Down the Trail: Don't sleep on NJ trails...walk on them

Tom Quinn is in his 29th year as a geometry and calculus teacher at Northern Valley/Old Tappan High School. He was the Golden Knights’ girls soccer coach for 23 years, has been the boys golf coach for 10 seasons and is now back on the sidelines as the JV girls soccer coach. He took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail on January 1, 2019.

Quinn has logged a lot of miles since. He has walked the entire New Jersey and New York sections of the AT and has just about finished off Connecticut, too. He shares some of his experiences, tips and tricks in our semi-regular Down The Trail feature.

Norvin Green State Park right here in the good old Garden State.

I decided to get off the AT for a while and pick local places to hike that were recommended to me. One of these places was Norvin Green State Forest, in Ringwood, NJ. My friend Alex and I finally found a nice fall day to go there, and I was rewarded with a terrific, varied hike that I would recommend to anyone.

With a little research, you can find many places to go to spend a day in the woods and forget about life for a while.

There are a couple of different places to park at Norvin Green, but we chose the Weis Learning Center on Snake Den Rd. There is a fairly large parking area there, and it will get packed quickly on a nice weekend day. Plan your hike early if you want to park here.  From the parking lot, it’s a fairly flat walk through a picnic area to the state forest.

There are maps of hiking trails online; my goal was to get to the main attraction first, Wyanokie Hi Point. Though the trail color eludes me, you can find the colors of the trails online. The hike to Wyanokie is about 1.5 miles from the parking lot. There are three shorter uphill climbs within this one and a half mile jaunt, with some views to take in as you ascend.  The last ascent to the top is really neat.  Open air rock climbing to the top, you finally get a terrific view of the Wanaque Reservoir, other mountain ranges with 360 views, and, with a little luck, the NYC skyline in the distance. This was a place that was very crowded with people, so we were not alone in planning a hike that day.

From there, one can descend from a variety of trails and meander their way through the state forest.  Think of Wyanokie Hi Point at the top, and many trails sprouting from this point in many directions.  It was an awesome day, so I was not worried about “taking a turn at this color trail, or that color trail”, I figured I was in the state forest, and could easily use my map online to figure out how to get back to the car.  Note that the “green trail” that starts at the Weis parking lot goes along the side of the forest, so keep that in mind when you want to return back to your car.

Other highlights of the hike include Carris Hill, Otter Hole and Chikahoki Falls.  There is another parking lot near Otter Hole.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much water at Otter Hole and Chikahoki Falls this time.  A simple google search will point you to these places, and others at Norvin Green.  Most of the time; however, I found myself simply walking through the woods with an occasional ascent or descent to some really neat viewpoints.  It was a great hike overall and I am glad that I finally visited Norvin Green.  As predicted, the hike to Wyanokie was a top NJ climb for me.

Pick a day, set aside some time, and get outside!