Sparta Glen Park

Sparta Glen Park (7/24/2011)

The weather has been sweltering all over the country this past week, especially in New Jersey where it hasn't been below 90 F for about a week, with several days near and over 100! We weren't sure we'd be doing any hiking this weekend, given the high temperatures, but when we heard that it would be in the high 80s today we decided to do something short. The NYNJTC trail map 126 for the Jersey Highlands indicated a relatively small unlabeled parcel of land in Sparta Glen with a viewpoint! A websearch indicated about a mile of trails. Perfect, I thought, for a hot humid day. Our intent was to visit the vista on the map by climbing the unblazed trail, and then returning to the car on green and then blue. Well, we discovered that there's much more than a mile worth of trails, and given that almost nothing is blazed, the GPS of my iPhone came in handy.

We parked in the first lot east of the entrance (the gate was closed, prohibiting us from driving any further east). So we walked as far east as we could go. At the end of the paved road we continued on the gravel road, all the while paralleling a lovely narrow stream. I thought the unmarked trail began at the end of the gravel road, so we bushwacked up, up, up north from the end of the gravel road. We even found a fire ring at the top, so we thought we were on the right track. But after wandering around at the top and losing even the faintest of trails, we decided to head back down to the gravel road and try again. Another inspection of the map showed that the unmarked trail to the viewpoint began at the end of the paving, so back west we headed. Sure enough, a nice trail began at the pavillion. We took this up, up, up until we got to a fork and took the right of the fork, continuing to ascend, at one point climbing quite steeply until we got to the nice lookout of Lake Mohawk a bit west.

From the viewpoint one could continue further north or head northeast (none of this is accurately reflected in the map). We headed northeast eventually finding a yellow-blazed trail (not on the map). My GPS told me that we were well outside the bounds of the park, as demarcated on the map. But we continued on yellow until we got to green (at least we saw one blaze of green, the only green blaze of the afternoon) and then found ourselves back at the viewpoint. We headed back downward (steeply) south and then took the other leg of the fork encountered near the beginning. This headed west to blue, which we took south back to the paved road and the car. It seems we missed nearly all of the blue and green, instead going on unmarked trails, and (of course) on yellow (which is not on the map). Yellow, incidentally, continued north. If it wasn't so hot we probably would have done more exploring. Suffice it to say, after hiking nearly 3 miles, and noting the existence of other trails we didn't touch, this area for sure has more than one mile of trails!

Total distance hiked today was about 3 miles in 2 hours, with a really nice climb.

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

Heading east after gate

Beautiful stream

Route 620 above


[Photo by Laura]

Pavillion, where unmarked trail begins

Continuing on gravel road east

More views ...


... of stream

Cool crooked sycamore

Nice rock formation


Kid's crocs

Newton Water marker

As far east as we could go


Fire ring at top

No trails up here

Heading back east on gravel road



Ascending the steep trail

Fork, we went right ... up

Good climbing here


Steepest climb ...

... of the morning

[Photo by Laura]

Partial view west

Lake Mohawk viewpoint

Lake Mohawk

Closer views ...

... of Lake Mohawk

Now on yellow

The only green blaze of the day

Descending from ...

... the viewpoint

Trail wildflower

Level unmarked trail


Boy scout bench at blue

Blue heading south to road



Dust blew out upon a squeeze!

Back to the road


Photographs and content copyright © Dan Balogh
Web design by Dan Balogh