Challenging loop that combines a section of the Four Birds Trail with the Splitrock Trail to circle Splitrock Reservoir.
Enjoy views of the reservoir and Misty Pond from Indian Cliffs. This challenging loop is one of the most difficult hikes in NJ.
11.2 miles; challenging. Suitable for experienced, fit hikers only (seriously, we aren’t kidding here). Even though the loop is on the low end of challenging distance wise, the relentless minor elevation changes of the Highlands terrain provides a workout.
The entire route is now well-blazed, but sometimes the marks take a second to spot. Multiple blow-downs to negotiate. A couple water crossings that can be tricky when water is high.
- Longer: Both Four Birds and Splitrock trail connect below Splitrock Road allowing for a bit longer loop.
- Shorter: Moderate out-and-back segment of the Four Birds Trail.
- Bail-Out Option: Charlottesburg Road is a dirt road closed to traffic that runs along the East side of the Reservoir. If you are following the loop clockwise and have had it, you can take Charlottesburg back. There are several opportunities where the trail intersects with the road.
- Alternate: Four Birds Trail is 19.4 miles one way – do a long out-and-back of part of it instead.
Updated 9/10/15 – Description updated, GPX added.
Our two cents: We’ve done this loop in both directions and think it’s better clockwise (the directions below) because that puts the “easier” rocky woods road sections (Charlottesburg Rd) at the end. This also means you can give this challenging hike a shot and bail out early if you’ve had it. Either way requires a dusty road walk at the beginning and end of the hike.
Map: This area is now covered by Jersey Highlands Trails map set and is what should be used. We’ve kept the links to these other map sources but they are not as up-to-date:
- Trail Map (on right side click “WCRmap.pdf” and print out the 3 reservoir sections)
- Splitrock Reservoir only, on lettersize page (The reservoir portion combined from detail pages; from GoneHikin Blog)
- Overview Map
Parking: N40 57.751 W74 27.480
Dirt lot off of Split Rock Rd. This often fills up and if it is, you are out of luck…. only park in the lot, you will get ticketed if you park along the road.
From the south: 287N to exit 43, at the end of the ramp turn left, then right onto Fanny Rd to Powerville, left on Valley, right on Rockaway Valley, stay left onto Split Rock and follow to Parking (road turns into gravel). If you are traveling from the north, the exit may be different, so you’ll want to check directions from where you are.
From the south, alternate: 287N to Rt 80 W to exit for Rt 513/Green Pond Rd. Right on Meridian. Left on Lyonsville. Left onto Split Rock Rd to parking lot.
Restroom: Porta-john in the parking lot, as of 8/2016. Fanny Road route doesn’t offer much in the way of restroom possibilities; if you don’t want to chance the porta not being there… use the alternate Rt 80 route for gas stations and a Dunkin once getting on 513]
Hike Directions: OVERVIEW: Road – Four Birds Trail (WHITE) to Splitrock (BLUE ) – Road. There are several unmarked trails or woods road in the area which we haven’t marked, just stick to the blazed trails.
0.0 – With your back to the lot, turn RIGHT and walk down the dirt road, over a bridge. Nice views of the reservoir from the bridge. Keep walking down the dirt road.
0.5 – Watch for the blazes, and Turn RIGHT and start following the Four Birds Trail (WHITE). GPS: FourBirds-SplitrockRd Scramble up a hill immediately.
1.9 – Limited viewpoint over the reservoir. GPS: SplitrockView
3.1 – A rocky piece of land jutting out into the water a bit makes a wonderful break spot. Great views of the reservoir. GPS: BreakSpot
Continue following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) as it follows closer to the reservoir. Ignore any blue blazes in the area.
4.5 – Keep following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) straight. [YELLOW starts to the left, and while not blazed on the map nor have we checked it out, it should follow a woods road to Durham Pond]. GPS: YEL-FourBirds
4.6 – Keep following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) past the the ORANGE trail GPS: ORG-FourBirds (Easy to miss; we waltzed right on by and had to go back to double check our original waypoint) and then shortly after, an unmarked trail on the right. GPS: Unmarked
5.5 – Keep following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) straight [RED goes left and right]. GPS: Red-FourBirds
Shortly, turn RIGHT and now follow Splitrock (BLUE). GPS: SplitrockTrail
The trail skirts Misty Pond which has a beaver dam in it. You are now north of the reservoir and are heading to the east side.
6.2 – Climb a short steep section to arrive at Indian Cliffs with fantastic views over the reservoir and of Misty Pond. There is a large rock slab to take a break on (but little shade). GPS: IndianCliffs
Continue following Splitrock (BLUE). There may be a few ORANGE blazes, as that trail comes in, follows Splitrock (BLUE), and then leaves to the right.
6.8 – Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) as it crosses Charlottesburg Rd.
7.0 – Turn RIGHT to continue on Splitrock (BLUE) as it follows Charlottesburg Rd.
7.7 – Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) as it leaves Charlottesburg Rd, heading East back onto a trail. GPS: BailoutOption
[Option: Had enough? Stay on Charlottesburg Rd instead. Pick up the directions at 9.8 below by turning RIGHT back onto Splitrock (BLUE). This cuts 2.1 miles of steep hiking off the route. There isn’t anything particular in this section that you’ll miss, but it was nice.]
9.8 – Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) as it crosses Charlottesburg Rd for the final time. The trail skirts near the reservoir.
10.9 – Turn RIGHT onto Splitrock Road and follow that back to the lot.
[Note: just before the road, the map shows an unmarked trail that leads back to the lot, which we wanted to try instead of the road walk back. It may or may not still be there, we didn’t see it – but at that point we were already discussing whether to get ice cream or milkshakes so our focus wasn’t quite 100%…]
Hiked: 9/5/10. Trail Blog: “Splitrock Reservoir Loop on Labor Day”
Hiked: 11/2/08. Trail Blog: “Farny – Split Rock Reservoir Loop“