This moderately challenging loop combines pleasant forest walking with rocky scrambles and passes by pretty Terrace Pond.
4.8 miles – Rugged, rocky surface with some scrambling.
- Shorter option: Start with BLUE and go right to the pond and back, skipping the YELLOW and RED portions of the hike below. Keep in mind the BLUE trail heads uphill on the way there, with some rock scrambling.
- Variation: Reverse the loop to put the scrambling in the beginning and the easier part of the trail (YELLOW) at the end. This is the best option if it’s wet, and in general many find scrambling UP easier than DOWN.
Our two cents:
Awesome hike that can be crowded, especially near the pond. Most books seem to rate this loop as “challenging” … but we’d clarify that a little:
- Beginner/Intermediate hiker: challenging due to of all the rock ledges that need to be negotiated, and the moderate length. A lot of the hiking in the beginning is just a bit rocky and there are some easy woods road sections. From the pond on, it’s downhill but a lot of rocky scrambling.
- Experienced hiker: the length on this is way too short to create a challenge. The trail is lovely, the pond is a great destination, and the scrambling keeps it interesting – so it’s absolutely worth doing. A longer hike can be made by using other trails.
Note: Though you’ll see people doing it, swimming in Terrace Pond is not allowed – it’s patrolled and ticketed. The sides of the pond are somewhat high above the water on rock ledges in most spots, it’s not like you can walk into the water from a beach. It can be dangerous and several people have drowned. See “Terrace Pond attracts hikers from all over, but there’s a reason why swimming is banned.”
Best bet is the North Jersey Trails map set, this trail is on #116.
Parking: N41 08.573 W74 24.446 [P7 lot]
Rt 287 to exit 52, then Rt 23 towards Butler. Pass the sign for Wawayanda that says to turn right onto Union Valley Road – that’s for the main entrance. Instead go a little further down 23 and turn right onto Clinton Road.
The parking lot is 7.5 miles north of Rt 23, past Clinton Reservoir and some other small parking areas. The lot is just past the sign/gate for the Wildcat Mountain Wilderness Center – and is just a large dirt area on the left with a small “P7” sign.
The trailhead is across the street, the YELLOW and BLUE markers are obvious. There is a large bench and trail kiosk with information and a map of the trails. No paper maps.
Porta-john in the P2 lot (as of June 2015. Also, gas stations on Rt 23 in Butler.
This exact route can be found in Hiking New Jersey and variations in Hiking the Jersey Highlands, Hike of the Week, 50 Hikes in New Jersey and Take a Hike New York City. A very long variation that also goes to Wawayanda Lake is in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City.
Walk across the street from the lot, there are BLUE and YELLOW blazes on the tree. Almost immediately, bear RIGHT and follow YELLOW (Terrace Pond South).
Travel through some pleasant forest, crossing some wet areas on planks or rocks, with plenty of mountain laurel and rhododendron. Surface is a little rocky but mostly level, not too much elevation change.
1.5 – YELLOW (Terrace Pond South) takes a sharp left – almost like the trail is going back on itself. Pass an unmarked woods road on the right. A swampy area will comes view, with a small spur trail on the left for a closer look.
1.8 – Pass an unmarked wood road on the right.
The trail passes closer to the swamp where the water level may be higher than the level of the trail thanks to busy beavers whose homes can be spotted on the water. The trail skirts off to the right away from the water, where the trail was often very wet. (June 2015: We had to limbo through this short overgrown section which unfortunately also included a LOT of poison ivy.)
2.0 – Bear LEFT at the Y-intersection to follow YELLOW (Terrace Pond South). [To the right is YELLOW DOT.]
2.7 – Head up a rocky outcrop for a limited view of the area. Continue following YELLOW (Terrace Pond South). Blaze is a little hard to spot coming off the rocks, if you head down the path and turn around there may be one.
2.9 – Turn LEFT and now follow RED (Terrace Pond Red).
Very shortly after, YELLOW (Terrace Pond South). leaves to the right. Continue LEFT on RED (Terrace Pond Red). Trail heads somewhat steeply downhill, scrambling down some rocks. Trail is quite narrow in spots. Arrive at a large, crooked trail sign that notes the end point of the RED (Terrace Pond Red) trail.
3.3 – Turn LEFT and start following WHITE (Terrace Pond Circular).
3.4 – Arrive at Terrace Pond. There is a large rocky outcrop to hang out on, plus other smaller areas further down the trail. When ready to leave, keep following WHITE (Terrace Pond Circular) to the end of the pond.
3.5 miles – Meet up with BLUE (Terrace Pond North). Turn LEFT and start following BLUE (Terrace Pond North). [To the right, WHITE (Terrace Pond Circular) and BLUE (Terrace Pond North) continue.]
The trail heads downhill with some scrambling. There are also a few rock slabs to scramble up, including one with a large prominent rock with a limited view to the west.
4.1 – BLUE (Terrace Pond North) turns to the RIGHT. Shortly after, arrive at a pipeline cut. Turn LEFT and follow BLUE (Terrace Pond North) steeply down a loose rocky hill.
Pass 2 unmarked trails on the left.
4.2 – Turn LEFT and re-enter the woods, continuing on BLUE (Terrace Pond North).
The trail meanders through some really pleasant forest, over a couple of wet spots, and arrives back at the lot.
Hiked: 6/20/15 – Opposite direction, in steady drizzle.
Hiked: 9/13/09 – Trail Blog: “Terrace Pond South”