Catfish Fire Tower – Appalachian Trail

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View from Catfish Tower on the Appalachian Trail

Hike the Appalachian Trail past Catfish Fire Tower for tons of views over New Jersey.

4.4 or 2.0 miles. Very rocky. Uphill at beginning / downhill at end, level the rest of the way.


Our two cents:

Manageable length hike packs a fire tower and lots of ridge views in a straightforward out-and-back hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Make it short-n-sweet to the fire tower and back for 2.0 miles total.

Extend the hike a bit by making a loop with Rattlesnake Swamp trail or by continuing further on the Appalachian Trail.


Map:

Kittatinny Trails – section #121.

Note: Google Map has the junction with the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail marked far from the actual position. Our Interactive Map overlay has the correct location.

Books:

A good loop with the Rattlesnake Swamp trail is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.


Parking: N41.05819° W74.96430°

Rt 80 West to Exit 12 for Rt 521 Blairstown. Rt 521 to L on Rt 94 then multiple turns through Blairstown (best to use a GPS) to Millbrook Road/Rt 602.

Roadside parking with room for several cars near a metal gate (do not block the gate).

If full, just down the road is another roadside pullout. Past that are few spots where the AT continues on the other side of the road.

Restrooms:

None. Ones at Millbrook Village may be open: continue on Rt 602 past the parking to where the road splits, the village is on the right.


Hike Directions:

Overview: WHITE (Appalachian Trail)

0.0 – Pass the metal gate to start following WHITE (Appalachian Trail).

Metal gate at a woods road

The trail follows a wide woods road at first.

Appalachian Trail sign along a woods road
Rocky woods road with rhododendron on the side

0.4 – Turn LEFT as WHITE (Appalachian Trail) leaves the woods road and starts following a trail.

The trail heads steadily uphill until leveling off at the fire tower.

White blaze on rhododenron

Keep following WHITE (Appalachian Trail) as it rejoins then leaves the woods road.

Pass a casual side trail on the left that leads to a limited view.

There are a few optional side trails like this that are not included in the mileage but are marked on the Interactive Map.

View of a fall foliage covered valley through trees

1.0 – Catfish Fire Tower and picnic table, with views in multiple directions over New Jersey.

Catfish Fire tower and the surrounding open rocky area

View from near the picnic table:

Valley seen in the distance with red foliage in the foreground

Fun Facts: The 60-foot tower was built in 1922 and is manned during fire season, generally March – May and October – November.

It’s not the tallest in New Jersey but is at the highest elevation: 1,555’.

Looking up at a tower
Steps of a fire tower

The Kittatinny Ridge that the trail follows is prominent when looking at the Appalachian Trail traveling north.

Ridge in the distance with a rocky trail below

Looking at the Appalachian Trail traveling south.

Fall foliage seen from a fire tower

View east over New Jersey’s farms and forests.

View of fall foliage and farms

Looking west over the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and over into Pennsylvania.

Expansive view over tree tops

// Shorter: 2.0 miles total – turn around here. //

Continue following WHITE (Appalachian Trail).

There are a few short casual side trails to limited viewpoints along the way.

Limited view through trees

1.4 – A more open viewpoint over the valley and farms below.

Valley and farms seen below two evergreen trees on the ridge
Zoom into a red farmhouse and fall foliage in the valley below

Keep on truckin’ along WHITE (Appalachian Trail). The valley below is often visible even without a viewpoint.

White blaze on a tree with red foliage
Hiker on leaf covered trail

2.0 – Pass the junction with ORANGE (Rattlesnake Swamp) on the right, marked with wooden posts.

There is a nice wide view over farms and forest in the valley below and along the ridge.

Zoom into bright foliage in a valley

The trail surface has rock ridges that make for interesting photos.

White blaze on rocky ridge with foliage in the valley below

This makes for an obvious turnaround spot but we prefer to continue a bit further.

2.1 – Continue on the WHITE (Appalachian Trail) over more ridged rock slabs.

Panoramic view from a rock ridge of foliage and farms below

2.2 – Watch for an open area with a tree and a prominent rock as this is the turn around point.

This makes for a good break spot with a nice view, or there’s another nice viewpoint with a flat rock ledge to sit on is just before this.

Photogenic rock and looking down to the valley below.

Rock jutting out on a ridge overlooking farms and bright foliage
Zoom into a valley below the ridge

Looking towards Lower Yards Creek Reservoir in the distance. That is below Upper Yards Creek Reservoir, which is below Sunfish Pond (another great hike).

Valley view with Lower Yards Creek Reservoir in the distance

Retrace the route back to the parking area.

// Longer: The Appalachian Trail continues of course (south – all the way to Georgia).

There are some limited views before it drops down to the road for Mohican camp but we felt this is the last excellent viewpoint in this direction and so ended the route here. //

Hiked: 10/25/20.