Watchung Reservation – Sierra Trail

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Watchung Reservation Sierra Trail

The Sierra Trail winds through woods along the shores of Lake Surprise and through the Deserted Village of Feltville.

11.0 miles. Trail surface ranges from mild wide paths to roots and rock-filled trail.

Our two cents:

Get a long hike in with easy navigation (one blaze color and well-marked throughout) plus interesting bits like the Deserted Village of Feltsville, a cemetery, and Lake Surprise along the way.

The extensive trail system offers plenty of bail-out opportunities to cut the hike shorter. Considerable traffic noise in many areas. This is more of a take a stroll/jog, have a picnic, walk the dog kinda park.

The park’s site has info about the Village, including a PDF containing all of the interpretive signage at the site.

Bonus: Mostly no hunting – except for Tues & Thurs Oct 1 – mid-Feb and certain days during shotgun season, Jan – mid Feb.

Map:

On the park site or print ahead. Trail kiosks contain a brochure with a QR code to their online map.

Books:

A very similar route and map can be found in Hiking New Jersey, and includes detailed mileage markers. A 6.5 mile version is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.

Other routes are in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City and Best Day Hikes Near New York City. A detailed trail description is found in the The New Jersey Walk Book.

Parking: N40.68340° W74.37297°

452 New Providence Rd, Mountainside, NJ 07092. Detailed directions from various approaches found on the park site.

Restrooms:

In the Trailside Museum at the main parking lot, open 12-5. Other restrooms were open earlier in a nearby building, follow the sign at the end of the parking lot near the museum.

Restrooms are mid-way through the hike around the back of the Village of Feltville Store/visitor center (open Sat/Sun + most holidays, noon to 5pm).

Other toilets are marked on the trail map, the Skytop Picnic one may be a seasonal porta-john.

Hike Directions:

Follow Sierra Trail (WHITE) for the entirety of this well-marked route. For that reason, we’ve only listed key points in our trail description below.

0.0 – From the parking lot, with your back to the museum, turn RIGHT on the road at the edge of the lot. Follow this park road for just a bit, then turn LEFT at the trail post marked with WHITE, GREEN, and PINK blazes to start following the Sierra Trail (WHITE).

Sierra Trailhead
Sierra Trail

0.4 – Don’t cross the wooden bridge. Turn LEFT to continue following Sierra Trail (WHITE).

2.3 – The Sierra Trail (WHITE) continues past the Sky Top picnic area and crosses the park road. The trail heads steeply downhill.

3.4 – View on the right, over the nearby quarry. Sierra Trail (WHITE) continues downhill.

Quarry overlook

At the bottom of the hill, the trail turns right and follows a stream with cliffs on the right, and the remains of an old paper mill. There is a lot of road noise in this area.

Cliffs along the Green Brook
Green Brook at Watchung Reservation
Green Brook
Green Brook

Basalt rock formations and an old rock wall.

Basalt at Watchung Reservation

4.2 – Another viewpoint, with the quarry visible.

Another view of a quarry

4.7 – At Skytop Drive, turn LEFT and walk along the side of the road a bit (there’s a marker on the stone guardrail), then cross the road.

Skytop Road crossing

The trail continues on the grass a bit before re-entering the woods and crossing a boardwalk before a narrow section of trail

Boardwalk on Sierra Trail
Tight section

5.7 – Paved path through the Deserted Village of Feltville. There are informational plaques about the various buildings (a few are private residences).

Deserted Village of Feltville
Feltville building
Village of Feltville

The largest and most restored building is the Village Store / Visitor Center. Restrooms are located around back, where there is a small shortcut to the cemetery.

Village of Feltville store

6.2 – After the Village the trail loops around past the small Willcocks and Badgley Cemetery.

6.7 – Lake Surprise. There is a short side trail to a dam with water falling over it.

Lake Surprise Dam
Lake Surprise

Sierra Trail (WHITE) continues along the edge of the lake. There are a few benches.

Sierra Trail along Lake Surprise
Sierra Trail - Lake Surprise

7.5 – Turn right along the road and walk over the bridge. Sierra Trail (WHITE) continues across the street from a small parking area for the Lake Surprise boat launch.

This section is mostly wide bridal paths. Eventually the Sierra Trail (WHITE) skirts a fence for a stable.

Watchung Reservation
Watchung Stables

9.3 – Come to a roundabout and follow the blazes for the Sierra Trail (WHITE) to cross a busy road.

9.8 – Sierra Trail (WHITE) continues around a water tower and then a old park pavilion.

Approaching a water tower
Water tower along the Sierra Trail
Old pavillion

10.3 – At a parking area, cross the road and continue following Sierra Trail (WHITE). End up at the Trailside Museum entrance, walk around back to the lot.

Snowshoed: 2/20/21. 2.8 miles. Trail Blog: “Snowshoeing at Watchung Reservation
Hiked: 11/2/2019.
Hiked: 12/12/2009. Trail Blog: “Watchung Reservation – Sierra Trail
Hiked: 11/26/2004. 7.4 miles.