njHiking.com - Hiking in NJ and Beyond

Black River County Park – Cooper Mill

Black RiverChester Township, Morris Country

Summary: Start at the old Cooper Mill and take a pretty hike in the Black River Gorge, through a pine forest, with a sidetrip to the ruins of Kay’s Cottage.

Moderate. Minor rocks, and some moderately steep sections. Bamboo Brook Trail requires about 5-10 min. of walking along Pottersville Road (little traffic).

  • 7.5 miles - The route we took, described below.
  • Easy – The beginning section of Black River Trail from Cooper Mill is easy and makes for a nice short stroll along the river – just go as far as you like then retrace your steps.
  • 3.8 miles – Black River Trail to Kay Environmental Center, and back.
  • REALLY long – Check our trail blog for a challenging 14.8 loop from Cooper Mill to Willowbrook Arboretum and back. (note: our writeup is brief and potentially outdated, as we hiked it in 2008.)

Trail Map: [Note: the trail map on the park site was updated 3/2012 and is more clearly marked and in color than the map we used to do this hike]

Get the map from the Cooper Mill site. The kiosk usually has trail maps too, but it’s not a bad idea to print one ahead anyway. [NOTE: there are two BLUE trails on the map. Black River Trail (Cooper Mill to Kay's Environmental Center) and Bamboo Brook Trail (Kay's Environmental Center to Bamboo Brook Center)

Books: This route is found in Hiking New Jersey and Hiking the Jersey Highlands has a version of this route that runs in the other direction, and without the sidetrip to Kay’s ruins.

Parking: Directions found on the Cooper Mill site. Parking is also available at Kay’s Environmental Center, which meets up with the trails here.

Restrooms: In the parking lot is a bathroom building and porta-johns.

Directions for 7.5 mile hike:

[NOTE: The area where the unmarked trail to Kay's Cottage is picked up is slightly confusing. The park map doesn't provide a lot of detail there, we've created a highlighted map detail below.

The map diagram in Hiking New Jersey is better; but is a little mislabeled: after returning from the cottage, the map shows the trail as “Green Blaze Trail”, but after that you are actually on the Red Conifer Pass Trail, which the book’s map does not show. It also does not denote the end of Conifer and the start of Bamboo Brook Trail.]

From the parking lot, walk toward the Mill and down some steps. Cross a small footbridge and follow the BLUE markers of the Black River Trail.

The trail follows the river, passes Kay’s pond, and a fenced-in area of the old Hacklebarney mine.

1.4 – The trail splits. Bear right onto an unmarked path. (the BLUE trail markers indicate a left turn here, which would lead to Kay’s Enviromental Center instead)

1.5["A" on the detail below. Route highlighted in yellow, with arrows]
Turn RIGHT and follow an unmarked trail that crosses the Black River on a footbridge. Follow the unmarked trail as it heads uphill. The river will come into view, keep an eye out on the left for the stone ruins of Kay’s Cottage, which are right next to the river.

The trail ends just past the ruins, turn around and retrace your route. Cross back over the footbridge and get back to the “A” spot noted above.


2.5 – Back at “A” – Turn RIGHT.

3.0 - Trail splits, take the RIGHT fork onto RED (Conifer Pass Trail).

The RED (Conifer Pass Trail) follows along the other side of the river. Kay’s Cottage ruins can be seen from this side.

The trail heads steepily up when it starts to veer away from the river, and goes up and down a few times. Continue through a section of pine forest, and cross a small stream. There are some trail markings that appear brown on some parts of the RED trail – not sure what they pertain to.

4.2 – Cross Pottersville Road.

4.5 – Large directional signs. RED Conifer Pass trail ends; now turn LEFT to start following BLUE Bamboo Brook (BLUE also goes to the right, which leads to Bamboo Brook Educational Center.

5.1 – Again arrive at Pottersville Road. Turn RIGHT and walk along the shoulder of the road until the driveway for Kay’s Environmental Center.

5.3 – Turn LEFT onto the driveway for Kay’s Environmental Center. Walk down the paved park road.

5.6 - Watch for BLUE markers indicating a LEFT. Follow the BLUE trail to Kay’s Environmental Center, and follow the trail through the parking lot and to the left.

5.9 – Large directional sign indicates a RIGHT turn, and 1.6 miles back to Cooper Mill.
Hiked: 10/31/10. Trail Blog: “Black River County Park – Cooper Mill

njHiking.com | facebook.com/njhiking | twitter.com/njhiking | youtube.com/njhiking | zazzle.com/njhiking