Sunfish Pond – Garvey Springs and Douglas Loop

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Sunfish Pond

Short-but-steep loop to Sunfish Pond via the Garvey Springs trail and includes Laurel Falls.

4.6 or 2.8 miles. Steep climb; surface is very rocky, especially where the Appalachian Trail hugs Sunfish Pond.

Our two cents:

This solid hike packs Sunfish Pond, the Appalachian Trail, and a waterfall in under 5 miles… so what are you waiting for?

Garvey Springs is the fastest route to Sunfish Pond but you can do this loop in the opposite direction for a more gradual climb with a steeper return.

Laurel Falls is very close to the parking area, just up the Douglas Trail a bit, so it could be done first and then continue on this hike.

Updated: 5/2021 – Description changed to reflect that TURQUOISE is now called Buckwood (BLUE); not re-hiked.


Map/Books:

Kittatinny Trails section #120. This route isn’t in any books that we know of, but individual trails are described in Kittatinny Trails.


Parking: 41.01317 -75.08217

Douglas lot; Old Mine Road. Rt. 80 W to the last exit in NJ (1) for Millbrook/Flatbrookville which bears right onto River Road/Old Mine Road.

Cross a one-lane bridge with a stop light and continue on Old Mine Rd for about 4 miles, passing a sign for Worthington and the driveway to the park office. The lot will be on the left and has a sign.


Restrooms:

From the lot, walk back into the campground area to a bathroom building on the left. Rustic outhouses at the Douglas backpacker camp.


Hike Directions:

Overview: Garvey Springs (ORANGE) – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Buckwood (BLUE) out-and-back to a view of Sunfish Pond – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Douglas (BLUE on WHITE)

0.0 – From the parking area, cross Old Mine Road and veer left to start following Garvey Springs (ORANGE).

Garvey Springs Trail sign

0.6 – Continue on Garvey Springs (ORANGE) as it turns left and follows Rock Cores (GREEN) for a bit

Orange and green markers on a tree

The trail turns right and continues steeply uphill.

Steep rocky trail

1.3 – Garvey Springs (ORANGE) ends. Turn RIGHT and now follow Appalachian Trail (WHITE) briefly. [Appalachian Trail (WHITE) also goes left].

Turn LEFT and follow Buckwood (BLUE) up to a view over Sunfish Pond and a nice break spot.

Sunfish Pond
View of Sunfish Pond from with rocks in the foreground

// Alternate: Stay on Appalachian Trail (WHITE) to check out the pond instead; skipping Buckwood (BLUE). //

Retrace Buckwood (BLUE) back to the Appalachian Trail.

// Short – 2.8 round trip: Retrace the route from here: Buckwood (BLUE) – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Garvey Springs (ORANGE) //


Alternate/longer: The Appalachian Trail along Sunfish Pond has very rocky sections that are nearly scrambling (see photos). There is an alternate route using a Fire Road that has the same distance and a much easier trail surface. The trade-off is it’s duller and doesn’t hug the shore of Sunfish Pond so there are no views.

To do this, continue on Buckwood (BLUE) from the viewpoint over Sunfish Pond. Make a right onto Sunfish Fire Road and meet up with this description at the other end of Sunfish Pond, at 2.2 below. There, turn LEFT to continue on the Appalachian Trail (WHITE).


1.5 – From Buckwood (BLUE), turn LEFT to again follow the Appalachian Trail (WHITE). The trail is VERY rocky along Sunfish Pond.

Very rocky AT along Sunfish Pond

Sometimes the trail is just picking a way over a jumble of rocks.

White AT blaze on rocks along Sunfish Pond
Jumble of rectangular rocks near a pond

There are several open spots for views of the pond.

Rocky shoreline of Sunfish Pond

There may be evidence of beaver activity along the way.

Tree toppled by beaver activity

In Spring, towards the other end of the pond, we’ve often spotted tadpoles in the shallow areas.

South end of Sunfish Pond

2.2 – Continue on Appalachian Trail (WHITE) passing a sign about Sunfish Pond and a stone marker.

Sunfish Pond sign

2.9 – At the trail kiosk near the Douglas backpacker camp, start following Douglas (BLUE on WHITE). [Appalachian Trail (WHITE) veers off to the left]

The small sign for Douglas Trail has a right arrow that is slightly misleading; it points to a trail that toward the camp. There are views beyond the camp when there are no leaves on the trees.

Douglas backpacker camp

The actual trail is the wide path and shortly there should be a blue trail marker.

Blue dot on white trail marker

Douglas (BLUE on WHITE) switchbacks steeply (but not as steep as Garvey) down a wide path with many dead trees.

Dead trees along Douglas Trail

4.0 – Veer RIGHT to continue on Douglas (BLUE on WHITE). [Rock Cores (GREEN) goes left and leads to another parking area near the park office]

4.2 – Veer LEFT to continue on Douglas (BLUE on WHITE). [Rock Cores (GREEN) goes right]

Douglas Trail

Nearly back, with the lot in sight, the unmarked path to Laurel Falls is at the trail sign. Turn RIGHT and follow this along the stream to the lower falls.

Douglas Trail sign with Laurel Falls beyond.
Douglas plaque with Laurel Falls beyond.

The lower Laurel Falls:

Laurel Falls, lower.
Laurel Falls with sunlight streaming over it

Close up of lower Laurel Falls:

Close up of Laurel Falls, lower.
Laurel Falls, lower.

Continue up the hill to see the upper falls.

Upper Laurel Falls with sun light streaming above it
Upper Laurel Falls cascading over rocks

There is a third smaller cascade after a steep climb – but this can be skipped as it’s not as as the first two and probably not worth the climb up.

Laurel Falls, uppermost cascade

Backtrack to Douglas and to the lot.


Hiked: 4/7/19. Trail Blog: “Laurel Falls and Sunfish Pond