Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Today we drove to Sourland Mountain Preserve, a 3025 acre county park, where we enjoyed a late Fall day with temperatures in the upper 60s! It was nice to hike with a short sleeved shirt this time of year. The name “Sourlands” is derived from the fact that early settlers found the rocky soils difficult to farm.

The park has a single point of access, with a spacious gravel parking lot. It is a very popular park, though, and with cars spaced generously from each other, it was tricky finding a spot. Don’t come to this county park expecting to find solitude. There is no entrance fee, and other than a porta-potty, no facilities. The park seems to just exist for hiking, biking, and bouldering.

There are a few trails, but we chose the longest trail, the 5-mile Ridge Trail, and we deviated from it at one point to take the red-blazed 2.1 mile Roaring Brook Trail, so our hike may have been 5.5 or 6 miles.

This photo was taken just past the trailhead:

Trail, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Trail

We progressed counterclockwise on the trail, gaining about 350′ in elevation and soon reaching the eastern-most part of the park, featuring Devil’s Half Acre, a boulder field. Here I scrambled to the top of one of the boulders:

Charlie climbs a boulder, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Charlie climbs a boulder

The park has both sedimentary and igneous rocks. Here are more boulders:

Boulders, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Boulders

I was impressed that this tree grew sideways out of a crack in a boulder, then made a 90 degree angle toward the sky:

Tree growing from a rock, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Tree growing from a rock

We also saw a number of trees that grew as twins, triplets, and in one place a stand of four trees that grew together. Here, three trees grew together on the left:

Triplet trees, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Triplet trees

There were also a number of fallen trees in the park, perhaps from the storms that the region has experienced over the past several years:

Fallen tree, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Fallen tree

Here, the top broke off a standing dead tree:

Broken snag, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Broken snag

The west part of the park has another boulder field. This is called Roaring Rocks Boulders. Batya noted that the name was curious, as rocks don’t generally make roaring sounds. However, these boulders are adjacent to Roaring Brook, which perhaps roars at time:

Boulders, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Boulders

More boulders:

Boulder field, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Boulder field

Roaring Brook was practically dry, and was very silent on this day. A sign across the brook identified the opposing land as belonging to 3M, and asked people not to cross into their property.

Roaring Brook, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Roaring Brook

Another tree grew from a boulder:

Tree growing from a rock, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Tree growing from a rock

An old wall, possibly built as a dam:

Old wall, Sourland Mountain Preserve, Somerset County, New Jersey

Old wall

The maximum elevation in the park is around 500′, so the hiking is not very strenuous. There are no scenic views, either, but it is always nice to get out into the woods. Obviously, the park will look very different in the middle of the summer, when there are leaves on the trees, but it was also nice to visit on such a warm day in mid-December.

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