I promised that I would get up to this area to check out the changes being made to the trail system at Waywayanda State Park-so I am keeping that promise. I also headed up this way to make a hike that I had always wondered about. Terrace Pond is one of the most popular hiking destinations in New Jersey. It is a beautiful place that is also reasonably accessible. Most visitors make the trip up to the pond from Clinton Road. There is a large parking area and you have your choice of a couple of different routes up the hillside to this hidden gem. The climb up is modest and the reward is great. That’s not the hike I’m describing here. For the easy way up, check out the very first hike featured on Yo Hike This here. It’s a great hike but I think this one is better.
I decided to see the proposed changes in the Terrace Pond North Trail and find out what this section was really like. I’m glad I did. This hike is on land that is managed as part of Waywayanda State Park. A trail map is available here. This map does not show the new changes to the trails I discussed, but it will suffice for now to allow you to navigate this route. The Terrace Pond North Trail was always a bit of a mystery. You would pass the tag end of the trail on the north side of Warwick Turnpike when heading up to Bearfort Ridge and Surprise Lake. You would use the far south end of the trail, which seemed to come in from “parts unknown”, as the route down from Terrace Pond to the Clinton Road parking lot. In between….who knew?
The “back way” up to Terrace Pond is a terrific hike. It’s a much more difficult climb. You won’t be passing would be bathers in flip flops with towels over their shoulders on this route. More than anything, it was a fun hike. Whoever laid out this trail didn’t miss many opportunities to climb rock piles or scale sheer rock faces. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing, but the rock scrambles and maneuvering along the ledges was very enjoyable. I didn’t even mention the views yet. A lot of long views to the east. At a couple of spots you will see Greenwood Lake not too far in the distance and the skyscrapers of Manhattan are off to the southeast, although on the hazy hot August day I did this hike it was a little tough to make the skyline out.
This hike also has a lot of ups and downs. While this isn’t a long hike, clocking in at about 6 miles, it seems like you are doubling your distance climbing and descending. (You’re not!) You won’t make great time-it will take you at least three hours out and back. There’s a climb of about 750 vertical feet at the beginning of the hike but that was just getting started. When all was said and done my tracker recorded around 1,800 of vertical gain and I tend to think it wasn’t far off. After the first mile there aren’t any big climbs, just a lot of 50-100 foot roller coaster sections. It’s also a very rocky trail so wear appropriate shoes.
One other note, because this route doesn’t get much traffic, chances are you will get to see a lot of wildlife. Bears and snakes are pretty common. Rattlesnakes love the rocky pipeline cut you will traverse. We even came across a large porcupine while making this hike. Steer clear of all of the local fauna. Get a picture if you’re lucky enough to encounter some of the more interesting animals. By the time I finished telling my wife how cool it was to see a porcupine and it dawned on me to get out my phone, it had waddled away into the forest. Mostly, consider yourself fortunate if you get the chance to encounter some of New Jersey’s rarer animals.
This hike begins on Warwick Turnpike in West Milford. The trail head is on the south side of the road. There is a pull off with parking for three or four cars on the north side. The trail head is 1,200 feet west of the intersection of Warwick Turnpike and White Road. Be VERY CAREFUL crossing the road here. Cars tend to travel fast on Warwick Turnpike and there is a hill and curve just to the west that can obscure the sight distance for drivers. The trail head is very inconspicuous. A small sign on the north side at the pull off indicates the Terrace Pond North trail where it heads off to the north to intersect with the trail up to Bearfort Ridge and Surprise Lake. There is also a small sign across the road on the south side where the trail you will be using begins at a narrow opening in the forest. The trail has been recently remarked with teal squares with a black square in the center as part of the re-working of the trails in this area mentioned in an earlier post.
To reach this trail, if you’re coming from the south take Route 287 to exit 55 for Route 511-Wanaque. Turn right at the end of the exit onto Ringwood Avenue north. If you’re coming from the north, take Route 287 to exit 57 for Skyline Drive. Make a right at the end of the exit and follow Skyline Drive until it ends at an intersection with Route 511 and turn right. Coming from the south you will stay on 511 north for about 13.5 miles from the 287 exit through the Borough of Wanaque. Those coming from the north will travel on 511 for about 8 miles from the intersection with Skyline Drive. From either direction you will go past Wanaque & Monksville Reservoirs, past the south end of Greenwood Lake, to the intersection with Warwick Turnpike and Union Valley Road in the Hewitt section of West Milford. Continue straight at this intersection (follow the arrow towards Warwick, NY instead of bearing left towards Route 23) and follow Warwick Turnpike about 3/4 of a mile to the pull off described earlier. Google maps refers to this spot as the “Quail Trail Head”.
The hike begins at the trail head on Warwick Turnpike marked by a sign indicating that this is the Terrace Pond North Trail headed south. You will be following teal with black blazes, teal blazes and the white blazes of the Terrace Pond Circular Trail. Bear in mind that the trail system here is under revision and by the time you do this hike the full extent of the changes may have been implemented. Fear not, because this description will allow you to navigate the coming changes as well as the current configuration of trails. The old dark blue blazes of the Terrace Pond North Trail have been replaced with the freshly painted teal/black blazes of what will be the Terrace Pond North Spur. For now, it’s still the Terrace Pond North Trail. The trail heads through an opening in a thick growth of rhododendrons. Head right in and you’re on your way.
The trail begins by climbing, sometimes steeply, away from Warwick Turnpike. You will be passing through very healthy woodlands with a thick undergrowth of mountain laurel, rhododendron and sweet pepperbush. The trail gains elevation quickly in the first 3/4 of a mile before it briefly levels off. It will get your heart going right out of the box. After a short respite from climbing the trail turns sharply right and begins to climb again. This second climb will bring you to the ridge top level. The trail will turn sharply left and you will begin to get some very nice views off to the east.
When you reach the ridgeline, you will notice a change in the vegetation. The mixed hardwood forest of the lower elevations is replaced by the hemlock and pitch pines that are typical of the elevated Highlands ridges. Your route will be covered by pine needles through this section and it is a very pleasant. As nice as it seems, the terrain is extremely rocky and you will need to use caution as the trail crosses a number of spots where you will need to navigate from boulder to boulder. The trail continues to follow the ridgeline south and all along this section you will have long east looking vistas and eventually the southern end of Greenwood Lake will come into view to the northeast.
The teal/black trail will turn sharply right at a rock cairn and begin to descend slightly. Shortly you will reach a spot where one of the trail changes will come into play. The teal/black blazes end. There is a sign with a map of the proposed changes on a tree. Straight ahead you may be able to make out the trace of a trail and see ribbons on trees that will mark the route of the Terrace Pond North Loop. To your right, the teal/black blazes are replaced by teal rectangles. When completed, the trail that will be straight ahead will be your return route and also marked by teal blazes. For now, just the western leg of the trail, which is the existing Terrace Pond North Trail, is your only option. Turn right here.
The teal blazes take you through some very attractive forest at this point and the terrain, which has been rough up until this point, becomes very rugged. After passing through a wet area the trail follows a very steep cliff face as you begin to climb again. You will climb to a higher ridgeline and have even more eastward views. Take your pick of where you want to grab some photographs. They’re all pretty nice. From these overlooks you will be able to see (depending upon the visibility of the day) the Manhattan skyline off some 25 miles to the southeast.
After several up and downs and rock scrambles the trail will reach a pipeline right of way. The trail turns sharply right here to follow the cut through the forest. You will follow the right of way for about 1/4 of a mile before the trail turns sharply left to re-enter the forest. At this point look ahead and to your right to see a very impressive rock face, which thankfully you will not have to ascend. There are still a couple of old darker blue blazes of the Terrace Pond North Trail visible on rocks here and there along the pipeline, but mostly you will find the new teal blazes. In about 1/2 mile you will reach an intersection with the white Terrace Pond Circular Trail (which is now marked as the “Wyanokie Circular Trail”) and the teal blazes will end (for now). The white trail goes both straight ahead and to your right.
Eventually, the teal blazes will continue straight at this point as a co-alignment with the white trail. Now, just continue straight ahead on the white trail. You will pass an elevated overlook of Terrace Pond where there will usually be “casual” visitors who have come up from Clinton Road to enjoy a day at the pond. You’ll want to take a couple of pictures here. Continue on the white trail and you will come to an intersection with the Yellow Dot trail heading off to your left. The yellow and white blazes will eventually be replaced with the teal blazes of the Terrace Pond North Loop and be your return route when completed. Now, it doesn’t do you any good and you need to continue to follow the white blazes as the trail turns right to loop around the pond.
The newly blazed yellow Terrace Pond West Loop joins the white trail as you continue around the west side of the pond. The co-aligned yellow and white trail will come to another overlook of the pond. Directly across you will see a cliff face where you just were. This is a good spot to sit and have a drink. You earned it. This is also another good spot for photos. When you’re done, continue on. The yellow trail will leave to your left. Stay on the white trail as it turns right and will cross the outlet of the pond on a newly installed pontoon bridge. Cross the bridge, which gives you a water level view of the pond, and you will reach a spot where you will climb a cliff face on a wooden ladder. Scramble your way up and continue straight ahead. You will shortly come to the intersection with the teal trail you passed before. Turn left here and follow the teal blazes back towards the teal/black trail (in about 1 1/2 miles) and the place where you started this hike.
Even though you will do a considerable amount of backtracking on the same trail, the views look different headed in this direction. You will be crossing the same rough terrain a second time, and it’s just as much fun. Eventually you will not need to backtrack and will be able to follow the teal trail as it loops around back to the intersection with the teal/black trail via a different route. For now you’ll just have to double back. When you get back the entire hike will be just under six miles, but it will feel like more because of the numerous climbs and descents. Even though none are real heart-attack climbs, you’ll feel them all when you’re done. This is a much less traveled and much more enjoyable route up to Terrace Pond and is well worth the effort you will put in.