs) to the top of “Board Mountain” (which at just 860’ in elevation is not a mountain).
3:50 p.m.: I crossed a brook, and a splash of movement attracted my attention, as a frog sought temporary refuge underwater. See him?
How about now? (It helps to know where to look, right?)
I knew that he couldn’t hold his breath for long, and he soon came up for air. He decided that he wasn’t afraid of me, and didn’t flee as I passed by.
4:27 p.m.: The heat and humidity were wearing on me, but after another 0.4 miles, I finally made it to the top of Board Mountain.
4:41 p.m.: A nice flat rock. I was then descending Board Mountain, and as soon as I had dropped to around 600’ elevation, the trail began to ascend again on “Bear Mountain” (which no relation to the famous Bear Mountain in New York).
4:46 p.m.: A large black rat snake was stretched leisurely across the road. He was so big that I had to make a stitched panorama to get all of him into one photo. My clicking photo lens apparently bothered him, as he soon reared up impressively, and then slithered along the ground to a hollow tree trunk, which he entered.
5:12 p.m.: After another 0.8 miles, I made it to the top of Bear Mountain, which at around 920’ is still not quite a mountain. As soon as I got there, I heard a large animal in the woods and caught a flash of red. I’m almost certain that it was a deer, but I didn’t get a good look, much less a photo.
I descended Bear Mountain. After another 0.7 miles, I came to a woods road which I believed to be an extension of Windbeam Lane, which connects to Stonetown Road. I was feeling tired, because of the heat, humidity, distance, elevation, etc., and thought about cutting the hike short. (It would have saved me ½ mile and another 600’ of elevation gain and 600’ of elevation descent.) But when I hiked 0.1 miles along the woods road, I discovered that there was a fence with a locked gate blocking access. The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission is kind enough to allow the red-blazed and Highlands trail to cut through their property, as well as the HT connector, but otherwise they don’t want people accessing their property, and they prefer that people stick to the marked trails. So I had no choice but to continue to the end of the loop.
6:28 p.m.: After another 0.9 miles, I had ascended the last mountain of the day, Windbeam Mountain. At least this peak deserved its name, being over 1000’ in elevation. Windbeam Mountain affords views to both the west and the east.
A forest fire about a year earlier had killed a number of trees on the south side of Windbeam Mountain.
After another 0.3 miles, the red trail turned toward the right, while the Highlands Trail continued on straight (south). I followed the red trail another 0.5 miles back to Stonetown Road and my car.
All together, the hike was about 9.6 miles. It took me 8 hours, which was a very slow pace. Reading reviews by others, they did it in 5.5-7 hours. Sometimes I’m fast, sometimes I’m slow.