Stairway to Heaven: Appalachian Trail and Pinwheel Vista

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First time hiking the Pochuck Boardwalk and Stairway to Heaven section of the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey.

Hike first on boardwalks through marshy areas and over the Pochuck Suspension Bridge, then through hardwood forest, tall fields of wildflowers, over train tracks, a cow pasture (watch for cow pies!) and a boulder field.

All of this before steeply climbing up Wawayanda mountain on the “Stairway to Heaven” – lots of stone steps up switchbacks – to one of the best viewpoints in NJ: Pinwheel Vista.

The Kittatinny Mountains are visible in the distance, farms in the valley below, and on a clear day, High Point Monument is visible. 

7.4 miles, out-n-back from Rt 517 to Pinwheel Vista.

Complete hike details on our main “Stairway to Heaven: Pochuck Valley to Pinwheel Vista” page.

Notes: This is a popular area (everything from short hikes to AT thru-hikers), so don’t expect solitude. We didn’t see anyone from Canal Rd to Rt 94 however.

That section was also the most overgrown, you’ll want long pants or bug spray to be safe (though, oddly, bugs were almost non-existent on this hike.)

Until you start up the mountain, a large portion of this hike is in full sun. You do pop in and out of shady areas but plan accordingly in hot weather.

We put this hike off for weeks because of the 95-degree weather we’d been having. 85 and sunny was OK but pushing it.

Some road noise from 94 is the only reminder that you are still in NJ.


Boardwalk through Pochuck Valley


Turtles along the boardwalk section


Pochuck Suspension Bridge


Pochuck Creek


Canal Rd.


Crossing the canal


Hike through fields with Wawayanda Mountain coming in view.


Trail is overgrown here, but pretty.


Cross a fence on a stile.


Cross over train tracks.


Cross a cow pasture on wooden planking. Wawayanda Mountain in front of you.


Boulder field


Annie’s Bluff limited viewpoint.


The Appalachian Trail gets rockier here.


Part of the Stairway to Heaven – stone steps.


BLUE spur trail heads to the left.


View from Pinwheel Vista, with the Kittatinny mountains in the distance

View from Pinwheel Vista

View from Pinwheel Vista


On a clear day, the High Point Monument is visible in the distance.

Wildlife spotted: Tons of adorable turtles in the large pool of green muck in the boardwalk section.

Make sure you look for them along the bank and swimming, they aren’t obvious as they are covered in muck.

Saw a small water snake there on the way back. Lots of turkey vultures catching thermals at Pinwheel Vista.

4 thoughts on “Stairway to Heaven: Appalachian Trail and Pinwheel Vista”

  1. Fantastic hike. It was perfect for all abilites. On the way up wawayanda mountain was a challenge but the view is amazing, probably one of the best in all of NJ. Pictures are nothing compared to the real thing. The wooden planks through the cow pasture was very cool and so were the boardwalks which were nice, but nothing super. On the way up the mountain, we noticed many people who didnt have water and not wearing proper footwear. Make sure you are prepaired its a rough way up. Great hike! Look to be doing it again next year.

  2. Did the hike today with my daughter and it was amazing. The view at the summit is breath taking! We met a few serious hikers who were on their way to Connecticut via the AT. Really nice people. I would love to do a two week hike along the AT one day.

  3. Hi Mia – Mileage is round trip.

    Our GPS data shows it took us 4 hrs 10 min. However, we are relatively fast hikers but stop often/long for photos and/or breaks… so your results will vary (which is why we don’t post hike time on the guides).


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