Merrill Creek Reservoir

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Merrill Creek Reservoir

Hike around Merrill Creek Reservoir for views of the water with opportunities to spot wildlife.

6.7 miles. Trail surface is mostly easy, with some rocks/roots in areas. The end of this loop is very flat – mostly level dirt or gravel.

  • Shorter: Perimeter Trail only, 5.5 miles. Starts from the lot, and goes either direction from there.
  • Short: Several options from the visitor center: Shoreline trail (BLUE) at 2.0 miles, and Orchard (GREEN) or Timber (RED) both around a half mile each.
  • Longer: Add 1.5 miles by adding a worthwhile loop on ORANGE, and perhaps a bit more if some trail portions are overlapped around the visitor center… but otherwise, that’s all the trail here.
  • Nearby: Point Mountain Reservation; Musconetcong Gorge Preserve.

Hike Info:

Park info/map
Interactive Map

Our two cents:

Moderate hike with water views for the majority of the hike. Nice visitor center. Can be chilly when it’s windy.

Updates: 11/2019 – Re-hiked. 1/6/17 – Re-hiked, added fall photos. 2/1/14 – Re-hiked and description updated, winter photos added.


Print out from the link above or get one at the visitor center. The map is good and trails are well marked. Some intersections have “you are here” maps posted.


Variation found in 50 Hikes in New Jersey. Trail descriptions in the The New Jersey Walk Book.

Parking: N40.74042° W75.09242°

Rt 87 to 78W to exit 4, then meander through back roads… Get the detailed directions on the Merrill Creek site.

Rest Rooms:

Bathrooms are in the visitor center. If you arrive before it opens, try the boat launch area next to the visitor center for a porta-john. There is also a porta-john by the NW1 Dike parking area (marked on the trail map).

Hike Directions:

Overview: RED (Timber) – BLUE (Shoreline) – YELLOW (Farmstead) – BLACK (Perimeter).

0.0 – From the parking lot, walk towards the visitor center. While facing the door, walk around the right side of the building. Trails start from a bit behind the visitor center.

0.2 – At the marker behind the visitor center, veer LEFT to start following RED (Timber), which will go around the “deer enclosure area” marked on the trail map and to the edge of the water. [The RED and BLUE trails also go to the right.]

Leaf covered trail

0.6 – Continue straight, now following BLUE (Shoreline). [To the right, RED (Timber) will return to the visitor center.]

0.9 – Continue straight on BLUE (Shoreline). [YELLOW (Farmstead) is on the RIGHT]

1.0 – Bear LEFT and continue on BLUE (Shoreline). [YELLOW (Farmstead) is to the RIGHT] Optionally take a side trail to the left that leads to a wildlife blind.

Grasses at the edge of a reservoir
Trees overhanging at the edge of water

1.8 – Turn LEFT, now following YELLOW (Farmstead). [YELLOW (Farmstead) also goes to the RIGHT, heading back towards the visitor center but it’s not indicated.]

Many dead tree stumps sticking out of the water

2.1 – Turn LEFT and start following BLACK (Perimeter) [YELLOW (Farmstead) continues straight and will meet up with other trails that lead back to the visitor center.)

Soon, cross the Merrill Creek on a footbridge, then the trail hugs the shoreline.

Footbridge over Merrill Creek
Leaf covered stream

2.9 – Cross NW Dike 2 on a long, wide crushed stone path. Continue following BLACK (Perimeter).

Crushed stone walkway

Where the trail bends to the left, there is a view in the distance of two “gaps” seen as dips in the mountain range here. The gap on the left is likely Wind Gap (not entirely sure on that).

The one to the right/north is the Delaware Water Gap. This where the Delaware River created a gap in the Kittatinny mountain range between New Jersey’s Mt. Tammany (on the right of the gap) and Pennsylvania’s Mt. Minsi (on the left of the gap). 

View of the Delaware Water Gap in the distance

3.1 – Arrive at the NW Dike 1 parking lot, porta-john, and hawk watch. Go through a fence to enter the lot, and then turn right, continuing to follow BLACK (Perimeter) across NW Dike 1.

Continue following the BLACK markers as the Perimeter trail goes around the reservoir and through an area of pines devastated by storms.

Grassy shore next to a reservoir

4.3 – Turn LEFT on the paved road, walk through the gate, and cross the Main Dam. (There is a lower trail option without views of the reservoir, though it’s not that obvious it is also a trail).

Waves on a reservoir and fluffy white clouds in the sky

5.9 – Cross SE Dike on another wide gravel path with a view over the hills on the right. Pass a long wooden stairway that is closed to the public.

Bright blue water with a stone dam edge
View over hills from the dam

Continue following the dirt/gravel road as it heads to the boat trailer parking area.

6.6 – At the boat trailer parking area look across the lot to the left for the BLACK (Perimeter) trail, near a small building.Follow BLACK (Perimeter) straight to get back to the parking lot, passing GREEN (Orchard) on the right.

Hiked: 11/29.19.
Hiked: 10/28/16.

Hiked: 1/1/16. Trail Blog: “Merrill Creek on New Year’s Day
Hiked: 2/1/14. Trail Blog: “Merrill Creek Reservoir in the Snow
Hiked: 11/21/10. Trail Blog: “Merrill Creek Reservoir in November