Shady hike through plentiful rhododendron, a cedar swamp, and past Lake Lookout and Wawayanda Lake.
8.2 miles, easy to moderate surface – minimal rocks, not a lot of elevation gain. Some potentially wet areas.
- Shorter: 2.6 –Wingdam with return via Laurel Pond still provides rhododendron and lake views. Detailed in Hiking the Jersey Highlands.
- Shorter: 3.6 – Extend that by taking Wingdam to Sitting Bear, with return via Laurel Pond.
- Variation: 6.5 – Remove the loop to Lake Lookout and take Laurel Pond back instead; notes in the description below.
- Variation: 7.1 – Remove just the loop to Lake Lookout; notes in the description below.
- Options: Check out our other Wawayanda hikes, “Hoeferlin, Cedar Swamp, Red Dot“, “Old Coal Trail, Lookout Lake, Laurel Pond Trail“, “Pumphouse, South End, Twin Bridges“, and a longer route on Pumphouse.
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. The beach/picnic/boat area can get crazy busy in summer, and the park often closes due to capacity, sometimes even by early morning… but you may not encounter many people on the trails.
Bonus fun: canoe rentals available in season, or bring your own (see Wawayanda Lake Kayak).
Map: North Jersey Trails is recommended to navigate the network of trails in this park.
Books: A similar route is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey and is good if you prefer very detailed directions.
Parking: N41° 11.316′ W74° 25.604′ [Boat Launch Lot]
From the south: 287N to exit 55 towards 511/Wanaque/Pompton Lakes. Right at bottom of 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. Roughly 1.5-1.75 hours from central Jersey.
Note: Interactive Maps 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).
Seasonally, a composting toilet may be in the boat lot. Possibly one in the auxiliary lot by Pumphouse trail (we have not checked in awhile).
Composting toilets are by the Furnace, near the junction of Laurel Pond and Double Pond trails. (Wawayanda has no shortage of restrooms!).
Overview: Unmarked along the lake towards the furnace – 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) – Sitting Bear (ORANGE) – Wingdam (BLUE) – Unmarked along the lake back to the parking lot
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.
0.3 – Cross a wooden bridge just before the Wawayanda. Walk towards the composting toilets.
At the toilets, follow the park road across a bridge and into the group camping area.
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.
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. (There was trail maintenance going on in this area, so the boardwalk might be different now).
Lots of rhododendron thickets and tunnels. Watch for a rusty car nestled in the ferns off on the left, when the trail takes a right turn.
2.7 – Continue on Cedar Swamp (BLUE) as it turns LEFT at a T-intersection. [Unmarked trail goes right, and is a shortcut to Cherry Ridge… if you have a map].
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].
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 with views across to a beaver dam. Continue to the corner of the lake where there is a rock that makes a nice break spot.
5.2 – Continue following Lookout (WHITE). Follow it as it veers right at a split.
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.
6.0 – Turn LEFT and now follow Sitting Bear (Orange).
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 – Keep following Sitting Bear (Orange). [Pass South End (Orange) on the left.] There are a few break spots with views of the lake.
7.5 – Turn LEFT and now follow Wingdam (BLUE). [Sitting Bear (Orange) ends.]
Cross a bridge over a spillway. At the end of the lake, turn LEFT and walk the unmarked path back to the parking lot.
Hiked: 7/10/16. Trail Blog: “Wawayanda Rhododendrons in July“