FARNY HIGHLANDS TRAIL NETWORK
Not widely known to people in Mountain Lakes, the Farny Highlands region, is a huge, rugged, primative, 35,000-acre wilderness less than 10 miles away. Undeveloped and mostly uninhabited, it is home for 907 species of plants and animals. It serves as a watershed that supplies clean drinking water to one-third of New Jersey residents. Waters passing through the rugged cliffs and forests in this glacially scoured region ultimately flow to the Passaic, Delaware and Hudson Rivers, making the region a waterscape as well as a wooded, mountainous landscape.
The Farny Highlands Trail Network is a greenway that links large undeveloped areas — a state park and natural area, two wildlife management areas, watershed lands, county and municipal parks and private lands. The planned Farny Highlands Trail Network will consist of 50 miles of hiking trails that connect with the 150-mile Highlands Trail.
The region hosts many special sights for explorers of this “wilderness.” One trail volunteer noted a recurring pattern in his wildlife observations that matched three biotic communities found along the trail. In the oak-hardwood forests, he saw North American wild turkeys. On the exposed cliff regions, he observed red-tailed hawks. The Great Blue heron inhabited the wetlands.
Revolutionary War iron mines as well as stone walls and cellar holes from early farmsteads show that people have settled this land for centuries.
The Farny Highlands Trail Network consists of three separate hiking trails (so far):
Four Birds Trail travels in Rockaway Township for 19 miles from Hibernia through Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area, Farny State Park, and Newark watershed lands to Route 23. Trail volunteer Bob Rooke named the Four Birds Trail because he consistently spotted four birds inhabiting four distinct habitats wild turkeys in the hardwood forests, great blue heron in the marshes, osprey near the lakes, and soaring red-tailed hawks on the cliffs. This white-blazed trail is ready for hikers. Call the Conservancy (292-2572) for a map.
Splitrock Loop Trail is also complete and offers a very scenic, but rugged hike that encircles the pristine Splitrock Reservoir in Rockaway Township. This blue-blazed trail travels for 5.5 miles through hilly terrain and connects with the Four Birds Trail at the north and south ends of the Reservoir.
Beaver Brook Trail will travel through Mahlon Dickerson Reservation and the newest state Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson Township. This trail is still under construction, but when completed, will go for 5 miles. The Beaver Brook Trail will connect with the 150-mile Highlands Trail in Mahlon Dickerson Park. Since the Highlands Trail links with the Appalachian Trail, a Morris County hiker may hike to points up and down the eastern U.S.!
The Farny Highlands Trail Network is a joint project of Morris Parks and Land Conservancy and the NY-NJ Trail Conference. The project has received support from the Dodge Foundation.
Volunteers are building the entire Farny Highlands Trail Network. Volunteers have already built 30 trail miles. Volunteers are also maintaining these trails. As you hike through the region, we hope you will become an advocate to help preserve the important lands not yet in public ownership.
The Farny Highlands is a safe haven for 71 endangered plant and animal species. This region is their home, and we are their visitors. These rules are made for your safety as well as the safety of the natural inhabitants and local residents. Please be respectful.
- This portion of the trail is for HIKING ONLY. Please, no motorized vehicles, bicycles or horses.
- Help keep the trail litter free. Carry out what you carry in and clean up after those who forget.
- Please respect the rights of public and private landowners by staying on the trail. Be responsible and know the rules for the lands that you hike. NO camping and NO open fires.
- Sections of the trail are rugged. Hiking boots are strongly recommended.
- To minimize impact on this fragile region, hiking groups of 8 or less are recommended.
- Be alert for hunters during bird and game seasons. For your safety call 201-383-0918 to learn when hunting seasons occur.
- Do not drink the water along this trail. It may look pure, but it is not safe for drinking unless purified.
- It is advisable that you do not hike alone. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Rattlesnakes and bears inhabit the region. Avoid contact with any wildlife.
Before hiking the trail from Route 23 South to the northern end of Splitrock Reservoir, you MUST obtain a permit from the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (NWCDC) located at 223 Echo Lake Road, West Milford, NJ; Monday – Friday 8 am – 4 pm and Saturday 8 am – 1 pm (seasonal.) Or write NWCDC at POB 319, Newfoundland, NJ 07435. Phone: 201-697-2850.
Access and How to get there
There are three access points for the Farny Highlands Trail Network.
- Take the Hibernia/Rockaway exit (#37) from Interstate 80 West. Turn north on Route 513. Proceed 2.75 miles to Sunnyside Road. Turn right and look for the white trail blazes on the left about 150 feet from Route 513.
- Exit off I-80 as described above and proceed north on Route 513 for 0.1 miles. Park in a gravel turn-out on the left. Look for the white blazed trail 100 feet south of the parking area. (Parking permit required from NWCDC.)
- Travel 11.5 miles north from I-80 on Route 513. Just before crossing the railroad tracks, turn left. Park in the ball field parking lot on the left. Walk a quarter mile to the road’s end. The trail begins about 100 feet up the dirt road extension. (Parking permit from NWCDC required.)