Enjoyable hike that includes scenic views over the Jersey Highlands and Butler reservoir, plus waterfalls, a dam, ruins… and even a brief glimpse of the NYC skyline.
5.4 miles, Moderate. Minor rocks, a few steep sections (especially the switchbacks on GREEN), several rock hops over wet areas or streams.
- Short – About 4 miles – Skip the RED section below (BLUE to WHITE to right on RED to 2nd GREEN to waterfall to ORANGE to BLUE)
- Short – 3.4 round trip. Direct to dam, ruins, waterfall. (BLUE to ORANGE to GREEN then reverse)
- Shorter – 1.8 round trip. To the reservoir and back. (BLUE to WHITE then reverse)
- The trail map lists distances of each trail in order to put other small loops together.
Our two cents: This hike packs a lot of interest in under 6 miles: a large portion of this hike has a water view (reservoir or stream), plus there some waterfalls, water tank ruins from the early 1900’s, a dam, a couple of viewpoints – and even a peek at the NYC skyline thrown in for good measure.
A longish route can’t really be done in this park, this 5.4 loop around the perimeter is it (unless YELLOW opens up) but the trails are typical Jersey Highlands (relentless up-n-down, up-n-down) so they give you a workout anyway. Bonus: This is a no-hunting park.
Trail Map: The map was updated 9/2013 and has several major changes to the trails. Not only were trails changed but some have been blazed with different colors! The description below has been entirely redone.
YELLOW is currently closed due to busy beavers (a large lodge is visible across the reservoir). The map prior to the current (9/2013) one shows the WHITE trail heading off of RED away from the reservoir… this is entirely gone from the new map. The Preserve is also included in the map set for Jersey Highlands Trails but that does not include the recent changes.
Books: This area isn’t covered in any of the hiking books we own. For information on the deer fence and other tidbits, check out NJ Urban Forest’s blog post.
Parking: N41 01.516 W74 22.430
Directions from the Apshawa Preserve site: Route 287N to Exit 52 – Route 23 North. Route 23 North for 5.6 miles to Germantown Road. Right turn onto Germantown Road and travel east for 2.5 miles. Right turn onto Macopin Road and travel for 1.6 miles. Right turn onto Northwood Road and immediately look to the right for “Apshawa Preserve, New Jersey Conservation Foundation” sign. Large dirt lot.
Note: Using Google will route you directly through a neighborhood instead of around via the Germantown Road exit off of Rt.23.
Restrooms: None (gas stations on Rt 23 best bet).
Note: We encountered some traffic and yard work noise, and in few spots on the trails you are practically in people’s backyards… but such is hiking in NJ sometimes. The beauty of the trails makes up for it. The video is from before the major changes to the trail system.
Hike Directions: Overview – BLUE – WHITE – RED – GREEN – ORANGE – BLUE
0.0 – Walk through the gate in the deer fence and start following BLUE. It’s the only trail from the lot.
0.3 – Continue straight on BLUE. [PURPLE starts on the LEFT] GPS: BLUE/PURPLE
0.5 – Turn RIGHT, now following WHITE. The blazes are painted on a rock. [BLUE continues straight] GPS: BLUE-WHITE
0.8 – View of Butler Reservoir in the distance. GPS: ViewWhite
0.9 – Go through the gate in the deer fence and turn RIGHT, now following RED (it looks kinda orangey). GPS: WHITE-RED [WHITE ends. RED also goes to the LEFT]
Shorter Option: Turn LEFT on RED instead to not go around the entire reservoir. Then choose another trail to loop back. Taking the 2nd GREEN would make this hike around 4 miles total.
1.2 – Intersection with the start of the YELLOW trail, which is closed due to beaver activity. A large beaver lodge can be seen across the water. GPS: Wht/Yel1
Turn LEFT, still following RED, across a narrow strip of ground with water on one side.
At the end of that, turn LEFT, still following RED. [the other end of YELLOW ends here] GPS: Wht/Yel2
Start moving away from the reservoir. Trail markers can be somewhat hard to spot through here. Lots of large trees are down as the bridge is approached.
1.5 – Cross a stream on a metal bridge, continuing on RED as it hugs the stream. GPS: MetalBridge
The trail returns to the shore of the reservoir, with several rocks to take a break on, and plenty of views of the water.
2.3 – Arrive at a woods road (County Access Rd), and turn LEFT, following RED. Pass the GREEN trail gate on the right for now, you’ll be back in a bit. [Skip this next little out and back portion and remove .3 miles from the hike]
Follow RED when it turns LEFT off of the woods road (blazed on a rock). Take this out to a bit of land jutting into the reservoir for another vantage point.
Retrace RED to the woods road, turn RIGHT and retrace RED back to the gate.
2.7 – Turn LEFT through the gate and start following GREEN. GPS: RED/GREEN [RED continues straight, in the direction you came from]. The trail is a little crappy for a short bit as it follows a rocky drainage with a bunch of downed trees.
3.1 – A casual path on the right leads out to a rock with a limited view. The viewpoint marked on the trail map is the next one. GPS: MinorViewpoint
3.2 – This view is also partially obstructed by trees but still makes for a nice break spot. GPS: ViewGreen. Continue on GREEN. As you head downhill, peek through the trees to spot the NYC skyline in the distance.
Head downhill on steep switchbacks.
3.6 – Arrive at a woods road near Apshawa Brook, turn LEFT, still on GREEN. Check out the waterfall before continuing on GREEN up the woods road. GPS: ApshawaWaterfall
3.8 – GREEN turns RIGHT to cross Apshawa Brook via a potentially tricky rock hop. Old water tanks and some stone buildings are remnants of a water purification system built in the early 1900’s. GPS: WaterTankRuins
3.9 – Continue on GREEN to a dam, also built in the early 1900s. GPS: ApshawaDam
4.3 – Turn RIGHT and now follow ORANGE. [GREEN continues to the LEFT] GPS: GREEN/ORG
4.4 –Turn RIGHT, now following BLUE. GPS: ORG/BLUE [ORANGE ends. BLUE also goes to the LEFT]
4.9 – Pass WHITE on the left. GPS: BLUE-WHITE
5.1 – Pass PURPLE on the right. GPS: BLUE/PURPLE
Hiked: 4/6/14. Trail Blog: “Apshawa Preserve – Butler Reservoir, Waterfalls, Ruins“
Hiked: 11/06/10. Trail Blog: “Apshawa Preserve”