Splitrock Reservoir Loop

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Splitrock Reservoir Loop

Challenging loop around Splitrock Reservoir with views of the reservoir and Misty Pond from Indian Cliffs.

11.2 miles; challenging. Very rocky, with the relentless minor elevation changes typical of Highlands terrain; some scrambling.

Several rock-hop water crossings that can be tricky when water is high, though there is a rope now on the hardest two. The entire route is now well-blazed, but sometimes the marks take a second to spot. 

  • Longer: Both Four Birds and Splitrock trail connect below Splitrock Road allowing for a bit longer loop.
  • Shorter: An out-and-back segment of this hike: Four Birds Trail.
  • Bail-Out Options: Charlottesburg Road is an old woods road closed to traffic that runs along the East side of the Reservoir. If you are following the loop clockwise and have had it, you can take Charlottesburg back. There are several opportunities where the trail intersects with the woods road.
  • Alternates in the area: Four Birds Trail is 19.4 miles one way – do a long out-and-back of part of it instead try Four Birds Trail – Wildcat Ridge or Four Birds Trail (North).
  • Kayak it: Splitrock Reservoir Kayak

Our two cents:

We’ve done this loop in both directions and think it’s better clockwise (the directions below) because that puts the “easier” rocky woods road sections (Charlottesburg Rd) at the end.

This also means you can give this challenging hike a shot and bail out early if you’ve had it. Either way requires a dusty road walk at the beginning and end of the hike.

Updates: 7/2020 – Added photos, minor tweaks. 4/28/18 – re-hiked; description updated.  9/10/15 – Description updated, GPX added.

Map:

This area is now covered by Jersey Highlands Trails map set and is what should be used. We’ve kept the links to these other map sources but they are not as up-to-date:

Parking: 40.96252, -74.45800

Split Rock Road, Rockaway , NJ 07866. No street number, a dirt lot off of Split Rock Rd.

This often fills up and if it is, you are out of luck…. only park in the lot, you will get ticketed if you park along the road.

From the south: 287N to exit 43, at the end of the ramp turn left, then right onto Fanny Rd to Powerville, left on Valley, right on Rockaway Valley, stay left onto Split Rock and follow to parking lot. 

From the south, alternate: 287N to Rt 80 W to exit 37 for Rt 513/Green Pond Rd. Right on Meridian. Left on Lyonsville. Left onto Split Rock Rd to parking lot.

If you are traveling from elsewhere the exit may be different, so you’ll want to check directions from where you are. Split Rock road seemed to be in good shape 8/2020 was full of decent sized potholes 4/2018.

Restroom:

Portable toilet in the parking lot, as of 8/2020. The Fanny Road route doesn’t offer much in the way of restroom possibilities.

If you don’t want to chance the toilet not being there or prefer a real bathroom… use the alternate Rt. 80 route for gas stations and a Dunkin once getting on 513.

Books:

This hike (but in the opposite direction) is in Hiking the Jersey Highlands. Detailed trail descriptions can be found in the The New Jersey Walk Book.

Stonetown Circular Trail from above

Hike Directions:

OVERVIEW: Road – Four Birds Trail (WHITE) to Splitrock (BLUE ) – Road.  There are several unmarked trails or woods road in the area which we haven’t marked or noted, just stick to the blazed trails.

Cross over a bridge at the start of the hike

0.0 – With your back to the lot, turn RIGHT and walk down the dirt road and over a bridge. Views of the reservoir from the bridge, through a chain link fence. Keep walking down the dirt road.

Split Rock Reservoir - from the road, before getting on the trail

0.5 – Watch for the blazes, and Turn RIGHT to start following Four Birds Trail (WHITE). Scramble up a hill immediately.

Four Birds Trail

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Optional add-on: Unmarked side trail on the right leads to two viewpoints at the water’s edge. There may be an orange ribbon on a tree.

The viewpoints are nice but the trail had trash and an old car. Backtrack or make your way along the stream to get back to the crossing at 0.9.

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0.9 – Cross a large wet area that can can be a little tricky when the water is high. There was a rope to help with the crossing as of our last hike, but we’d had rain so it was still difficult.

This area is basically the narrowest place to cross, but you might find better spots up or down stream.

2.0 – Limited viewpoint over the reservoir.

Limited view from Four Birds

2.2 – The trail turns right and is blazed as such but the trail looks like it continues straight so we manage to blow past this turn and then go “wait did we miss something?”… every time. 

3.2 – A rocky piece of land jutting out into the water a bit and connected by a rock hop that makes a nice break spot. Great views of the reservoir.

Split Rock Reservoir from a good break spot.
Split Rock Reservoir

Continue following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) as it follows closer to the reservoir. Ignore any blue blazes in the area. Hop a stream crossing on rocks; there was a rope the last time we hiked.

4.2 – Another view of the reservoir off to the right, on an open rocky point.

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Optional add-on: Not long after, you may spot a large stone bridge and a stream far off to the left (likely only spot it if the leaves are down).

You can bushwhack over to it or at the next intersection, take YELLOW to it, where you’ll be above it.

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4.5 – Keep following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) straight. [YELLOW starts to the left and follows a woods road to Durham Pond].

4.7 – Keep following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) past the the ORANGE trail (easy to miss).

The trail climbs to a limited view across the reservoir of the open rock area of Indian Cliffs… where you are headed next.

5.6 – Keep following Four Birds Trail (WHITE) straight [RED goes left and right]. Easy to miss.

Shortly, turn RIGHT and now follow Splitrock (BLUE). [Four Birds Trail (WHITE) continues straight, there are yellow signs]

The trail skirts Misty Pond with a beaver dam out in the middle of it.

Misty Pond
Beaver dam on Misty Pond

You are now north of the reservoir and are heading to the east side.

6.3 – Climb a short steep section to arrive at Indian Cliffs with fantastic views over the reservoir and of Misty Pond. There is a large rock slab to take a break on (but little shade).

View of Split Rock Reservoir from Indian Cliffs
View of Misty Pond from Indian Cliffs

Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) straight. Don’t turn left just after the viewpoint, that’s not the BLUE trail.

6.8 – Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) as it crosses Charlottesburg Rd (an eroded woods road that is unmarked).

7.1 – Turn RIGHT to continue on Splitrock (BLUE) as it follows Charlottesburg Rd.

7.8 – Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) as it leaves Charlottesburg Rd, heading East back onto a trail. GPS: BailoutOption

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Shorter Option: Had enough? Stay on Charlottesburg Rd instead. Pick up the directions at 9.8 below by turning RIGHT back onto Splitrock (BLUE). This cuts 2.1 miles of steep hiking off the route. There isn’t anything particular in this section that you’ll miss, but it’s nice hiking.

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9.8 – Continue following Splitrock (BLUE) as it crosses Charlottesburg Rd for the final time. 

[Option: Turn left on Charlottesburg Rd and take that back instead of the trail]

Splitrock (BLUE) skirts near the reservoir. This was eroded, wet, and hard to follow in a few spots when we last hiked it.

10.9 – Turn RIGHT onto Splitrock Road and follow that back to the lot.

[Note: Just before the road, the map shows an unmarked trail that leads back to the lot but we didn’t see it, so instead of bushwhacking around looking we decided to use the road as usual.]


Hiked: 4/28/18. Trail Blog: “Splitrock Reservoir in Spring
Hiked: 8/30/15.
Hiked: 9/5/10. Trail Blog: “Splitrock Reservoir Loop on Labor Day
Hiked: 11/2/08. Trail Blog: “Farny – Split Rock Reservoir Loop