Enjoyable, shady, rhododendron filled hike around Wawayanda Lake using Pumphouse, South End trail, and Twin Bridges.
7.6 miles. Terrain is easy to moderate. Wawayanda terrain is less rocky and more level (many are old woods roads) than the majority of North Jersey.
- Shorter: Two variations are noted below which make the hike 5.2 or 4.8 miles instead. Both are very worthwhile and you won’t be missing out – just seeing different areas and hiking a little less.
- Variation, 6.2 miles: Circle both sides of the lake instead; a new ORANGE route is being created called the Wawayanda Lake Loop.
- Nearby: Check out our other Wawayanda hikes, “Hoeferlin, Cedar Swamp, Red Dot“ and “Old Coal Trail, Lookout Lake, Laurel Pond Trail“, and a longer route on Pumphouse.
- Alternate: Wawayanda Lake Kayak.
Our two cents:
This hike is all about thick, shady forest that is especially excellent when the mountain laurel or rhododendron are in bloom during May/June/July.
Just a few views of the lake and no high up, vast viewpoints – but also no big hills!
Extensive trail network to easily shorten or extend a route.
The beach/picnic/boat area can get crazy busy in summer, and the park often closes due to capacity, sometimes even by 10am… but you may not encounter many people on the trails.
Bonus fun: canoe rentals available in season, or bring your own.
Updated: 4/2020: Page refreshed, not re-hiked.
North Jersey Trails is recommended to navigate the network of trails in this park.
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.
This route isn’t in any books we know of but other ones in the area: A good short hike (2.6 mile) is in Hiking the Jersey Highlands.
Parking: N41.19067° W74.42912° [Beach Lot]
From the south: 287N to exit 55 towards 511/Wanaque/Pompton Lakes. Right at bottom of the ramp and follow 511/Ringwood Ave/Greenwood Lake Turnpike through town.
The road will curve left and pass Monksville Reservoir and then Greenwood Lake. The road name changes to Warwick Turnpike.
The park entrance on the left, about 19 miles since getting on 511. Drive past the visitor center lot (fee gate in season) and follow the park road for a bit.
Turn left at the sign for Wawayanda Lake. Park in the first parking lot, don’t continue to the boat lot. Trailhead is near the fence in front of the building. Roughly 1.5-1.75 hours from central Jersey.
Note: Google and GPS software may show several of the trails here as drivable roads… they aren’t. It’s allowed on part of Cherry Ridge but you really want one of the main lots.
Wawayanda charges an entrance fee Memorial – Labor day; which is covered by the NJ State Park Pass.
Regular bathroom in the main lot by the visitor center and at both Wawayanda lake parking lots – the first (beach lot) and the second (boat launch lot).
Seasonally, a composting toilet may be in the boat lot.
Possibly one in the auxiliary lot by Pumphouse trail (we have not checked in a while).
Composting toilets are by the Furnace, near the junction of Laurel Pond and Double Pond trails. (Wawayanda has no shortage of restrooms!).
Overview: Pumphouse (ORANGE) – Boulder Garden (BLUE) – Pumphouse (ORANGE) – South End (ORANGE) – Sitting Bear (ORANGE) – Laurel Pond (YELLOW) – Cherry Ridge Road (WHITE zig-zag on BLACK) – Twin Bridges (GREEN) – RED DOT – Double Pond (YELLOW) – Unmarked along the lake back to the parking lot
Note: Trail names are on the markers, in addition to the color.
0.0 – The Pumphouse trailhead starts at the fence near the building at the end of the first parking lot (beach lot).
Walk through the fence, veer RIGHT across the grass, passing a group of picnic tables nestled in the trees on the left.
The trail follows a woods road for a short bit. Before getting to an auxiliary parking lot and entrance gate, the trail turns LEFT.
0.7 – Turn LEFT and now follow Boulder Garden (BLUE). This was rocky (… a boulder garden….) and was somewhat overgrown but that gave it a neat feel.
/// Option: Stay on Pumphouse (ORANGE) instead of Boulder Garden (BLUE), which might be a bit longer, probably less rocky/overgrown, but you’ll end up in the same spot. We have not hiked that section. ///
1.3 – Start following Pumphouse (ORANGE). [Boulder Garden (BLUE) ends].
2.0 – Turn RIGHT and follow an unmarked side trail that goes to the edge of Wawayanda Lake for a nice view and break spot.
[There are other unmarked side trails before this one, and there isn’t an indication where to turn… however, it only goes left and there was ORANGE trail marker on the tree opposite this junction.]
These side trails aren’t shown on the park map, only on the topo North Jersey Trails one.
Remnants of pipes are by the edge of the lake, from when water was pumped out to a reservoir during a drought in the 1960s. [Info via Hiking New Jersey.]
Backtrack from the lake. Some pink mountain laurel on this side trail:
2.4 – Turn LEFT back on to Pumphouse (ORANGE).
2.7 – Turn LEFT and now follow South End (ORANGE) on the left. [Pumphouse (ORANGE) continues straight.]
2.9 – Follow South End (ORANGE) as it veers RIGHT. [An unmarked trail veers left.] More pipeline remnants are along the trail.
3.2 – Continue following South End (ORANGE). [Timber (GREEN) goes right.]
3.3 – The trail gets close to the edge of the lake for a view. An old plastic chair was sitting here the day we hiked.
3.9 – Turn RIGHT and now follow Sitting Bear (ORANGE). [South End (ORANGE) ends.]
Shorter Variation #1: Instead, turn LEFT and follow Sitting Bear (ORANGE) and then Wingdam (BLUE) back to the parking lot, making the hike total about 5.2 miles.
The trails hug the edge of the lake and have some nice break spots.
4.2 – Turn RIGHT and now follow Laurel Pond (YELLOW). [Sitting Bear (ORANGE) ends]
Shorter Variation #2: Instead, turn LEFT and follow Laurel Pond (YELLOW) to end up at the Furnace from later in this route. This makes the total hike about 4.8 miles.
Slightly shorter than option #1, lots of rhododendrons, but no lake views.
4.5 – Turn LEFT and now follow Cherry Ridge (WHITE zig-zag on BLACK). [Laurel Pond (YELLOW) ends.]
4.8 – Turn LEFT and now follow Twin Bridges (GREEN). You may see a sign that says “WRONG WAY” but that is for bikers.
This trail has more grassy/open swampy areas and two bridges. It didn’t have as much rhododendron or mountain laurel.
/// Variation: Continue a little further down Cherry Ridge, turn left onto RED DOT instead, which goes over “Nature Jim’s Bridge”. Twin Bridges (GREEN) and RED DOT still meet up below. ///
6.0 – Turn LEFT and now follow RED DOT.
[Twin Bridges (GREEN) ends at this T-intersection. RED DOT also goes right. This is where you’d meet this description if you take RED DOT, just stay on RED DOT].
6.4 – Turn LEFT and now follow Double Pond (YELLOW). [RED DOT ends].
Follow Double Pond (YELLOW) over a plank boardwalk and a bridge.
6.8 – Double Pond (YELLOW) meets up with the park road and goes through a group camping area.
[Double Pond (YELLOW) ends in this area, though we didn’t notice it.]
Follow the road as it curves around, past composting toilets.
7.0 – Wawayanda Furnace. There are no marked trails from here to the parking lot.
Follow the path uphill and over a bridge and continue towards the lake.
Follow the path along the lake, past the boat rental shack (this is not the parking lot you started at).
Continue along the lake edge, towards the beach area, and back to the parking lot.