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South Mountain Reservation – Hemlock Falls

South Mountain ReservationA moderate hike that takes in a viewpoint from historic Washington Rock (where a signal beacon warned the Army at Morristown of the British Army’s approach), heads to Hemlock Falls, and returns along the Rahway River.

Trail surface: Moderate, somewhat rocky trails. A few easy stream crossings, and one over the Rayway River that may be tricky depending on water level/rock shifting.

  • This route: 6.0 miles.
  • Shorter: There multiple parking areas, trails, and woods roads to create shorter routes.
  • Longer: Use the Lenape and Oakdale Trails to add in the other half of the park.

Map: There was a overview map at the trail kiosk which is more detailed than the map online. There were no paper maps at the park the time we went, print the one above.

Books: This same route (almost) with detailed instructions and a trail map can be found in Hiking New Jersey. The park trails are described in the The New Jersey Walk Book.

Parking: N40 43.699 W74 18.253 [Locust Grove Parking Area]

From east of the park (westbound) on I-78: Take exit 50 B “Millburn” “Maplewood”. At the end of the ramp, you must go right. Drive through 3 traffic lights, not counting the one at the end of the ramp.

At the fourth light (Millburn Ave.), turn left. Drive to the second traffic light (the road makes a turn to the right and becomes a one way street called Essex Ave.). Turn right onto Lackawanna Place, go under the RR tracks, and you come almost immediately to Glen Ave. Across the street and a little to the right is a drive way entering the park with a sign “Locust Grove”.

*These directions and for other parking areas on are this South Mountain Conservancy page.

Restrooms: None at the trailhead or along this route.

Hike Directions: This route starts from the Locust Grove parking area. There are many unmarked woods roads, but the hiking trails are mostly well blazed.

0.0 – Start in the far corner of the lot, by the wooden trail kiosk. Begin following the YELLOW blazes of the Lenape Trail into a picnic area. The next blaze is a little hard to spot, it’s across the picnic area, in the back left corner.

Head uphill on a woods road, with houses to your right. Turn right at the top, a structure will be on your left.

At the top, turn RIGHT and continue on the trail, a structure will be on your left.

0.5 – Arrive at a paved road and turn LEFT. Shortly, the paved road splits. Bear LEFT (the other side joins up anyway) and head over to the stone wall for views over the surrounding area. There is a trail kiosk here, an evergreen tree that may be decorated with Christmas ornaments, and a monument to General Washington.

Take the gravel trail to another lookout that is fenced.

0.8 – With your back to the view, turn LEFT and continue following the YELLOW blazes.

1.3 – Maple Falls Cascades – arrive at an easy stream crossing where there are several water cascades.

2.0 – Beech Brook Cascades – more water cascades

3.2 – Hemlock Falls comes into view. Turn RIGHT, continuing on the YELLOW blazes to the base of the falls.

3.3 – Arrive at the base of Hemlock Falls. There are some benches, making for a nice break spot.

When ready to continue, cross over the bridge and bear LEFT, continuing to follow YELLOW. [RED DOT on WHITE is straight ahead up some stairs to go to the top of the falls.]

3.5 – Come to a trail junction with a trail sign for the Rahway Trail. Start following the WHITE blazes of the Rahway Trail. [The YELLOW Lenape trail turns right here]

3.7 – A rock-hop over the Rahway River. We found this a bit tricky; either due to water level or perhaps the rocks had been shifted due to the storms.

The trail continues in a pretty area along a ridge with the river below.

4.2 – Turn LEFT onto a gravel road. Straight ahead, a little distance away, is a small building. The trail is also marked with WHITE over RED blazes.

4.3 - Cross over the river on a bridge, and turn RIGHT just after the bridge, continuing to follow WHITE. There are two WHITE markers indicating the turn, but if you find yourself at the tree just ahead that has 3 WHITE over RED markers, you missed the turn.

Continue following WHITE as it hugs the river. This area was very washed out when we hiked it, not all that scenic, and the trail was hard to spot sometimes.

4.8 - Pass BLUE over WHITE marker on your right. Continue straight on WHITE.

5.0 – Trail junction where the WHITE marker is hard to spot. A footpath continues straight along the river, a woods road veers off to the left, and a pond can be seen ahead on the right.

The WHITE trail is between these, going between two large tree trunks.

Note: The woods road on the left (marked as River Trail on the map) follows the Rahway Trail (WHITE) at this point on, so if you miss this marker the woods road will meet back to the trail again.

The trail will join and cross the woods road many times, just keep following the WHITE markers back to the parking lot.

Hiked: 12/22/11 – Trailblog: “South Mountain Reservation – Hemlock Falls

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