Three miles from the center of Paterson and sandwiched in the center of North Jersey's sprawl is a vast preserve, diverse in flora and fauna with a sweeping view of the region.
The High Mountain Park Preserve is a haven of natural beauty in the midst of Wayne Township. The Preserve is one of the largest tracts of forested open space in the New York metropolitan area and protects over 460 species of plants. In August of 1993, Wayne Township, the State of New Jersey and The Nature Conservancy of New Jersey purchased this 1,071-acre Preserve and today it is managed jointly by the three owners.
High Mountain Park Preserve contains some 1,154 acres located in the Preakness Range, a northern continuation of the Second Watchung Ridge. The Preserve includes High Mountain itself, which features excellent views of New York City. Though well hidden, 124 species of birds have been catalogued, including hawks, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
High Mountain also boasts a diversity of plants. Bright orange mushrooms, wild rosebushes, lady's slipper orchids, and prickly pear cactus, which normally grow in the desert, are among the unusual flora.
Continuing up the mountain. Keep an eye out for the different plants and wildlife, but remember to keep an eye on the trail markers painted along the trees. With all its twists and turns, it can be easy to wander off and get lost.
Soon the path leads to a section of trail lined with loose rocks leading straight up a steep incline. It looks like a difficult climb, and it is. But once at the top of the trail, hikers are rewarded with a surprise.
As the trail leads up to the top of the mountain, which has a maximum elevation of 885 feet, tall trees become more scarce, letting in light that allows the growth of colorful yellow and purple wildflowers. Brown crickets hop out of the way, clearing a path for oncoming hikers, and hawks circle the mountain.
Finally, the trail opens into a clearing that reveals a view of North Jersey, Manhattan, and Brooklyn that makes the long walk worthwhile. On a clear day, landmarks are visible: the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the George Washington Bridge. Turn to the south to look down on Garret Mountain.