Mostly level hiking on moderate trail with a few minor changes in elevation, plus a lot easy woods road walking.
The Pequannock Watershed isn’t so much a park as a large area with several parking areas to access a network of trails. A permit is required: Info on the Watershed hiking permit.
Our two cents: Because of the permit requirement and the strict hiking limitations, this is not the area for someone new to hiking, or just looking for some casual trails – there are plenty of trails in NJ to explore first. Consider this area if you are an experienced NJ hiker looking for some new areas.
Mileage: 8.3 miles. Mostly level hiking on moderate trail with a few minor changes in elevation, plus a lot easy woods road walking.
Parking: N41 02.823 W74 24.618
Rt 287 to exit 52B towards Butler/Rt 23 W. Turn right onto Echo Lake road/Rt 695. Entrance is on the left, there is a wooden sign. You can get your permit at this office, as well as park here.
Restrooms: None in the area that we are aware of… Best bet is a gas station on Rt 23 in Butler.
**UPDATE 9/9/10 – Trail reroute** The Highlands trail between Gould Road and Union Valley Road has be rerouted to closely follow Gould and Union Valley Roads, due to ATV damage destroying the prior route. It’s noted below where that effects this description.
Hike Directions: This route follows TEAL Diamond the whole way, and is also marked with the Highlands Trail marker.
Look for the Highlands Trail TEAL Diamond marker on a tree at the edge of the parking lot, a little to the left when you are facing the building.
This very short path leads to a gravel road and over a causeway with views of Echo Lake on your right. The trail then enters the woods and hugs the shore of the lake. The trail is also blazed WHITE here, which is the Echo Lake West trail.
The trail is rutted, rocky and very wet in spots, but level and the area is very pretty, with views of the lake most of the time. A large rock face is to your left in the beginning of the trail.
1.5 – An unmarked woods road comes in from the left. Continue straight on TEAL.
1.9 – The trail comes to a Y-intersection. Bear left and continue on TEAL. WHITE bears right here.
Go up a short steep section and then it levels off. The trail comes to a woods road – turn right onto it and follow the TEAL blazes for a short bit.
2.2 – Turn left onto TEAL and re-enter the woods on a trail. The unmarked woods road continues straight.
2.3 – Watch for the TEAL markers and bear right after a large boulder. The trail appears to go to the left here because of ATV use, and if you aren’t paying attention you’ll start following that – but that is an unmarked trail. Now the trail is more rugged and typical of the Highlands.
**From this point on, Gould Rd, this description no longer applies; follow the blazes.
2.95 – Cross Gould Road. There is room for a car or two here, although it is not an official parking area on the map.
The trail surface here is a woods road that is rutted from ATV use, with many large wet spots. Watch for the markers to guide you around some large wet sections.
3.75 – Near a large very wet area after passing a swamp on your left. Follow the markers to cross Kanouse Brook. The trail looks like it goes straight out towards the field, but look for the marker to indicate a left turn, then shortly after, turn right onto a trail – watch, it’s not that obvious. Follow that to a powerline cut, a tower will be down to your right.
From the edge of the woods, it is not obvious where the trail is on the other side, just start walking straight up the slight hill and then the marker is visible across the cut.
Once back in the woods, watch for the markers again because there are several paths here, and the obvious path is not the one you want. Look for the marker indicating to head left.
4.0 – Cross Union Valley Road (513). The markers are directly across.
4.2 – The ORANGE trail is on your right, and also goes straight. This isn’t on the current NYNJTC Map #116, so not sure where it goes to.
Shortly after this, we encountered a mama bear and cubs and turned around. If we were able to continue, the trail should have headed sharply uphill. It would then cross 2 trails trails before getting to a firetower. The area has a large network of trails around the tower.
Hiked: 5/23/09. Trail Blog: “Pequannock Watershed – Highlands Trail at Echo Lake… plus bears“