Leonia’s 14 acre Highwood Hills natural area was acquired by the Borough of Leonia using Green Acre funding in 1972 and 1980.The nature preserve is bordered to the east by the Plaza West Shopping Center, to the south by the borough of Palisades Park, and by dense residential housing to the north and west.
The property was acquired through the efforts of the Leonia Environmental Commission, mayor and council and citizens. The Leonia Environmental Commission, scouts and volunteers sponsor educational activities, clean-ups and special programs on occasion at Highwood Hills.
The preserve features 6 trails. The Main Trail goes in a north to south direction across the perimeter of the preserve and parallels a seasonal stream.
Sassafras saplings were found throughout the main trail. These trees grow well in open woods on moist, well-drained, sandy loam soils. This tree has three basic leave patterns making it a really interesting tree to look at. One of the types of leaves even looks like a mitten.
There are five trails which branch off the main trail. The Lizard Pond trail branches to the west of the preserve in a loop fashion. The pond leads to a vernal pond (Lizard Pond) which was mud at the time of my summer 2010 visit.
The Birch Trail, which heads to the east of the preserve in a loop fashion from the main trail, features a railroad tie staircase and bridges over the seasonal stream.
The Chestnut trail branches off the main trail at the extreme southern extent of the preserve. The Chestnut trail leads to the Gulch Trail or back to another railroad tie staircase. It was along this staircase that I found some cool turkey tail fungus on some old logs.
The Gulch Trail either leads back to Lizard Pond Trail or the Douglas Spur Trail which connects back to the Main Trail. Each trail, regardless of the length, has character and is worth exploring.
The preserve is a unique remnant palisades forest located just minutes from the George Washington Bridge.
Contact the Leonia Environmental Commission for more information. The entrance to the preserve is located on Highwood Avenue in Leonia, NJ or off of Roff Avenue, Glen Avenue or 4th street in Palisades Park. Parking is available on Highwood Avenue near the entrance or on Roff and Glen Avenue.
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!