Join us once again for our annual First Day Hike! This year, we will be hiking the Highlands Trail again, between Spruce Run Recreation Area and Long Valley!
Last year we had a great turnout for the Highlands Trail heading southwest, this time we'll try it northeast bound.
The route will be almost exactly fifteen miles. About half of the hike is easy rail trail; the Highlands Trail and Columbia Trail run together for quite some time, so that part will be easy and wide. About 3.5 miles of the hike are on more rugged, back woods hiking trail, and there are three brief but scenic sections of road walking.
This hike is officially sponsored by NJ DEP, Department of Parks and Forests, Spruce Run Recreation Area as one of the First Day Hikes offered every year.
We will be meeting at 9 am in Long Valley NJ, at the parking area for the Columbia Trail on Rt 24, Schooley's Mountain Road, located at the following GPS coordinates:
Once together, we will shuttle in as few cars as possible to our beginning point at Spruce Run and hike back. On average, hikes of this distance will take 7.5 hours. This one might take a bit less because the latter part of the hike is easier terrain.
The hike will begin at Spruce Run Recreation Area where, from our boat launch road, we will head into a scrubby woods. Along the way, I will impart history of the park and tell of the original road alignments before the reservoir filled in the early 1960s. I will also point out invasive and native species of plants and trees.
As we continue, the trail utilizes a bit of road before entering Union Furnace Nature Preserve of Hunterdon County Parks Department. The section offers lovely seasonal views of the reservoir and surrounding area, as well as remnants of one of the oldest iron works in America.
The trail then follows pleasant back roads with one outstanding view of the reservoir to Voorhees State Park. We'll continue through mixed hardwood forest, gradually up hill through the state park, then continue to Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area. The rugged trail descends gradually to the abandoned right of way of the Central Railroad of NJ's High Bridge Branch, now the Columbia Trail. We continue through the gorge, the highlight of which is an old repurposed railroad trestle. The trail continues through historic old railroad towns including Califon, Vernoy, and Middle Valley, changing over from gorge to more pastoral settings before completing the hike in Long Valley.
For more information, please contact leader M'ke Helbing at (908)[masked] or e mail [masked]