Hilltop Reservation

Hilltop Reservation (8/13/2011)

Today we headed to a relatively new park, the Hilltop Reservation. It's relatively new because the land was occupied for most of the 20th century by the Essex Mountain Sanatorium, which cared for patients with tuberculosis and later, in the 1970s, for overflow patients with mental illness from the nearby Overbrook Hospital. The complex was closed in 1977 and gated in 1982, at which time it fell into disrepair. Incredibly, most of the huge buildings stood there for two decades, into the 21st century, at which time they were all demolished. The Hilltop Resevation was created in 2001. Click here for a terrific website dedicated to the history of this sanatorium.

Following this map, we parked near the ball field at the Verona Community Center (amazingly, this was the second hike in a row for us that began at a baseball field) and headed for left field, where we found the trailhead for the Old Hilltop trail (diamond blazes). We took this to the White Rock trail, passing the lovely Prisoner's Pond, then north where we could see construction of "The Highlands at Hilltop" apartment complex. At the end of this trail we turned left on the Hilltop Trail and took it north to the Spruce Inner Loop, which we took north, then east to the Peace trail at the northern tip of the reservation. We headed back south on this trail until we came back to the Hilltop Trail, which we took back to the ball field.

Total distance hiked today was 4.8 miles in 3 hours.

(Click on the thumbnail to bring up a bigger image in a pop-up window)

Passing the bleachers

3rd baseline

Trailhead in left field

Partially paved White Rock trail

Lovely ...

... Prisoner's Pond ...

... on the White Rock trail


On White Rock

A curious buck

Turtleback rock

Closeup of Turtleback rock

Road to the construction

Large water tank

View north ...

... to construction

Wilderness right next door

Overgrown in places

Trail intersection

Abandoned tank

Abandoned sanatorium road

The meadow ...

... where most of the ...

... sanatorium complex was

Parking lot and wall (compare)

Wall in parking lot

The E.D.'s spot

Front court of administration building

Water tank

Bat house


Pump (?) in 'open' position

Steel frame

Storage box?

Young doe and buck

Older buck

Pile of rubble

Turtleback rock covered in green

Blaze for Spruce Outer loop

Narrow Peace trail

Piles of rubble

Turtleback rock

Small abandoned building

Crossing ...

... abandoned road

Huge Turtleback rock

[Photo by Laura]

Water tower bases

Continuing on Peace trail

A mini Palisades

Several manholes ...

... along this stretch

Old pipe along trail

Felled telephone pole

Drill mark

Downy woodpecker

Blaze-eating tree


Abandoned building

View inside


View from inside

Combination lock

Stand-alone gate

Climbing back to the car

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