Hike the Appalachian Trail from Culvers Gap to Blue Mountain for many expansive views.
9.8 or 6.2 or 3.8 miles; Steep at the beginning and end; a few hills on an otherwise mostly level route; very rocky. Busy road crossing.
- This route: 9.8 miles out-and-back to Blue Mountain.
- Shorter: 3.0, 3.8, and 6.2 options noted below.
- Longer: Keep going on the Appalachian Trail, all the way to Georgia…
- Nearby: Sunrise Mountain to Culvers Gap, a different Sunrise Mountain route; Blue Mountain Loop; Tillman Ravine; Stony Brook Falls.
Our two cents: Views, views, views… from the Acropolis Trail looking north towards Culver Gap fire tower…
…Views along the AT looking over NJ and to Culver Lake, more along the AT, and looking across NJ and into Pennsylvania from Blue Mountain.
The full 9.8 is best for avid hikers used to rocky north Jersey terrain, otherwise consider one of the suggested turn around points – you still get a lot of views, just not to Blue Mountain.
Crossing Rt. 206 wasn’t too hard in early morning but returning in the afternoon was kinda like slamming the joystick forward in Frogger and hoping for the best. (OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that hard.)
Map: Kittatinny Trails. There were paper park maps in the kiosk in the parking lot the day we hiked.
Parking: N41.18006° W74.78786°
Rt 206 N into Stokes State Forest, R on Upper North Shore Rd/Rt 636. Turn left onto Sunrise Mountain Road.
Quick left into the Culvers Gap parking lot (there is a big sign).
Restrooms: Porta-john in parking lot (in Oct 2018; but could be seasonal).
Option: Continue just a bit further on Rt. 206 for the Stokes State Forest visitor center.
Overview: Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN) – Unmarked Trail – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Unmarked Trail – Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN) – Appalachian Trail (WHITE).
–The Appalachian Trail can be taken the entire way, without using Acropolis and an Unmarked Trail. This simplifies the navigation but you’ll miss a big view.
–We only noticed Acropolis’ GOLD/BROWN markers towards the beginning and end of the trail.
0.0 – At the end of the parking lot near the wooden trail kiosk, start following the Appalachian Trail (WHITE).
Soon, come to a T and turn LEFT to follow the Appalachian Trail (WHITE) south.
0.3 – Cross Route 206, turn LEFT and walk on the shoulder of the road.
Continue along the guardrail to where the Appalachian Trail (WHITE) turns right, into the woods.
0.9 – Turn RIGHT and start following Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN) on a wide woods road.
[Appalachian Trail (WHITE) continues ahead and can be taken to cut out Acropolis/Unmarked trail.]
[Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN) also goes left and leads down to Rt 206.]
1.1 – Not long after Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN) switchbacks to the left, a short casual side trail on the right leads directly to the Acropolis viewpoint, which looks north over Stokes and towards Culver Fire Tower.
Backtrack off the side trail and continue on Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN).
Note: We followed this casual side trail thinking it was to the view but technically there is another switchback to get to the viewpoint the proper way.
We then followed the actual route, turning right on another switchback after the antenna building. This seemed on the overgrown side and a little unnecessary, so we left our GPX track as is.
1.3– Start following an Unmarked Trail on the right side of the fenced antenna building.
[Acropolis (GOLD/BROWN) turns to the right for the last switchback to the viewpoint as noted above]
The Unmarked Trail can be a bit faint, we started veering left towards what looked like a woods road… but the trail is actually straight.
1.5 – Come out to a wide view over New Jersey and meet up with the Appalachian Trail (WHITE). Continue following the Appalachian Trail (WHITE) along the ridge.
[The Appalachian Trail (WHITE) also heads steeply downhill and back to the lot.]
Shorter hike: Return from this junction for a 3 mile hike.
Note for the return trip: Note this area, as you have a choice on the way back:
–Retrace via Unmarked to Acropolis to Appalachian = More gradual descent, longer, Unmarked may be a little hard to follow.
–Return via Appalachian Trail = Steep but more direct.
We chose to retrace via Acropolis as the rock slabs right in the beginning of the AT heading down were super slick.
Even though retracing is a little longer, it was likely faster than carefully picking our way down wet rocks. In dry conditions you may want to just take the AT down.
1.9 – Big view over NJ with Culver Lake visible:
Shorter hike: Turn around for a less than 4 mile hike. You’ve already packed in a bunch of views!
2.6 – Pass Jacobs Ladder (BLUE/GRAY) on the right. Continue on Appalachian Trail (WHITE).
2.8 – Short side trail a limited view. Hard to spot.
3.1 – Short side trail to a limited view with rocks to take a break on:
Continue on Appalachian Trail (WHITE).
Shorter hike: Turn around for a roughly 6.2 mile hike.
…but if you are up for more and can resist the post-hike ice cream/pizza/french fries whispering your name then it’s worth it to push on to Blue Mountain.
4.2 – Cross Brink Road, a very wide woods road. Continue on Appalachian Trail (WHITE).
4.9 – Big 180° panoramic view from Blue Mountain, looking over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania:
Our Blue Mountain turn around point is usually a small group of rocks that make for a good snack spot, but there’s plenty more trail to keep going.
Retrace the route back.