AMC Outdoors, July/August 2005
Distance: 4.0 miles
Length: 4 hours
Difficulty: Challenging; with 400-foot elevation gain
Highlights: Pristine glacial lake, stunning mountain laurel
More than 15,000 years ago, a glacier pushed across what’s now the Highlands, leaving a lifeless, stony wasteland in its wake. Glacial erratics dotted ice-polished ledges. Shallow glacial depressions became bogs, while deeper gouges flooded and became lakes. On Bearfort Mountain in New Jersey one such gouge became Terrace Pond.
A rugged, four-mile loop takes walkers to the pond, one of the most pristine of New Jersey’s glacial lakes.
From the trailhead in Wawayanda State Park, the path climbs steadily with rocky footing through a peaceful mixed oak forest. Red and white oak, chestnut oak, pignut and mockernut hickory, and eastern hemlock form a leafy canopy. Beneath them witch hazel, shadbush, sassafras, and sweet birch fill in the middle story. The shrub layer alternates between mountain laurel and sweet pepperbush, while cinnamon fern, bracken fern, wintergreen, and mosses rise from leaf litter. The trail passes through a rhododendron tunnel, with red maple and witch hazel rising above.
Less rocky as it passes easily along a woods road edged by a farmer’s stone wall, I once tracked a pair of coyotes along this stretch of trail in winter. Terrace Pond’s relative remoteness makes it an ideal place to see bear, fox, and coyote sign.
After passing over a stream, the path gets more rugged as it climbs to a rocky crag. The vista, embossed with scrub oak and blueberry, overlooks a small pocket valley cradled between two ridges, and is an ideal place to enjoy the Highlands’ windy silences.
A little hand-over-hand climbing and descending brings a first glimpse of Terrace Pond. A further rocky descent takes you to the shore. The roughly rectangular pond is boxed in by high, elephant-skin-textured cliffs that show evidence of glacial gouging and polishing. There are plenty of places to stop for lunch and enjoy the views, but don’t swim: rangers will ticket you.
At the pond’s far end head back on Terrace Pond North Trail, which repeatedly rises over stony ledges then descends and crosses small wet areas on bog bridging. Atop puddingstone cliffs, you’ll glimpse the High Point Monument—the Catskills and Shawangunks are visible to the west and north.
An easy descent through sugar maple, witch hazel, white pine, and hemlock leads back to Clinton Road and the parking lot.
—Glenn Scherer is a writer in Vermont.
Take I-80 west or I-287 north to NJ 23 north at Wayne. Follow it north of Butler, making a right at the Clinton Road exit. Trailhead parking is 7.5 miles north on Clinton Road on the left.
Excerpted from Nature Walks in New Jersey by Glenn Scherer. Available from AMC Books (800-262-HILL or www.outdoors.org to order—members always get 10 percent off book purchases). For maps of the Highlands, contact the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference (201-512-9348; www.nynjtc.org).
You can best catch the area’s beautiful mountain laurel in late June, when the plant is covered in white and pink chalice-shaped flowers. Gently finger a single blossom and watch what happens. Spring-loaded stamens can catapult pollen onto landing bees.