Watchung Reservation

New Providence, New Jersey

Watchung Reservation

Watchung Reservation Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A longer hike through the largest property in the Union County Park System leads past a deserted village, a pair of quiet ponds, a stately evergreen forest, and an abandoned copper mineand offers an opportunity to appreciate the numerous birds, mammals, and reptiles that make their homes within the parks 2,065 acres."

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Watchung Reservation Trail Trip Reports

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Garwood, NJ
Explorer | 45 pts
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
Excellent trails. Well blazes and easy to navigate around. I took my dog for his first hike. It was in the middle of the week so really didn’t see much people. I had found a map online but they have them at the Trail Side Center if you need one.
Verona, NJ
Pathfinder | 62 pts
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Excellent trails. Map definitely needed which can be obtained at the trail side center. Well blazed, easy to moderate in some areas, lake, waterfalls, birds, history, old village, copper mine....pretty much everything. Can be 1/2 hr, can be 6 hrs..whatever you want to make of it. Beautiful either way...i highly recommend. Never overcrowded either because of the sheer size.
Parsippany, NJ
Explorer | 40 pts
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Trails were not continuous- broken up by roadways. Nothing exciting to see...
East Millstone, NJ
Explorer | 30 pts
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The trail had a lot of ups and downs. Since it was a winter hike, the views were impressive. The view from the summit at the southwest corner of the preserve was very pretty and gave a good opportunity to sit with the dogs, they with their water and us with our hot coffee. The trail was wet and muddy in some places but that is to be expected. The description in the downloaded information was a bit sparse and the map was small. I blew it up to fill a whole page in order to read it. At the preserve, most all trails are called the Sierra trail regardless of where they go. At one trail intersection you could go in three other directions beside the trail you are coming from and be on the Sierra trail. Fortunately the GPS and compass app on my iPhone was an invaluable resource. It didn't replace common sense things such as landmarks, the position of the sun, and (in some cases) blazes, but was there when all else failed. The hike was a great experience, nonetheless, and deserves four stars. -- Norm
Bay Head, NJ
Pathfinder | 170 pts
3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars
Very open trails. Some ups and downs, great for kids and dogs. Pretty much anyone can handle this trail.
Middlesex, NJ
Adventurer | 250 pts
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Trail was great! There wasn't a whole lot of foliage, but everything was starting to bud/grow (Including some ground flowers as well). I saw plenty of chipmunks and squirrels, and snagged a couple shots of some hawks. The second day I went (Went back with my wife), we saw a small garter snake. By the lake there are tons of turtles, and a small waterfall to stop by (I didn't check it out on this trip, but I will the next). Birds are plenty colorful, but equally as hard to capture on film.

It was great weather, but actually did manage to get a little warm towards the afternoon. I trail hopped for a while, and ended up going about 6 miles altogether, but plan on going back to cover more area that I didn't get to see the first time around. I would recommend staying to the left of the park (Not near the horse stables, unless you want to see that stuff). The trails near the horse stables are bridle trails and can be confirmed by all the droppings along the way. (I like to avoid that if possible). You can print out a greatly detailed map of the park if you visit Union County's Park and Recreation Site, which shows the foot paths (Unblazed), bridle trails, blazed trails, etc.
Hamilton, NJ
Adventurer | 320 pts
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
Nice trails from what I remember

More Watchung Reservation Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

AMC's Best Day Hikes Near New York City (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
Daniel Case
"Historical and natural sights, such as a pine plantation, deserted village, and scenic gorge, abound in this suburban oasis, Union County’s largest park. Wedged between the developed suburbs of Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, Scotch Plains, Springfield, and Summit, the Watchung Reservation helps make those towns special places to live. Many a local child grew up exploring, on foot or bike, the marked and unmarked paths on the reservation’s 2,045 acres." Read more
Arline Zatz
"The Lenni-Lenape Indians referred to the area that lies between two ridges as the Wach Unks, meaning “high hills.” We know them today as the Watchung Mountains. On the trails, you’ll be able to spot deer, birds, and wildflowers while walking beside a beautiful babbling brook. An added bonus is passing through the remains of Feltville, a nineteenth-century village ruled by David Felt. Until an archaeological dig in 2004, Felt was believed to have lived in a mansion away from the village. Now, thanks to evidence found in the dig, Matthew Tomaso, the center’s associate director, says he is “100 percent certain” that Felt lived in the village in a modest house “among his workers,” in this paper-manufacturing village. After the hike, plan on exploring the Trailside Nature and Science Center, adjacent to the parking area. Enjoy a nature film, lecture, or planetarium show; browse various exhibits including live reptiles, pond life, geology, and local plants; and watch birds in the observation area. Outside are compact herb, wildflower, and butterfly gardens." Read more
"The 2065-acre Watchung Reservation has 13 miles of blazed trails, 26 miles of bridle trails, and more than 40 miles of unmarked trails—plenty of space for you and Bowser to explore. With many access points, the white-blazed Sierra Trail has a lot of company—wild and tame. If your dog is well behaved on a leash, you both will enjoy the excursion. Hike down the paved Cataract Hollow Road through the Deserted Village of Feltville, an 1840s mill town. The road through the village is the white-blazed Sierra Trail, which becomes a dirt bridle trail as it enters the woods after Masker’s Barn, the last historic building. It runs through sun-dappled woods, heavy in birch and American beech trees." Read more
"The white-blazed Sierra Trail meanders around the 2065-acre Watchung Reservation through various habitats and elevations. Because the park is crisscrossed with an intricate bridle path and trail system, the Sierra Trail pops up in places you least expect it. Lake Surprise is an easy walk in mostly shade with a lake for Bowser to cool off in. This is a popular place, perfect for a dog who enjoys meeting people and other dogs." Read more
Paul E. DeCpste and Ronald J. Dupont Jr.
"This walk takes you on a journey through geological history, across sandstone and shale. We ramble through a deserted village and visit the Nature and Science Center, the first such exhibition in New Jersey. A special treat is passing through a grove of giant tulip trees, like New Jersey’s own redwoods. This hike takes us through the tranquil bottomland of the Watchungs, an oasis in an urban sea. These ridges sweep south and then west through the New Jersey Piedmont. Cradled deep within their embrace is the Great Swamp. Here the Watchungs rise like a green, rocky wave above the surrounding sea of dense urban development." Read more

Trail Information

New Providence
Nearby City
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Trail Type
Skill Level
4 to 5 hours
Watchung Reservation
Local Contacts
USGS Chatham and Roselle, NJ. A color map is available at the nature and science center and can be downloaded from Union Countys website (see below).
Local Maps

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