Wawayanda – Cedar Swamp and Lake Lookout

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Wawayanda State Park - Cedar Swamp

Shady hike through plentiful rhododendron, a cedar swamp, and past Lake Lookout and Wawayanda Lake.

8.2 or shorter options. Minimal rocks, not a lot of elevation gain. Some potentially wet areas.

Our two cents:

This shady hike is all about rhododendron thickets and tunnels, which bloom in June/July, and an Atlantic cedar swamp.

Extensive trail network to easily shorten or extend a route. Note: This popular park often fills to capacity in summer and closes.

Bonus fun: canoe rentals available in season, or bring your own.

Updates: 4/2021 – Not re-hiked; description updated to reflect major changes to trail names near the lake.


Map:

North Jersey Trails is recommended to navigate the network of trails in this park but the most recent version (2017) is out of date around the lake due to multiple trail changes.

Note 4/2021: Some names/colors of the trails around Wawayanda Lake have changed; this hike guide uses the new names. Currently, the map on the park’s site and North Jersey Trails (2017 edition) are not updated yet. Use this new Wawayanda Map for hiking around the main lake area.

Books:

A similar route is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey. Others are in Hiking New Jersey, Hiking the Jersey Highlands, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City.


Parking: N41.18860° W74.42673° [Boat 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. Drive through the first parking lot (for the beach), and continue to the boat launch lot.

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.


Restrooms:

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).

Composting toilets are by the Furnace which is near the junction of Laurel Pond and Double Pond trails.


Hike Directions:

Overview: Lake Loop (ORANGE) – Double Pond (YELLOW) – Cedar Swamp (BLUE) – Banker (GREEN) – Cherry Ridge Road (WHITE zig-zag on BLACK) – Old Coal (RED) – Lookout (WHITE) – Cherry Ridge Road (WHITE zig-zag on BLACK) – Laurel Pond (YELLOW) – Lake Connector (YEL-ORG) – Wingdam (BLUE) – Lake Loop (ORANGE)

Note: Trail names are on the markers, in addition to the color.

0.0 – Facing the lake from the boat launch parking lot, turn LEFT and walk on an unmarked path along the lake.

Wawayanda Lake

0.3 – Cross a wooden bridge just before the Wawayanda Furnace.

Wawayanda Furnace

Facing the composting toilets, turn LEFT and follow the park road across a bridge and into the group camping area. [Don’t take the other yellow trail at this intersection, Laurel Pond].

Follow the park road as it curves through the camp area – yellow blazes appear for Double Pond (YELLOW). Follow Double Pond (YELLOW) as it heads away from the campsites and on to a trail.

0.8 – Soon, cross over a bridge with water on either side.

Double Pond trail

0.9 – Pass RED DOT on the right.

1.3 – Veer RIGHT and now follow Cedar Swamp (BLUE). Soon, a long plank boardwalk starts.

Note! The planks themselves can be VERY slippery when wet, even thought they might not look like it.

Rhododendon around a boardwalk trail

Lots of rhododendron thickets and tunnels.

Rhododendron

It’s not hiking in Jersey unless there is a rusted car along the trail… watch for one nestled in the ferns off on the left, when the trail takes a right turn.

Rusted car overgrown with ferns

2.7 – Continue on Cedar Swamp (BLUE) as it turns LEFT at a T-intersection.

Cedar Swamp trail

2.8 – Turn RIGHT and now follow Banker (GREEN). [Banker (GREEN) also goes left].

3.2 – Arrive at a small dirt parking area. Turn RIGHT and now follow Cherry Ridge Road (WHITE zig-zag on BLACK) – though there might not be many blazes along it. [Banker (GREEN) ends].

Gate across a woods road

4.1 – Pass RED DOT on the right.

4.2 – Turn LEFT and now follow Old Coal (RED).

Variation: Continue straight on Cherry Ridge instead, and then turn RIGHT onto Laurel Pond (YELLOW), picking up the directions at 5.7 below. This cuts 1.1 miles out of the hike.

4.6 – Turn RIGHT and now follow Lookout (WHITE).

5.0 – The trail skirts the edge of the lake.

Lake Lookout with a beaver dam in the distance

There may be a beaver dam visible.

Close up of beaver dam

Continue to the corner of the lake where there is a rock that makes a nice break spot.

Lake Lookout

5.2 – Continue following Lookout (WHITE). Follow it as it veers right at a split.

Lookout Trail

5.6 – Turn RIGHT and now follow Cherry Ridge Road (WHITE zig-zag on BLACK). [Lookout (WHITE) ends].

5.7 – Turn LEFT and now follow Laurel Pond (YELLOW) – the sign might not be obvious until turning and taking a few steps.

Rhododendron

6.0 – Turn LEFT and now follow Lake Connector (YEL-ORG).

Variation: Instead, keep following Laurel Pond (YELLOW) back to the furnace area and then turn left to head back to the lot. This removes .6 mile from the hike.

6.3 – Turn RIGHT to start following Lake Loop (Orange). There are a few break spots with views of the lake.

Wawayanda Lake

7.5 – Turn LEFT and now follow Wingdam (BLUE).

Wing dam

Cross a bridge over a spillway. At the end of the lake, turn LEFT to head back to the parking lot.


Hiked: 7/10/16. Trail Blog: “Wawayanda Rhododendrons in July