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Washington Valley State Park - 7/4/10

We were looking to do less driving during the holiday weekend. I didn’t have a lot of info on the park, it’s not in any of our books, no trail mileages to really gauge the park by… but it was only 30 minutes away so we didn’t have much to lose. Boy was it HOT though …. 95-ish and sunny HHHHOT. The weather has been brutal for hiking lately.

The park was just OK for trail interest and scenery. Other than walking by the reservoir on the RED trail… not too much to see. The hawk watch looks over a quarry. While interesting… it’s not the best view. It’s certainly decent for a park in Central NJ, but it lacks ooomph.

This is a biking-allowed park and the trails are geared as such… some seemed to twist around more than needed. We find that a bit tedious to hike, but since there are less parks available for bikers than hikers in NJ… it’s not really a complaint… just an observation.

Slight road noise throughout the park… you are never far from a road.

9.5 miles roundtrip (8.8 if we hadn’t got off track a bit) – easy to moderate trail surface. Hard-packed and rocky, but with loose, smaller rocks… easy to slide on. Minimal elevation changes.

Route: The park is split in sections but connectible by crossing roads. We first did the BLUE trail from the parking lot on Newman’s Lane (2 miles), then from the lot again, we took the RED trail along the Reservoir, crossed Chimney Rock Rd. to the ORANGE trail to Gilbride Road to the YELLOW trail.

The trails are somewhat confusing: there are ‘inner’ and ‘perimeter’ loops for each trail color, denoted by square signs (perimeter) and circle (inner). There are also “connector” trails blazed by a black C on white, but shown as a solid color of the main trail on the map. There are also unmarked trails not on the map.

Because of how the trails are on the map, it’s hard to describe our route… I will post a highlighted map later to show it.

Map: print it out from the Washington Valley Park site; there was a kiosk with a map posted but no spot hold hold paper maps to take with you.

Parking: We took 287N to exit for Thompson Ave (think it was 13b). Took that north till it ends, and turn right onto Chimney Rock road. Left on Washington Valley Road. Left on Newman’s Lane. Parking is a large paved lot on the left, after you pass a bridge. The park site has directions from Rt. 22. There is another lot at the hawk watch.

Restroom: porta-john in the Newman’s Lane Lot. The lot by the hawk watch had nothing.

Wildlife spotted: a lone deer, then later a doe with two fawns, tons of fish and tadpoles in the East Branch Reservoir, and a 4 foot black snake hidden in a grassy trail that I nearly stepped on – yowza!

And unfortunately we had to finish putting out a campfire… we took a break on rocks overlooking the reservoir and smelled a faint whiff of campfire… we found a still smoldering fire putting off a decent amount of heat. “Luckily” we found several bottles laying by the water, and scrambled up and down the bank a few times to bring water up to it till it was out. Fires are not allowed at the park to start with, but to set one with everything being so incredibly dry is just mindbogglingly stupid.

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Comment by Daniela Wagstaff on July 14, 2010 at 8:41pm
So scary about the fire. Last fall I came across the same thing at Wharton State Forest by the river. Found a Styrofoam cooler somebody left but even after filling it multiple times with river water and dumping on the fire, could not get it out. Ended up calling the park number on the map to send a ranger out, which they did. Terrifying in the Pine Barrens too.
Comment by njHiking.com on July 14, 2010 at 9:45pm
It's really nuts that people leave fires like that; the Pine Barrens certainly don't need any help catching fire. And this park is really near houses in spots, it wouldn't take much for a fire to spread to them.


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