This 2.5-mile easy-to-moderate loop hike follows the cascading Electric Brook in Schooley’s Mountain County Park in Morris County, with several scenic waterfalls. Although the park features a large picnic area, a lodge and other developed recreational facilities, most of the park remains in its natural state. This hike passes through wild and undeveloped portions of the park that are far removed from the more heavily used areas. The hike should take about two hours, and dogs are allowed on leash. The park has several large parking areas, which rarely fill up even on weekends.
To reach the trailhead, take I-80 West to Exit 26 (Budd Lake/Hackettstown) and continue on Route 46 West. In 4.8 miles, turn left onto Naughright Road. Follow Naughright Road for 3.4 miles and turn right onto East Springtown Road. Follow East Springtown Road for 0.5 mile to the park entrance, on the left. Continue along the park entrance road to its end, where there are parking areas to the right and left. Turn right and park in the parking area below a large picnic pavilion.
From the kiosk at the southwest end of the parking area, cross a grassy strip and turn left onto a paved service road. Just before reaching a restroom building on the left and a trail junction (marked by signs for the Patriots’ Path and the Grand Loop Trail), turn right onto a gravel road and descend towards Lake George, bearing right at a fork. Upon reaching the lake, turn left and continue along the lakeshore.
Just beyond the dam at the end of the lake, a triple-blue blaze on a tree marks the start of the Falling Waters Trail. Continue along this trail, which descends into the scenic gorge of Electric Brook, named for a long-abandoned electric-generating plant which was powered by the brook (the concrete foundations of the plant are still visible just beyond a small waterfall). This section of the hike is particularly beautiful, but the trail is quite rocky in places.
After a short but steep descent over rocks, you’ll pass two attractive waterfalls. This is a good place to take a short break to appreciate the wild and spectacular scenery. A short distance beyond, the trail bears left and climbs out of the gorge, following a woods road.
At the top of the climb, the blue-blazed trail ends at a junction with the white-blazed Patriots’ Path and the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail. Turn right and follow the Patriots’ Path/Highlands Trail for only about 50 feet. Where the trail makes a sharp left turn, continue ahead to a south-facing overlook from a rock outcrop. The view is over agricultural lands, with some development in the foreground and hills in the background.
After taking in the view, retrace your steps and bear left onto the Patriots’ Path/Highlands Trail. Continue a short distance beyond the junction with the blue-blazed trail that you just climbed, but when the Patriots’ Path/Highlands Trail turns left at a kiosk, continue ahead on a wide gravel road with pink blazes. Follow this road through attractive woodlands to its end at a junction with the Grand Loop Trail (marked by a sign). Here, you should take a short detour on an unmarked path to the right that leads to an interesting rock outcrop, then return to the junction.
Following the arrow that points towards the Bee-Line Trail, turn right onto the yellow-blazed Grand Loop Trail, which descends steadily. When you reach the Bee-Line Trail (this junction is also marked by signs), turn left, continuing to follow the Grand Loop Trail. You now begin to climb steadily and rather steeply in places.
At the top of the climb, marked by a sign and a cairn, turn left onto the red-blazed Highland Cut. This trail is a rocky footpath that “cuts across” the ridge of Schooley’s Mountain, passing the highest point in the park (elevation 1,104 feet), marked by a rock ledge on the left, along the way. Unfortunately, there are no views from this high point, which is in the midst of deep woods.
After a brief, gentle descent, the Highland Cut ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Grand Loop Trail, a wide woods road. Turn right onto the Grand Loop Trail, which descends gradually. Follow the Grand Loop Trail back to the restroom building and the parking area where the hike began.
This hiking article is provided by Daniel Chazin of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The Trail Conference is a volunteer organization that builds and maintains over 2,000 miles of hiking trails and publishes a library of hiking maps and books. The Trail Conference’s office is at 600 Ramapo Valley Road (Route 202), Mahwah; (201) 512-9348; www.nynjtc.org. Daniel Chazin can be reached at [email protected]
By Daniel D. Chazin