Hiking Watchung Reservation in Winter

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Looking down on the stream
Hiking the Sierra Trail, an 11-mile loop around the perimeter of the Watchung Reservation.

We have mixed feelings about this park. In fact, we’ve been here only once before, about 5 yrs ago, and it’s taken us this long to give it another go.

With rain forecast for Sunday and recent snows in northern Jersey, we were looking for a park that was no-hunting and not snow covered…

For detailed hike directions, maps, and photos, visit our main Watchung Reservation page.

On the plus side… it is no-hunting (except for some days in March), has plenty of trails including the long Sierra Trail, with mostly pleasant hiking surface that wasn’t too hilly or rocky in case of snow or ice.

Trailside Museum:
Trailside Museum
Trail surface:
Sierra Trail
Water crossing Sierra Trail
Wide, flat Sierra Trail
On the minus side… you won’t feel like you’ve gotten away from it all.

This is an urban park with constant traffic noise in varying degrees, some houses butt right up against the park, so while the trail is nice, the ambiance is lacking in many places.

At the far end of the park, it heads downhill and there was the stench of factory fumes, then the trail jackknifes back and goes along a very nice stream that is smack next to a very busy and noisy road.

There are two overlooks that are just OK.
Second overlook
A few old building remains from a paper mill are between a stream and a cliff.
Building remnants
Remains of a mill
Buried tank
Ice hanging from the overhanging cliffs and a dam added interest to the hike.
Ice from the cliff above
Interesting ice formation
A couple of times the trail requires crossing a well trafficked road.
Trail jogs over a road
The Deserted Village of Feltville and a the Willcocks and Badgley Cemetery.
Feltville General Store and Church
Deserted village of Feltville
Willcocks and Badgley Cemetery
Grave markers dated November 22, 1776
Sign for Willcocks and Badgley Cemetery
Dam at the end of Lake Surprise. 
A dam on Lake Surprise
Lake Surprise
One section of the trail near the stables had been recently flattened by an earth mover. Eventually the trail loops around a water tower.
Water tower along Sierra Trail
But this park was good to get a long hike in during hunting season, and it was less than an hour from our house.

I would imagine it is very crowded during the summer, as the park is more suited for the casual hiker, dog walker, picnicker, and trail jogger.

Located in Union County. Parkway to 78W, exit 43… directions on the park site. The Trailside Museum at the main parking lot is open 12-5 and is very nice. Other restrooms were open earlier in a nearby building, follow the signs from the lot.

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