Sunfish Pond

Sunfish PondHike through some of the prettiest forest in New Jersey to a glacial lake 1,000 feet above the surrounding area.

Trail surface: The Gap is notorious for rocks and will give feet and joints a good pounding. It can be hiked in sneakers… but we wouldn’t recommend it. The Appalachian Trail is rockier than the Dunnfield Creek Trail, in our opinion.

Water crossings: The Dunnfield Creek (GREEN) trail contains several rock-hops across the creek. After real heavy rain, they can be a bit tricky to negotiate. Trekking poles or a stick can come in handy.

Our two cents: Sunfish Pond is a popular destination, but rightly so. For newer hikers, this is hike is manageable… but it’s also not a “walk in the park” and 7.6+ miles may be longer than you realize or can comfortably do.

While on our way back, we’ve passed many weary hikers asking “how much farther to the pond?” Please bring water, have appropriate footwear, and honestly assess your fitness level. This is not a good choice for your first hike.

There are several ways to Sunfish Pond, these are the routes from the Rt 80 Dunnfield lot:

Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Sunfish Pond – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) 7.6
Appalachian Trail (WHITE) .5 miles – Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN) – Sunfish Pond – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) [directions below] 7.9
Appalachian Trail (WHITE) .5 miles – Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN) – Sunfish Pond – Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN) 8.2
Appalachian Trail (WHITE) .5 miles – Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN) – Sunfish Pond – Around the pond: Fire Road, Turquoise Trail – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) 9.5
Red Dot – Mt. Tammany Summit – Fire Road – Turquoise Trail – Sunfish Pond – Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN) – [Challenging] [Directions: Mt. Tammany and Sunfish Pond] 11.3
Appalachian Trail (WHITE) .5 miles – Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN) – Sunfish Pond – Around the pond: Fire Road, Turquoise Trail – Appalachian Trail North (WHITE) to park boundary sign – turnaround and take AT back to lot [Challenging] 13.2

[Mileages are from our GPS data; your results may vary slightly.]

  • Shorter options: There are shorter but steeper routes to Sunfish Pond off of Old Mine Road on Garvey Springs trail.
  • Super short: For a beautiful hike that is just under 1.5 miles roundtrip (but does not get to Sunfish)… follow the directions below and turnaround where noted. The Appalachian Trail follows the creek in an absolutely gorgeous area and you end up at a nice water cascade.

Map: Map# 121 of the Kittatinny Trails map set.

Books: The longer Mt. Tammany to Sunfish route description and map diagram can be found in Hiking New Jersey. For a long backpack route on the Appalachian Trail that includes Sunfish Pond, see the description and map diagrams in 50 Hikes in New Jersey. Details on all the trails in the area can be found in Kittatinny Trails and The New Jersey Walk Book.

Parking: N40 58.291 W75 07.531
Route 80 West to just before the last exit in New Jersey. On the right is a sign for Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. There is a parking lot on the right, then a large main lot in the center and if that is full, you can park on the grass next to that* at the visitor center. The road is one way so you can’t backtrack to a passed lot unless you get back onto Rt 80 and come around.

In the photo gallery we’ve added a photo overview of the parking lots as it’s just easier to show it than explain it.

*Update 6/7/15 – The grass lot was closed off, and anything in the main lot that was not a marked parking space had cones blocking it (normally, cars are parked in every nook and cranny). This reduces the amount of parking available by quite a bit, and there were only 1 or 2 spots available when we arrived in the AM. A police truck was monitoring the lot, and signs were up warning of recent break-ins. Also, when we left at around 1pm, the gate to the visitor center (Rt 80 E) was closed and the lot full. This may have been a one-time thing, or It was again like this on 8/22/15 so either this is the parking situation now or maybe just for the summer.

Restrooms: Porta-john in the far side of the lot (as of June 2015). But we’ve gone and there hasn’t been one. If that is the case, there are some at the visitor center.

To get to the visitor center: head back out onto Rt. 80 from the lot and take the very next exit right, then make a left like you are going to go around to 80 E, then instead of merging onto 80, immediately head to the right into the visitor center, there are rows of toilets there.

This video is for the longer Mt. Tammany to Sunfish Route; so it shows Mt. Tammany, the Fire Road, Turquoise Trail to Sunfish Pond, with Dunnfield Creek as the return trail.

Hike Directions: These directions are for the Dunnfield Creek (GREEN) to Sunfish Pond with return via the Appalachian Trail (AT) route.

0.0 – At the far end of the main lot, look for a trail sign and a bridge over Dunnfield Creek. Cross the bridge, and follow the trail which is the Appalachian Trail (WHITE) at first.

0.5 – A large trail sign is at a V-intersection. Bear RIGHT here for the start of the Dunnfield Creek Trail (GREEN). (The Appalachian Trail bears left here, and also leads to Sunfish Pond – and is the return route)

Cross a bridge. There are some nice water cascades here. [For the short hike mentioned above; turnaround here and retrace your route]

0.7 – Continue GREEN. Pass the start of the BLUE DOT trail on the right.

1.9 – Pass Holly Springs trail on the left.

Keep an eye out for the GREEN markers which can be sometimes hard to spot. They will also indicate several times to cross Dunnfield Creek.

3.3 – The trail starts to turn west, away from the creek. Cross through an area than can be quite wet.

3.7 – The trail starts heading uphill, a little steeply and over some rock slabs, as it nears the pond.

4.1 – Sunfish Pond. The Dunnfield Creek Trail comes to an open area with a plaque. Walk towards the pond (north/right) to find a place to take a break.

[Optional add-on… walk around the pond a bit: The west side of the pond is quite rocky, or there is a fire road around the east side of the pond (or combine to make a loop). The fire road veers away from the pond so it doesn’t offer any break spots at the water’s edge unless you go up to the Turquoise Trail. To do so would add about 1.6 miles to your route.

[To go to the Turquoise Trail: find the fire road on the east side of the pond (it’s an unmarked woods road). Follow the road north for about .6 miles until the Turquoise Trail starts on the left (there is a small pile of rocks). Follow Turquoise to the edge of Sunfish Pond, where there are large rock slabs to sit on. When done, retrace your route back on Turquoise and the Fire Road to the southern end of Sunfish.

When ready to head back, look for the WHITE markers of the Appalachian Trail (AT) heading south. Stay on the AT all the way back to the parking lot. The trail is well marked.

6.4 – Continue AT. Holly Springs (RED) and Beulahland (YELLOW) cross the AT.

7.4 – Continue on the AT as it passes the start of the Dunnfield Creek Trail on the left. Retrace the route from earlier, back to the parking lot.

Hiked: 6/7/15.
Hiked: 5/9/11. Trail Blog: “Dunnfield Creek – Sunfish Pond – AT