<<<Hikes in NJ - Trails Less Taken
Watchung Reservation - Sierra Trail
Summary: A large chunk of woods surrounded by an urban environment with a surprising number of trails, including the 11-mile long Sierra Trail. Hike on pleasant trails, go through the deserted village of Feltville and along the shores of Lake Surprise.
You won't feel like you are in a remote area, and there is traffic noise etc but this park is not a bad option to get a hike in. But it's more of a take a stroll, have a picnic, walk the dog kinda park than wilderness hiking. This park was less confusing than the last time we came here - in 2004 - and either they've revamped the markings or improved the map since then.
Bonus: this park is no hunting except for some days in March.
11 miles. Moderate trail surface, moderate-to-difficult due to length. Extensive network of trails makes it easier to do a shorter loop. In fact, there are 2 sections here that are not that fantastic and better to skip, we've indicated them in the trail description below.
Books: Almost this exact route and map can be found in "Hiking New Jersey", and includes very detailed mileage markers. A shorter route and map can be found in "50 Hikes in New Jersey". A detailed trail description is found in the New Jersey Walk Book.
Parking: Parkway to 78W, exit 43... directions here.
Restrooms: in the Trailside Museum at the main parking lot, open 12-5. Other restrooms were open earlier in a nearby building, follow the signs from the lot. Other toilets are marked on the trail map as well.
Hike Directions: Follow the WHITE blazes for Sierra Trail for the entirety of this route. For that reason, we've only listed the major or confusing junctions in our trail description below. For an excellent detailed description, check out "Hiking New Jersey".
0 miles - The trail is a little hard to get started on. From the parking lot, with your back to the museum, look toward the road at the edge of the lot, to find WHITE markers indicating a right turn. Do that, and follow a park road for just a bit, then turn LEFT, entering the woods, at the trailhead marked with a wooden sign, "NATURE TRAIL".
.3 miles - Junction of WHITE-YELLOW-GREEN. Turn RIGHT and follow WHITE (also green). The WHITE and GREEN blazes indicate a right turn, while yellow indicates both right and left.
.4 miles - There is a wooden bridge in front of you, don't cross it. Turn LEFT and continue following WHITE. This is also the start of the ORANGE Trail (if you kept walking down that road from the parking lot, you'd end up here)
.6 miles - Turn RIGHT and follow WHITE. YELLOW goes straight.
Pay attention to the blazes before Sky Top. Look on the map, the trail loops around which your wouldn't expect... and can throw off your internal orientation a bit.
2.6 miles - Sky Top picnic area.
Around 3 miles or so is where the trail turns "eh"... as we headed down a hill, we could smell factory fumes of some sort. Then the trail heads back, right behind some houses and along a busy, noisy road. The trail is nice - stream on your left, cliffs to your right and you pass some small building ruins which are interesting... but the road noise and cars ruin the ambiance. You may want to check the map and consider cutting this section off your route. (it's all the way on the left of the map)
4.6 miles - cross Skytop Dr. It's a little hard to see where you have to go. Cross the road and walk left and then turn right, following the tree line until you see blazes again... less than obvious here.
5.6 miles - enter the deserted village of Feltville. There are some buildings that are private residences. The most restored building is a little further on.
6.1 miles - Willcocks and Badgley Cemetery. After the village the trail loops around and will pass a small cemetery.
6.5 miles - Lake Surprise. Before this is a dam with water falling over it.
7.4 miles - end of the Lake and you arrive at a road. Turn right and walk over the bridge. The Sierra Trail is across the street from a small parking area. It follows some wide, recently bulldozed trails and was just not a pretty area or nice trail surface. [**This area can be missed in our opinion. We haven't done it, but you should be able to skip this looped area and continue straight - just check the map, you should be able to pick up an unmarked dirt road that will cut this loop off your route]
9.0 miles - come to the roundabout in the road. You need to cross the busy road here. Shortly after, the trail heads left, and comes to a water tower. The trail heads back, crossing roads twice.
Follow the blazes and end up at the Trailside Museum entrance, walk around to the lot.