A challenging Highlands loop with outstanding views – and this hike makes you work for them.
Climb and descend four mountains – Windbeam, Bear, Board, and Harrison – to take in views of the surrounding mountains as well as the Wanaque and Monksville Reservoirs. Also scramble over Tory Rocks.
10.4 miles; challenging. The first half of this hike is constant up or down, the second has more level areas. These mountains certainly aren’t tall – but they will seem like it as you go up and down, repeatedly.
Shorter loops: Just turn around after the first or second mountain… you’ll still get a serious workout and excellent views. Or do a two-car shuttle.
**UPDATE 7/26/12** Since this was originally written, the beginning of the trail has been rerouted to the south. The trail now climbs more gradually in the beginning and adds about .4 to the distance of this hike. I’ve updated our GPX file above with the updated route (thanks to Michiel for providing the data), adjusted the trail head text based on Michiel’s description, and adjusted the mile markers below. The waypoints remain the same. This brings the total hike to 10.4 miles from 10.0.
Map: North Jersey Trails map #115.
Rt 287 to exit 55, take 511 N (Wanaque), continue through Wanaque for several miles. Make a left onto West Brook Rd. Continue across Reservoir. At the T-intersection, make a right onto Stonetown Rd.
N41 04.609 W74 18.306 – There is a small pullout on the right side, and a white stone marker for the trail head. There is room for 1, maybe two cars. (we saw no one the ENTIRE hike, so not sure if that will a problem) Blazes (RED TRIANGLE on WHITE) weren’t visible from the road, you have to go in on the trail before you see them.
N41 04.817 W74 18.440 – It’s also possible to park further up and join the trail at a different spot: turn left at the Stonetown Recreation center (Mary Roth Dr.). Park in the lot, then walk back out to the road. Look for the markers (RED TRIANGLE on WHITE) across the street; little tough to see. If you start here, this description will be slightly off. I think we would park here if we come here again; as the car would be off the main road.
Restrooms: None. There are gas stations along Rt. 511.
Books: A 2-car shuttle hike is described in Hiking the Jersey Highlands (“Windbeam Mtn Through Hike”), that takes in the first part of the hike here and uses the Highlands connector trail to a 2nd parking lot.
Note: The first park of the hike is the most enjoyable, and you may consider making this either a two-car shuttle, or backtracking for a challenging 6.2 miles or so. Once past the Monksville Reservoir, the trail crosses through an area of woods roads that are heavily used by ATVs, plus a powerline cut. There is a bit of associated trash… tires and such. It’s not horrible by any means, but after the wonderful views of the first part of the hike, it’s a little bit of a letdown.
The trail does improve some after you pass the junction of the ORANGE trail, and go to Tory Rocks etc. There is about a half mile of road walking at the end of the hike – walking down the shoulder of Stonetown Road – not a fun way to end a long day of hiking in solitude. There is a brief respite back into the woods (if you’ve parked at the pullout), but there was a lot of road noise anyway.
It’s certainly a worthwhile, challenging hike to do… at least once. We would do the first part of the hike again, but maybe not the whole loop.
Hike Directions: The entire loop follows RED TRIANGLE on WHITE.
Immediately after entering into the woods you will see a trail off to your left; this is where you will return. Look in front of you slightly to the right for the markers, and follow the trail that will gradually ascend.
.7 miles –Meet up with the Highlands Trail, it comes in from in front of you. This trail is co-aligned with Stonetown for quite a ways, so you will see TEAL DIAMONDS along the route as well.
Follow the trail LEFT, up a second steep, rocky climb.
0.8 miles – Head up Windbeam Mtn to the first of many viewpoints, on your left, looking west.
.9 miles – viewpoint looking east, Wanaque Reservoir visible.
1.0 miles – on your left, looking west.
There are several more viewpoints in this stretch, so many we stopped marking them.
Come upon a steep rock scramble up to another view. We could hear a group on ATVs came up the woods road behind us at this point. (The trail is clearly marked on the entire trail, but there are some woods roads in the area, so just watch for markers)
Start to descend, steeply, and join up with a woods road for a level stretch before heading off to the right into a dense, overgrown area.
You’ll see a house through the trees, off to the left, before you start heading up Bear Mountain. Steep and rocky again.
2.4 miles – viewpoint on your left.
2.5 miles –About 180 degree view from a rock slab on top of Bear Mountain. You can see the mountain you just came from, Windbeam, across the way, as well as views of the Reservoir.
2.9 miles – cross a prominent dirt road. This is marked on the NY-NJ-TC map but not named.
Head steeply uphill… again.
3.5 miles – Board Mountain. Views of Monksville Reservoir. (you could turn around here if you wanted a tough 6.2 mile loop)
The trail turns LEFT sharply and descends steeply over loose rocks, before leveling out in a moist forest area. Two easy rock-hops over stream/wet area.
3.6 miles – The Highlands Connector trail starts on the left (TEAL DIAMOND with BLACK DIAMOND center). Continue straight on Stonetown.
Meet up with a woods road, turn RIGHT. Follow the woods road awhile, watching the markers as there are several roads in the area. Head RIGHT back on a trail.
4.9 miles – Start to see the Monksville Reservoir in the distance, and look for a side path on the right to get a closer view.
Cross a little stream and go up into a tall grassy area, then cross Stonetown Road. Hop over the guard rail (there are markers) and head into tall grass riddled with tons of poison ivy.
Now the trail follows some woods roads, around the reservoir (limited views). Pass a powerline cut. Head steeply up Harrison Mtn.
6.2 miles – The Highlands trail leaves to the right, and WHITE (Horse Pond) is left and right here. Continue, following only Stonetown now (RED TRIANGLE on WHITE) There is a limited view here and some rocks to take a break.
Head down steeply, joining up with woods road. Cross the powerline again.
7.4 miles –Burnt Meadow Rd., walk down the road over the stream, turn LEFT back into the woods.
7.5 miles – Pass the parking area for the Sonoma Trail (ORANGE) and continue on the trail.
After following a woods road and turning right back into the woods, the forest changes a bit and there are more pines.
8.2 miles – arrive at Tory Rocks. Some views. Steep scramble down the rocks, then across a boulder field.
Pass Signal Rocks with some views… (forgot to mark that on our GPS coords…)
9.6 miles – come out by a house and walk down the road to Stonetown Rd. Turn RIGHT and walk down the shoulder, passing a fire house.
10.1 miles – Across from the entrance to the Rec Center, on the LEFT, look for the markers and duck back into the woods for the last bit to your car. (or if you started at the Rec center, turn RIGHT into the lot)
Hiked: 7/19/09. Trail Blog: “Stonetown Circular“