Mountainview Nature Park was acquired as a gift from the Winston Perry family by Rockland County in 1979.
The land comprising Mountainview Nature Park is part of the Palisades ridge. The Palisades extend from Staten Island NY to Mount Ivy NY. The rocks are known as diabase. Diabase was formed around 200 million years ago by molten magma intruding into softer sedimentary rocks.
Mountain Trail Trailhead
From the parking area on Strawberry Hill Lane we find ourselves at the trailhead of the orange blazed Mountain Trail. At 1.15 miles, the Mountain Trail is the longest trail found in Mountainview Nature Park. We will use the below trail map (taken from the Rockland County website) to help guide us.
Ready? Let’s go!
Bridge over Hackensack River Tributary
Heading east on the Mountain Trail, we cross a Hackensack River tributary on a wooden bridge.
Dipping south we see (and hear) the NY State Thruway straight ahead near another Hackensack River tributary.
Rock Wall Mountain Trail
Turning north on the Mountain Trail we see several old stone walls of farms that existed here at one time.
Goat Trail Trailhead
Continuing north on the Mountain Trail the white-blazed trailhead of the .60 mile Goat Path appears to our right. Let’s take it!
Heading southeast on the Goat Path a large American Crow size bird with a bright patch of red on its head flies over us. It’s a Pileated Woodpecker! This guy is on the ground poking through fallen snags for its favorite food: carpenter ants.
Goat Trail Climb
Leaving the Pileated Woodpecker behind we continue southeast on the Goat Path and start to climb uphill.
Building near Goat Path
Coming to the edge of the eastern border of Mountainview Nature Park with a building visible straight ahead, the Goat Path turns left climbing northwest along the edge of a hillside.
Goat Path Hillside
Careful! We have to really watch our footsteps here. Whew! We’ve arrived near the top.
Leaving the deer we continue southwest to the Goat Path terminus.
Palisades Center Mall & NY Thruway with Ramapo Mountains in distance
Let’s take a breather to see the view. Directly in front of us is the Palisades Center Mall with the NY Thruway heading west towards the distant Ramapo Mountains. Ready to continue on? Let’s turn back and head back to the Mountain Trail intersection.
We are now leaving the white blazed Goat Path and heading east on the Mountain Trail.
Bear Swamp Trailhead
Just to the left of the Mountain Trail is the western trailhead of the blue blazed .28 mile Bear Swamp Trail loop. Let’s go explore it!
The Bear Swamp Trail loops around Bear Swamp and will take us back to the Mountain Trail. Bear Swamp, which is seasonally flooded, is a hardwood swamp dominated by Red Maple, one of the more common trees found in the eastern forest. Shrubs such as Spicebush are quite abundant in the understory.
Completing our loop, we find ourselves back on the Mountain Trail at the eastern entrance to the Bear Swamp trail. We can either continue heading east (which leads to Mountainview Avenue and the Long Path) or we can retrace our footsteps and head west. Since it’s getting late, let’s head west on the Mountain Trail.
Mountainview Nature Park Mountain Trail
Passing the Goat Path we are now heading west on the Mountain Trail.
As we walk we pass by numerous blow downs and old decaying logs. These old logs play an important ecological role in the forest. Decaying logs retain moisture and release nutrients into the ground that aid in new plant growth.
Posted Private Property
Heading southwest on the Mountain Trail, we pass near the northern boundary of the park near private property.
Hudson River Mountain Trail
Walking southwest on the Mountain Trail we can just catch glimpses of the distant Hudson River through the remaining leaves on the trees to our left.
Mountain Trail Descent
We’ve now begun our climb down the western border of the hill we climbed earlier on the Goat Path. This trail will take us back down pass the trailhead of the Goat path and back to our car.
Mountain Trail End
We made it back to our car. Thank you so much for joining me today on this virtual hike of Mountainview Nature Park. I hope that it inspires you to visit and hike the park yourself in person!
Foot Trail Maintained by Volunteers NY-NJ Trail Conference
Today we are going to hike the estimated 4.2 Blue Blazed Sterling Lake trail (maintained by volunteers from the NYNJ Trail Conference) which starts at the Sterling Forest State Park visitor center. The visitor center is named for the late Frank R. Lautenberg who helped preserve the forest for future generations. The Sterling Lake Lake trail loops around Sterling Lake, a natural lake formed during the last ice age.
Inside there are dioramas on the Sterling Forest mining industry history, fauna exhibits and a huge model of Sterling Forest itself.
From the visitor center let’s head east into a brief section of forest on a footpath.
Old Forge Road Crossing
After rambling through this portion of the trail we follow the Sterling Lake Loop trail east crossing Old Forge Road near private residences.
McKeages Meadow Connector
After crossing Old Forge Road the orange triangle blazed McKeages Meadow Connector trail appears to our right.
Truck Trailers Sterling Lake Loop
Continuing straight ahead on the Sterling Lake Trail, the trail turns from a footpath to a woods road as we pass old trailers to our left near private property.
Old Railroad Causeway
From here we follow the Sterling Loop trail as it crosses a wetland via an old mining railroad embankment.
Second Old Forge Road Crossing
Long Meadow Road appears ahead but the trail turns north just missing the busy road. Crossing Old Forge Road for the second time we find ourselves heading north climbing.
We have reached an Eastern Hemlock dominated forest but unfortunately many of the Hemlocks are dead or dying due to the Woolly Adelgid, a non-native pest from Asia. The Adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees. This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.
Pine Meadow Trail Connector Trailhead
As we head northwest, the 0.3 Mile Orange Blazed Pine Meadow Connector Trail appears to our right.
Sterling Lake Loop Grassy Trail
Our feet are in for a treat as the trail becomes a soft grassy road as we continue heading north on the Sterling Lake Loop.
First view of Sterling Lake
Our first glimpses of Sterling Lake appears to our left as the trail turns northwest.
Whew! Let’s take a quick breather and take time to look at some of the vegetation growing near the trail. Here’s some Sweetfern native to the Eastern US. Its name is misleading as Sweetfern is not a fern at all but a deciduous shrub. The “sweet” in Sweetfern is correct as the leaves give off a sweet odor when crushed. Sweetfern typically grows in dry upland habitat.
Hey! Is this Poison Ivy? It’s got the whole “leaves of three leave ’em be” look. Nope, it’s a vine known as Hog Peanut. Hog Peanut is a member of the Bean Family (unlike Poison Ivy which is a member of the Cashew Family) and helps out plants growing nearby by correcting Nitrogen levels in the soil. Hog Peanut is common in both dry and mesic (moist) forest types.
Here’s American Chestnut. The American Chestnut tree was an important member of the eastern forest found in the United States. A wide variety of wildlife fed on its chestnuts. Mature American Chestnuts began to die off in 1904 due to imported Chestnut Blight from Asia. The blight, imported to the US via Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed by spores in the air, raindrops and animals. American Chestnut now survives only in the understory as shoots sprouting from old roots (which are not affected by the blight). The American Chestnut sprouts reach about twenty feet before the blight strikes. The roots then shoots up new sprouts and the process repeats itself. The American Chestnut Foundation is currently working to restore the once great American Chestnut back to its native range. Check out the book American Chestnut : The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree for more information. Click here!
Milkweed in Bloom
Continuing north we reach a Powerline cut in the forest. Powerline cuts create permanent Shrubland which provides habitat for flora such as Milkweed, an important wildlife plant (especially for Monarch Butterflies) which does not grow in the dense shade of the forest floor.
Heading south a portion of the Yellow Blazed 6.2 mile Sterling Valley Trail joins the Sterling Lake Loop trail from the north.
Looking down as we walk on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop & Sterling Valley Loop we spot movement. Tiny toads!
Let’s carefully and slowly proceed west on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake/Sterling Valley trail watching where we step.
We have now arrived at the northern tip of Sterling Lake.
Approaching a small sandy beach we spot a turtle digging in the sand.
Turtle heading back to Sterling Lake
But, as soon as we spot this turtle it takes off with surprising speed to Sterling Lake…..
…where it quickly disappears under the water.
Leaving the sandy beach and the now vanished turtle behind we cross an earthen causeway separating the pond above from Sterling Lake.
Taking a closer look at the pond reveals an active beaver lodge.
Continuing west past a former boat launch a movement on a rock catches our eye. A 5-Lined Skink! Native to the Eastern US, the 5-Link Skink is one of the most common lizards found in the Eastern Forest.
Heading south on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop and Sterling Valley Loop we spot some blueberries growing along the side of the trail. The blueberries provide a refreshing treat as we continue our hike.
Sterling Valley Trail Exits
As we continue south Sterling Lake now appears to our left and the Yellow Blazed Sterling Valley Trail exits.
Continuing south on the Sterling Lake Loop trail we see beautiful views of Sterling Lake.
Sterling Forest Fire Tower Connector Trail
As we walk we find the woods road the trail has been following has ended and the trail now follows a paved road (West Sterling Lake Road) passing the Fire Connector trail to our left.
Lakeville Ironworks Trail
As we walk on the pavement we pass ruins of Lakeville Ironworks and the trailhead of the 3/4 of a mile mile Lakeville Ironworks trail. These buildings are remnants of former mining operations.
Located in the Highlands geologic region, the hills of Sterling Forest were mined for iron ore known as magnetite beginning in 1730 and ending in the 1920’s when the last of the mines shut down.
Help Save New York’s Ash Trees
As we walk we notice signs tied to nearby White Ash trees. The signs are in relation to the Emerald Ash Borer, a destructive pest from Asia which threatens all ash trees. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood of ash trees.
Sterling Lake Outlet with Sterling Furnace in distance
Heading east on a footpath back in the forest we are now crossing the outlet of Sterling Lake near its dam. The Sterling Lake dam was originally built in the mid 1700’s to provide water power to the the Sterling Furnace. The dam raised the water level of Sterling Lake by 8 feet. A mine (now completely filled with water) was located directly below Sterling Lake.
Sterling Furnace was used until 1804 to create Pig Iron. Later, raw iron ore was shipped by trail to PA to be smelted using large coal deposits. The furnace was rebuilt by the City Investing Corporation in the 1950’s.
Remains of Lakeville Church
Near the visitor center we pass the foundation of Lakeville’s Church. Well, we are now back at the visitor center and have completed our virtual hike of Sterling Lake! I hope you enjoyed your journey and that you check out this hike in person!
ECEC is part of the Essex County Park System and features about 1 mile of hiking trails, a canoe launch on the Passaic River, frog pond & a Wigwam among other points of interests. ECEC hosts many fine environmental education programs. Click here for more information on ECEC programs! Originally established in 1972 and closed due to funding issues in 1995, ECEC re-opened in 2005 with a new environmentally friendly building.
ECEC is located in the 1,360 acre West Essex Park which primarily consists of deciduous wooded wetlands. West Essex Park was created in 1955 when the Essex County Park Commission first acquired a portion of the land. Additional land was purchased from more than 70 additional landowners through the years.
ECEC Virtual Tour
ECEC Front Desk
From the parking area, head to the Environmental Center to pick up a trail map and check out the indoor exhibits. (PS this tour took place in September 2012-about 1 month prior to Hurricane Sandy and thus describes the center as I found it at that time)
Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.
After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!
Throughout the exploration numbered wooded posts will be encountered. These posts correspond to the trail map pictured below (taken from the Essex County Environment Center Website) which we will review as we proceed.
Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map
The first marker is in regards to the Sweetgum Tree which is found here near its northern natural limit. Sweetgum has star shaped leaves & spiny seedpods.
Just past marker 1 turn right on a short green blazed trail and come to marker # 2 which has the remains of a Gray Birch. Gray Birch, one of the first trees to grow after a disturbance, is a short lived species. Only the logs (located around the marker) remain of this particular Gray Birch.
Marker 3 Mother Log
Marker 3 appears just after Marker 2 and discusses the old log lying next to the post. The old log is known as a mother log because it is “nursing” the soil by slowly decomposing nutrients therefore creating a richer soil for future vegetation.
Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.
Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail
The fence was constructed to keep hungry white-tailed deer out so native vegetation may grow.
Continuing to Marker #4, a cool little body of water known as the Frog Pond appears. While we might not see any frogs today, we know they are present. Check out the native vegetation such as cattail and arrow arum growing in the pond!
Create a Pond
A sign has been strategically placed so that you can learn how to construct a pond of your own to attract frogs. From the Frog Pond, leave the green blazed trail and pass Garibaldi Hall.
Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.
The flora identified by this marker is found at your feet. Garlic Mustard is its name, and, at least here in the eastern United States, establishment of itself as an invasive species is its game. White Tail Deer do not eat Garlic Mustard and the plant has no natural predators in the US. Garlic Mustard produces a chemical which suppress mycorrhizal fungi required by most plants to grow successfully. As a result, Garlic Mustard, once established, forms a monoculture in which native plants cannot become established. Heading further on the Patriot Path I encountered these three fellows in addition to a River Birch (Marker #6):
Eastern Gray Squirrel
After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.
A wooden box will appear straight ahead near the Passaic River (Marker #7). This box has been placed for nesting Wood Ducks (a species that nests in tree cavities but will also utilize man-made structures).
Be careful of Poison Ivy (Marker #8) as you continue your journey on the boardwalk! Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people. Poison Ivy can be found as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground. It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this vine:
“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” & “Leaves of three, leave them be”
Leaving Poison Ivy behind, the Passaic River (Marker #9) appears to the right as we leave the boardwalk.
Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access
The river is located southwest behind the Environmental Center Building. This is a great spot to launch a canoe or kayak to go explore the river.
Some quick Passaic River facts: Spanning 80 miles, the Passaic River is the second largest river in NJ and flows through Morris, Somerset, Union, Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties. The confluence of the Rockaway River with the Passaic River is located nearby. Fish including bass, herring & shad find a home in the Passaic River.
We now find ourselves back on the Lenape trail and passing a Pollinator Garden (Marker #10). Native plants are being grown here to attract bees which are our next point of interest (Marker #11).
Busy Bees at Work
The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!
Marker 12 Lenape Life
Wow! What’s this? Why it’s Marker #12 aka Lenape Life. Here you will find behind a gate a Wigwam and other items characteristic of Lenape Life. The Lenape were the original people who found a home in this area prior to European settlement.
Wigwams were created from saplings which were bent to create a dome frame. The frame was then covered with a mixture of animal skins & mats of reeds and rushes. In addition to the Wigwam, the Lenape learning center features a fire pit, meat drying rack, food cache, Lenape Gardens, fishing & tanning rack.
Looping back towards the Environmental Center a Northern Red Oak (Marker #13) appears. The Northern Red Oak is NJ’s state tree and is readily identified by its “ski-slope” bark. Northern Red Oak emits a foul odor when cut down.
Smooth gray bark is characteristic of the American Beech. It is this feature that attracts individuals to carve their initials. This practice is detrimental to American Beech as the carvings create opportunities for disease and could very well kill the tree. In winter, American Beech leaves remain until the spring when new leaves bud out. American Beech is usually found in forest in the final stage of succession.
Spicebush is one of the first native shrubs to bloom in spring. Spicebush earns its name from the spicy scent which emits from a broken twig. Spicebush is usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands such as those encountered at the ECEC.
Musclewood (aka Ironwood or American Hornbeam) is a small understory tree usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands. The form of the tree resembles a muscular arm. Straight ahead is the Environmental Center but we’re not quite finished with our tour yet. We still have a whole trail yet to explore!
Marker 15 Ferns
Let’s turn right on the Lenape to Marker # 15 which discusses three common ferns found in the ECEC forest: Christmas fern, Hay scented Fern & Sensitive Fern. Christmas fern is evergreen and is thought to be given the name due to its leaves having the appearance of a stocking that you would hang on your chimney. Hay scented fern is named such due to its scent resembling, well, hay. Sensitive Fern is an appropriate name indeed as this fern is one of the first to wilt come the first frosts of fall.
Bird Lane Trail
We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.
Bird Lane Trail Trailhead
Let’s take a right to go explore it. The first marker on the Bird Lane Trail is #16 the Fox Grape Vine. Birds such as Northern Cardinal enjoy the grapes this vine produces.
Continuing on we start our loop and see Marker #17 which describes the floodplain forest found at the ECEC. The forest here often will flood (especially in early spring when melting snow contributes to increase water flow in the Passaic River). Species here such as Red Maple flourish in the conditions provided by frequent flooding.
As we start to turn back there is a large rock (Marker #18) visible in the woods. This rock is known as a glacial erratic and was carried to this spot when the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This rock was likely carried from the nearby Watchung Mountains.
Continuing back towards the Lenape Trail we pass Marker #19 which describes the past land use of the ECEC. Old farming equipment such as this piece found near this marker tells us that this land was once used as farmland. Looking around you can clearly see the forest has reclaimed the land. Well, we’ve now reached our last marker (#20) which describes the Mayapple plant. The Mayapple plant blooms a single flower in early spring and first emerges before the forest has fully leafed out in springtime.
Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!
Bird Lane Trail End
And with that, our tour has concluded. I hope it has inspired you to go visit the ECEC to see if for yourself!
The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (GSOEC) consists of a 44 acre portion of the Great Swamp managed since 1963 by the Morris County Parks Department. The GSOEC hosts guided nature walks, school, scout and public educational programs.
Herp Study in Progress
The GSOEC hosts periodic studies of the flora and fauna to determine the overall health of the Great Swamp.
The origin of the Great Swamp begins with the melting and subsequent retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier around 25,000 years ago. Debris from the glacier blocked the passage of an ancient river creating an enormous lake known as Lake Passaic. Lake Passaic is thought to have been 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. Over time, an outlet was formed near Little Falls NJ draining the lake via the Passaic River. This drainage is still occurring today. Today the Great Swamp forms a remnant component of the once great Lake Passaic.
In the late 1950’s the area now known as the Great Swamp was identified by the NYNJ Port Authority as an ideal location for a new jetport. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation mobilized volunteers to protect the Great Swamp. The result was the establishment of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation later became the North Jersey Conservation Foundation and then finally known as New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
GSOEC features five short loop trails. Two of the four trails (Orange & Red) are interpretive and follow 16 markers listed in a self guided trail booklet available at the education center.
Ready to take a virtual tour of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center? Let’s Go!
Stop by the kiosk near the parking lot to pick up a trail map. From the kiosk, head to the education center to view the exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Great Swamp.
Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk
Mammals of The Great Swamp
Endangered in New Jersey
After checking out the exhibits inside, it’s time to start our hike.
Orange Trail Trailhead
Let’s begin our virtual hike by taking the Orange Blazed trail located to the south of the education center. The Orange Trail at .61 Miles is the longest trail present in the GSOEC. It contains Markers 1-10 from the self guided trail.
The first marker, regarding the Red Maple tree, appears shortly after the beginning of the orange trail. Red Maple is the most common tree in the Great Swamp as well as the eastern deciduous forest.
Red Maple Leaves
Red Maple’s flowers are red in the spring and the leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall. Though the Sugar Maple may come to mind when it comes to maple syrup, Red Maple can be tapped for syrup as well. Red Maple should be tapped before budding occurs as the buds change the chemical makeup of the syrup.
Continuing on the orange trail, marker #2 comes into view on the right where a large depression may be found.
The large depression is known as a vernal pond. Vernal ponds do not support fish and may be dry or filled with water. Due to the lack of predators (i.e. fish) the vernal pond provides a safe haven for amphibians such as Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Blue-Spotted Salamanders among other species to breed and lay eggs. Continuing past the vernal pond, two fenced areas appear shortly after on the left.
Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background
Marker # 3 explains that these sections of the GSOEC were fenced in 2009 to study how plant communities recover from the damage caused by an overpopulation of white tail deer.
Marker 4 EcoTone
Marker #4 describes an Ecotone. An Ecotone is anywhere two habitats meet and create an edge. The Ecotone present here was created by the Power line right of way. The positive aspects of this man-made Ecotone is the creation of suitable nesting habitat for the local turtle population in addition to providing a valuable hunting ground for birds of prey. On the flipside, the disturbed ground caused by the creation of the power lines have provided ideal habitat for invasive plants as Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, Garlic Mustard, Wineberry & Japanese Barberry.
Marker 5 The Pond
Continuing in a southwest direction, the dirt path changes to a boardwalk as the trail traverses the wetland area.
Orange Trail Boardwalk
A short boardwalk appears to the right of the main boardwalk which leads to the Pond which is marker #5.
Ponds are usually less than 18 feet deep. Eventually as plant matter and other organic material decays, the pond will begin to become a marsh, progress to a forested wetland and finally upland habitat after many years.
Continuing on the trail leads to Marker #6 which describes Poison Ivy which is seen here growing as a hairy vine. Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people. In addition to a hairy vine Poison Ivy can be found as a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground.
Several rhymes exist warning of the dangers of Poison Ivy:
At this point of the hike you may notice abundant Mountain Laurel. Marker # 7 appears here.
Marker 7 The Browse Line
Its purpose is to briefly touch upon “the browse line”. The over abundant white- tail deer have stripped all leaves of vegetation from six feet down. If the current trend continues, there may not be a forest here in the future.
From this area, the trail head of the .23 of a mile Blue trail loop appears.
Blue Trail Trailhead
Let’s take a brief break from the interpretive trail to explore this short trail.
Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak
The Blue Trail Loop goes through an upland area consisting of mostly Mountain Laurel and Swamp Chestnut Oak.
Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail
The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here is dry during our virtual tour).
Blue Trail end
Completing the Blue Trail Loop, head back to the Orange Trail and to Marker # 8 which describes the function of a rotting log in the forest.
Standing dead trees or snags play an important role in the eastern deciduous forest. Woodpeckers including Pileated, Downy and Red-Bellied among others excavate holes in the dead trees searching for tasty insects. These excavated holes in turn create habitat for birds including Black-Capped Chickadee. Fungus will usually invade the dead wood further softening it. Eventually, the tree will fall to the forest floor where it will continue to decay creating a rich organic soil which will support future species of trees.
Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh
Proceed east to Marker # 9 The Phragmites Marsh. Phragmites (aka Giant Reed) is a giant species of grass which can grow from 10-20 feet. Phragmites thrives in disturbed areas. Phragmites found in the Great Swamp are native to the eastern deciduous forest. Phragmites are considered invasive because of its aggressive growth and tendency to overwhelm all other vegetation.
Outdoor Study Area
From here the trail leaves the boardwalk and heads south to marker # 10 which passes an outdoor study area and leads to a Wigwam replica.
The Lenape Native Americans (the original people) created Wigwams as shelter from saplings, tree bark and Cattail Mats among others. This replica would have been big enough for two people. Marker #10 is the last marker for the orange trail.
Orange Trail end
After heading back from the Wigwam, turn right on the Orange Trail and follow the trail a brief distance to its terminus.
Prayer of the Woods
The “Prayer of the Woods” sign is found right before the start of the Red Trail. After reading the Prayer and taking in its message, turn right to start hiking the .39 mile Red Trail to continue the interpretive trail.
Red Trail Trailhead
The first marker on the Red Trail is #11 which identifies trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.
Marker 11 Deciduous Forest
Trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest include the below among others:
From here turn left at the sign leading to the education center to go to Marker # 13.
Marker 13 Stream
The Red Trail approaches Marker #13 as it crosses a stream.
Red Trail Stream Crossing
Sediments and rocks on the stream bottom provides habitat for a variety of Crayfish and Macro-invertebrates. Marco-invertebrates lack backbones and can be seen without the aid of a microscope. Certain macro-invertebrates such as Caddisflies are pollutant intolerant. Presence of pollutant intolerant macro-invertebrates are one way to indicate the health of a stream. Macro- invertebrates eat many different things depending on the species-there are predators, scavengers, and herbivores among them. In turn, macro-invertebrates are a source of food for various turtles, fish and frogs.
Marker #14 The Wet Meadow
Continuing on the red trail leads to Marker #14 which discusses“The Wet Meadow”. The Wet Meadow is a man-made habitat created by a power-line cut and is home to field mice, star-nosed moles and various hawks & owls among others.
Marker #15 American Beech
Marker #15 leads to an American Beech Tree. The smooth gray bark of the American Beech Tree usually invites individuals to carve their names and other messages into the trunks. Carving in a tree trunk is similar to a cut on your finger. However, unlike your injured finger, a tree cannot put a band-aid on its wound. The carved bark is an open door for disease.
Beechdrops, seen here in this picture, lack both leaves and chlorophyll and is a parasitic plant of the American Beech Tree.
#16 The Swamp
Marker #16 The Swamp
The final marker on the red trail briefly discusses the importance of the Great Swamp. The land comprising the Great Swamp is a mix of meadows, upland woods, marsh and brush covered swamps. Only 40% of the Great Swamp is wet either part of the year or all year long whereas 60% of the Great Swamp consists of upland forest & meadows.
Red Trail End
We are now at the end of the Red Trail.
Green Trail Blaze
At the end of the red trail head north to catch the beginning of the short .20 of a mile Green Trail near the parking area. The Green trail traverses in a short loop in an upland portion of the GSOEC.
High Mountain Park was a tree farm owned by Urban Farms, Inc., a subsidiary of McBride Enterprises of Franklin Lakes, NJ before its establishment as a preserve. On May 19, 1993 the Wayne Council majority in an 8-1 vote accepted a deal to purchase High Mountain from Urban Farms, Inc.
The State of NJ committed $2.6 million in a Green Acres Grant and agreed to a 2% loan of $4 million. $901,943 was provided in other grand funds. The Nature Conservancy obtained a $500,000 state grant to assist in the purchase of High Mountain.
Funding Provided by Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders
Ecological communities featured in High Mountain Park include:
Rocky Headwater Stream:
Rocky Headwater Stream
Rocky headwater stream habitat includes a small to moderate sized rocky stream that lacks persistent emergent vegetation. In other words, few large rooted plants are found but mosses and algae are usually present. The stream flows over bedrock near its origin and contains riffle and pool sections.
In addition to Red Maple Swamps, Shrub swamps are also found in High Mountain Park. This community consists of temporarily to permanently flooded wetlands usually populated with Skunk Cabbage, Buttonbush, Spicebush among others.
Talus Slope Community:
Talus Slope communities consist of sparse vegetation occurring on exposures of shale bedrock, ledges and talus. Little soil exists on the talus.
Trap rock Glade/Outcrop Community:
Trap Rock Glade- Outcrop Community (Winter)
The trap rock glade/outcrop community is globally rare and was the principal reason the Nature Conservancy was interested in protecting High Mountain. Trap rock Glade/Outcrop communities, a globally impaired community type, consists primarily of grasses and forbs with occasional Eastern Red Cedar.
Prickley Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus may also be present. Hickory-Ash-Red Cedar woodland is also dominated in the trap rock glade/outcrop community. Rare Rock Outcrop Plants include Torreys Mountain Mint and Dewey’s Sedge among other rare plants.
Hickory/Ash/Eastern Red Cedar Woodland:
Eastern Red Cedar
This community contains the trap rock outcrop community and consists of Pignut Hickory, Eastern Red Cedar, White Ash and Chestnut Oak with the understory consisting primarily of grasses and forbs. This community along with the trap rock glade/outcrop community harbor a total of 14 rare and endangered plants.
Frequent disturbance is required for the oak-hickory forest to maintain itself. Without disturbance, shade tolerant species such as Sugar Maple and American Beech regenerate replacing oaks over time. Maple-Beech dominated woodland do not provide sufficient quality mast (i.e. acorns, hickory nuts) required for wildlife.
The composition of the present Oak-Hickory forest found in High Mountain Park will likely change as the sapling layer is mostly populated by Sugar & Red Maple with only a few Oak saplings present. This change may be due to fire suppression.
Wooly Adelgid on Hemlock Needles
Most of the hemlocks found in High Mountain Park Preserve are dead or dying due to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Native to East Asia, the adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees. This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.
High Mountain Park is a part of the Passaic River watershed. All streams that originate or flow through High Mountain Park drain to the Passaic River. Streams include tributaries to the Point View Reservoir found in the western section of the preserve and tributaries of the Molly Ann Brook (the last stream to drain into the Passaic River before the Great Falls in Paterson) found in the eastern portion of the preserve. The headwaters of Preakness (Signac) Brook are located in High Mountain Park and are classified in this location as C1 by the NJ DEP. According to the NJ DEP Website “Category One (C1) designation protects waterways from any discharge that produces a measurable change in the existing quality of the water”. Numerous tributaries to the Preakness Brook are found primarily in the heart of the preserve.
2020 Update – Please note the trail system has changed since this post was written. An updated map was posted to the NY NJ Trail Conference. You can access it here.
The below trail description was as I found the trails in High Mountain when I wrote this post in 2012.
There are five blazed trails ranging from 0.2 miles to 4.9 miles waiting to be explored at High Mountain Park. All trails are maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference who have maintained the trails since the 1940’s.
2020 Update – Reminder, the above trail map is no longer accurate.
The trailhead of the 1.7 mile Red Trail is accessible from the small parking lot off of College Road.
From the kiosk in the parking area, the Red Trail heads east on a gravel trail in an open field adjacent to College Road and enters the woods heading in a north to northwest direction.
Massive Boulder on Red Trail
After entering the forest, a large boulder is visible to the west near a sign advertising High Mountain.
To High Mountain
From here, the Red Trail passes a stream & wetlands.
Wetlands near Red Trail
At half a mile, the southern trailhead of the Yellow Trail is accessible on the east. Past the trailhead of the Yellow Trail, the Red Trail passes the southern trailhead of the White Trail Trailhead to the west .6 of a mile. Once past the trailhead of the White Trail, the Red Trail crosses a stream and wetlands before continuing in a northwest direction.
Waterfall off of Red Trail
Another stream with a waterfall eventually appears to the east of the Red Trail. The Red Trail crosses the stream proceeding a short distance to its northern terminus at Reservoir Drive in Franklin Lakes.
Reservoir Drive Red Trail End
White Trail Trailhead
The southern trailhead of the 1.6 mile White Trail is accessible from the Red Trail about .6 of a mile from the Red Trail’s trailhead at College Road.
From its trailhead, the White Trail heads west through the wetlands of a Preakness Brook tributary stream. Continuing west the White Trail reaches another Preakness brook tributary and its wetlands.
North Jersey Country Club
From here, the White Trail turns north passing the North Jersey Country Club. Continuing north past the North Jersey Country Club, the White Trail passes a reservoir used for the ponds found in the country club.
North Jersey Country Club Reservoir
From here the White Trail continues north and goes through talus slopes while paralleling and eventually crossing another Preakness Brook tributary. The White Trail ends at the Yellow Trail near Beech Mountain.
White Trail End
Yellow Trail Trailhead from Red Trail
At 4.9 miles, the Yellow Trail is the longest trail present in High Mountain Park. The southern trailhead of the Yellow Trail is accessible from the Red Trail about ½ a mile from the trailhead of the Red Trail on College Road.
From the Red Trail, the Yellow Trail turns east and crosses a stream and wetlands heading in a northwest and then northeast direction. Soon the Yellow Trail passes the summit of Mount Cecchino to the east. From here the trail begins a steady climb to the summit of High Mountain. At 885 feet, High Mountain is the third tallest peak in the US within 20 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
High Mountain Grassy Summit Yellow Trail
The grassy summit is about 1 mile from the Yellow Trail trailhead and provides fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline, Garrett Mountain (1st Watchung) and the distant Ramapo Mountains.
Summit of High Mountain View of NYC with Black Cherry Tree in Bloom Yellow Trail
From the summit of High Mountain the Yellow Trail heads west going downhill and crosses a stream.
After crossing the stream, the Yellow Trail comes to an intersection with the Red Trail.
Once past the intersection with the Red Trail, the Yellow Trail heads northwest to a paved circle on Reservoir Drive in Franklin Lakes and briefly travels along Reservoir Drive before reentering the forest near Winding Hollow Drive in Franklin Lakes.
Reservoir Drive Franklin Lakes NJ
Heading south, the Yellow Trail passes the northern trailhead of the White Trail and then heads south and climbs Beech Mountain. At 875 feet, Beech Mountain is the second highest peak in High Mountain Park.
Swamp Beech Mountain Yellow Trail
The Yellow Trail then traverses past a large forested wetland to the west and crosses a Preakness Brook tributary. Turning west, the Yellow Trail reaches a beautiful view found on a basalt outcrop of Pointview Reservoir and the distant NJ Highlands.
View of Point View Reservoir with Distant NJ Highlands from Yellow Trail Beech Mountain
The Yellow Trail continues northwest past another Preakness Brook Tributary and heads south and west past the parking lot for JVC Corporation.
Back of JVC Building on Yellow Trail
From here, the Yellow Trail heads northwest and passes the northern terminus of the Horizontal White Blaze connector trail. The Yellow Trail then turns north and traverses through the Franklin Clove.
Yellow Trail Franklin Clove
The Franklin Clove was formed by glacial action in the last ice age. Continuing north, the Yellow Trail passes by the very short Orange Blazed Buttermilk Falls trail and then ends at Indian Drive in Franklin Lakes.
Buttermilk Falls Orange Trail Blaze
The 0.2 Mile Orange Blazed Buttermilk Falls trail begins from the Yellow Trail shortly after the Yellow Trail passes through the Franklin Clove. It ends at Scioto Drive in Franklin Lakes. The primary feature of this trail is Buttermilk Falls which spills over fractured basalt.
Pancake Trail Trailhead
The 2.8 mile Blue Trail (aka the Pancake Hollow Trail) trailhead is located off of Chickapee Drive in Wayne.
Blue Trail Blaze
The Blue Trail initially heads east and turns north at the intersection of the horizontally white blazed connector trail. Heading north, the trail passes the Franklin Clove and the headwaters for Preakness Brook to the east. The Blue Trail then turns northwest passing between housing developments to the north and south where a lean-to is present.
Lean-To off of Blue Trail
Once past the housing developments, the trail traverses the “pancake hollow” section of High Mountain Park.
Stream along Blue Trail
The Blue Trail continues west crossing over a brook and wetlands. As the blue trail approaches Berdan Avenue at the farthest western portion of High Mountain Park, the trail turns NW and then NE and then continues in a SE direction leaving the Pancake Hollow section returning the hiker in a loop fashion back to the portion of the Blue Trail previously traveled with housing developments to the north and south. From here, the hiker follows the blue trail back to the trailhead at Chickopee Drive.
Blue Trail End
Horizontal White Blaze Trailhead
The 0.2 mile Horizontal White Blaze Connector trail’s western trailhead is accessible from the Blue Trail near the Blue Trail trailhead at Chickapee Drive in Wayne. The Horizontal White Blaze Connector Trail initially heads southeast from the Blue Trail before turning north to connect with the Yellow Trail near the Franklin Clove where it ends.
Fauna I’ve spotted during my hikes at High Mountain Park include:
Scarlet Tanager (Female)
Black Rat Snake
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
High Mountain Park Preserve provides much needed habitat to the threatened Long-Eared Bat which has been found roosting in the forest.
Take Route 208 west to the second Goffle Road exit (towards Hawthorne/Paterson) and turn right at the end of the ramp. At the next light, just beyond the intersection with Goffle Hill Road, turn right onto North Watchung Drive. At a “stop” sign at the top of the hill, turn sharply right onto Rea Avenue, which becomes North Haledon Avenue and then Linda Vista Avenue. At a T-intersection with Terrace Avenue, turn right, then bear left to continue on Linda Vista Avenue, which leads into William Paterson University (Entry 6). At the next “stop” sign, turn right and continue for 0.4 mile to a small parking area on the right, with a sign “High Mountain Park.”
NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!