Pleasant, easy route that follows woods roads, passes Lookout Lake, skirts Wawayanda Lake, and goes to Wawayanda Furnace.
10.9 miles, mostly easy surface. Wawayanda’s trails are mostly level, woods roads so the hiking here isn’t as rocky or rugged as is usual in the Highlands, or in the Kittatinny range in NW Jersey. The elevation change isn’t too bad, either.
- Shorter: Take Old Coal Trail to it’s terminus at Cherry Ridge (dirt road) out-and-back for a 5.2 mile round trip.
- Short: Head into the main park (fee is charged Memorial to Labor Day) and park at the boat launch. From there you can make short loops out of Wingdam, Sitting Bear and Laurel Pond, or take Double Pond to Red Dot or to Cedar Swamp Trail.
- Nearby, from this lot: Terrace Pond Loop; Terrace Pond – North, South, Circular & Yellow.
- Nearby, our other Wawayanda hikes: “Hoeferlin, Cedar Swamp, Red Dot“, “Pumphouse, South End, Twin Bridges“, and a longer route on Pumphouse.
Our two cents:
This is somewhat off the beaten path and therefore isn’t the hike to take on a first visit to Wawayanda; check out the main park trails first by starting at the visitor center or the lake itself.
The first part of Old Coal is just OK but gets progressively better from around Lookout Lake.
While this is a bit of a long route, if you consistently bang out 8-9 miles on the usual trails in northern Jersey (i.e. rocky, with multiple elevation changes) – this is probably doable because the trails aren’t as difficult here.
Expect to find some wet areas on the trail (“Wawayanda” is Lenape for “winding, winding water” or “water on the mountain”).
This area is next to Pequannock Watershed but is not where a permit is required.
Updated 6/4/15: Description updated to reflect map changes, photos and revised GPX added.
The trails in Wawayanda are well marked with plastic disks with the name of the trail on them, but with such a web of trails it’s best to have North Jersey Trails, this trail is on #116 of the 2-map set.
Note 10/2020: The names/colors of the trails that circle Wawayanda Lake are in the process of being changed in order to create an entirely ORANGE Wawayanda Lake Loop. Trails that are being renamed: Pumphouse, South End, Sitting Bear, Little Bear. These are still referred to in our hike guides until we can update the pages. See Trail Improvements at Wawayanda for info and maps. Signs are also posted at intersections.
A very long route that includes the Old Coal trail is in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City.
Parking: N41 08.565 W74 24.441
Rt 287 N to exit 52b, then Rt 23N towards Butler. Exit on the right for Clinton Road (right off of 23, then quick turn left, then quick turn right to actually get on Clinton).
The parking lot is 7.5 miles north of Rt 23, pass the Reservoir and some other small parking areas (now marked as “P1” etc – these correspond to the parking areas on the North Jersey Trails).
The lot is a large dirt area on the LEFT just past the sign/gate for the Wildcat Mountain Wilderness Center (which is also on the left). It’s marked with a “P7” sign.
None in the lot. Best bet is a gas station in Butler on Rt 23.
Halfway thru this route, there are bathrooms at the Wawayanda Lake boat launch area, and composting toilets near the start of the Laurel Pond Trail.
Overview: Old Coal (RED) – Lookout (WHITE) – Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK) – Laurel Pond (YELLOW) – Sitting Bear (ORANGE) – Wingdam (BLUE) – Unmarked – Wingdam (BLUE) – Unmarked past Furnace – Laurel Pond (YELLOW) – Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK) – Old Coal (RED)
*There are multiple unmarked trails that are shown on the North Jersey Trails and some off of Old Coal are named with wooden signs like “Split Rock”.
We have many of these intersections marked in our GPX file, but have removed them in the description since some signs were missing and it becomes more confusing than helpful.
0.0 – The trail head directly across the road from the lot is NOT for this hike.
Instead, turn RIGHT out of the parking lot and walk south on Clinton road a bit. The actual trail head is at the sign/gate for the Wildcat Mountain Wilderness Center.
Old Coal (RED) trail markers are visible just past the gate. Old Coal is marked with either RED Diamond on WHITE or just RED blazes along it’s route.
Old Coal (RED) is a mediocre woods road in the beginning.
Pass Bearfort Waters on the right, and some buildings for the center on the right a bit further down.
0.5 – Continue on Old Coal (RED) as it veers RIGHT.
[YELLOW (Clinton Trail) starts, veering left.] Pass some stone walls/fences.
1.7 – Continue on Old Coal (RED). [Turkey Ridge (GREEN DIAMOND on WHITE) starts on the LEFT].
2.3 – Potentially wet/muddy/super-duper-sloppy crossing via logs.
Bear print on Old Coal Trail (2009):
2.4 – Turn LEFT and start following Lookout (WHITE).
The three WHITE blazes are down the trail a bit and might not be immediately obvious. [Old Coal (RED) leaves to the RIGHT]
2.8 – Arrive at pretty and secluded Lookout Lake. It just sort of appears suddenly.
Continue on the trail, hugging the lake and there are some rocks to sit on. There may be lots of poison ivy around the lake.
Continue following Lookout (WHITE) after the lake, where it heads up a short steep section then curves to the right.
2.9 – At a Y where both are ways marked WHITE, veer RIGHT to continue on Lookout (WHITE).
[LEFT is unmarked on the map, and leads to Cherry Ridge further away]
The next brief section is exceptionally lovely… nice forested area with lots of ferns, boulders and glacial erratics.
3.4 – Lookout (WHITE) ends at Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK).
3.5 – Turn RIGHT onto Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK), follow it a short ways to Laurel Pond (YELLOW) on the left. Turn LEFT and now follow Laurel Pond (YELLOW).
3.8 – Turn LEFT and now follow Sitting Bear (ORANGE). The trail heads towards Wawayanda lake.
4.1 – Keep following Sitting Bear (ORANGE). [Pass the start of South End (ORANGE) on the left].
The trail curves right and the lake will come into view.
There are some spots on rocks to take a break by the water. Lots of rhododendron and a really nice area in general.
5.2 – Sitting Bear (ORANGE) ends. Turn LEFT onto Wingdam (BLUE). Follow this over a dam.
5.4 – Turn LEFT onto an unmarked trail. It goes closer to the lake than Wingdam (BLUE) does, but ends up in the same spot, so don’t sweat it if you miss it.
The trail will curve back to the right and end up on Wingdam (BLUE) again.
Turn LEFT onto Wingdam (BLUE) and walk over a dam to the corner of Wawayanda Lake.
/// Option: Turn LEFT and head toward the beach/boat launch if you want to check out that area.
There are bathrooms there as well. In off season, there is a composting toilet in the parking lot. To continue, walk back from the boat launch the way you came to this point. ///
5.9 – At the end of the lake, turn RIGHT and walk down a dirt road and over a wooden bridge to the Wawayanda Furnace on the left. There are interpretive signs detailing it’s history.
Walk away from the Furnace and head straight past the toilets toward a wooden bridge with a trail sign for Laurel Pond (YELLOW).
[There are two YELLOW trails: don’t turn left onto Double Pond (YELLOW) near the toilets.]
6.1 – Walk over a small bridge and start following Laurel Pond (YELLOW).
The trail has plenty of rhododendron and Laurel Pond may be visible through the trees a bit, on the right.
6.9 – Keep following Laurel Pond (YELLOW). [Pass Wingdam (BLUE) on the right].
7.3 – Keep following Laurel Pond (YELLOW). [Pass Sitting Bear Trail (ORANGE) on the right].
7.6 – Turn LEFT and now follow Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK). [Laurel Pond (YELLOW) ends].
This is a wide woods road that is intermittently marked and descends slightly on a rocky road before going over a small bridge.
7.9 – Keep following Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK). [Pass Twin Bridges (GREEN) on the left].
8.1 – Turn RIGHT and now follow RED (Old Coal). [Cherry Ridge Road (BLACK) bears left].
8.5 – Keep following RED (Old Coal). [Pass Lookout (WHITE) on the right.] From this point on, retrace your steps on RED (Old Coal) back to the lot.
Hiked: 6/3/12. [Variation] Trail Blog: “Wawayanda – Old Coal, Lookout, Turkey Ridge“
Hiked: 8/16/09. Trail Blog: “Wawayanda State Park – Old Coal Trail… plus a Bear!“