May 25, 2024
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May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Hike to the Pristine Terrace Pond in West Milford, NJ

This 4.7-mile hike on the yellow-blazed Terrace Pond West Loop is one of most interesting and enjoyable hikes in New Jersey. You’ll climb to a pristine glacial pond, passing wetlands and traversing picturesque ledges of puddingstone conglomerate along the way. The return trip involves some fairly steep descents over rock ledges, but you’re rewarded with two panoramic west-facing views. The hike should take about four hours. Although much of the hike is relatively level, there are a number of steep climbs and descents, so the hike is rated moderate to strenuous. Dogs are permitted on leash. Please note that swimming is not allowed in Terrace Pond.

To get there, take Route 4 West to Route 208, and continue on Route 208 to I-287 South. Take Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and continue on Skyline Drive to its western terminus at Greenwood Lake Turnpike (County Route 511). Turn right and proceed north on Greenwood Lake Turnpike. When you reach a fork at 8.3 miles, bear right to continue on Warwick Turnpike (still County Route 511). Proceed for another 2.3 miles and turn left onto Clinton Road. Continue on Clinton Road for 1.7 miles to a large parking area (designated as P7) on the right side of the road, about 0.2 mile south of a gas pipeline crossing (and just north of the entrance to the Wildcat Mountain Wilderness Site—Project U.S.E.). GPS coordinates: 41.142908, -74.407312. The trailhead is about 35 miles from Teaneck, and it should take about 45 minutes to get there.

From the parking area, cross the road and enter the woods at a kiosk. Turn right to hike the yellow-blazed Terrace Pond West Trail in the counterclockwise direction. You now follow a rocky trail through mountain laurel, hemlock and white pine, crossing several wet areas on puncheons and large rocks.

In about half a mile, the trail goes through a magnificent rhododendron grove, with the large rhododendrons forming an arch over the trail in places. Soon after you leave the rhododendron grove, the laurel and evergreens end, and you proceed through a second-growth forest of deciduous trees. After following an interesting whaleback rock and crossing two low stone walls, the yellow trail turns left onto a woods road lined with ferns. You’ll be following woods roads, with gentle grades, for the next mile.

Soon, the yellow markers bear left again onto another woods road lined with barberry bushes—indicating that this area was once farmed. Then, in another half mile, take care to follow the yellow markers as they bear very sharply left at a junction of woods roads. A short distance ahead, the yellow trail passes a swamp on the left, with many dead trees (this view of the swamp may be obscured by vegetation in the summer). Just beyond, the yellow trail bears left at the top of a rise, with another woods road going off to the right.

The trail continues along the woods road, which once again begins to run along the swamp on the left. Just beyond the end of the swamp, you’ll reach a junction with the Terrace Pond Connector Trail, marked with yellow/blue blazes. Bear left to continue along the yellow-blazed Terrace Pond West Trail, which follows a relatively level footpath through a deciduous forest, with an understory of mountain laurel and blueberry.

Soon after passing the end of the Terrace Pond Red Trail on the right, the Terrace Pond West Trail descends rather steeply to cross a stream. It then begins a steady climb, reaching jumbled lichen-covered boulders near the crest of the rise. A short distance beyond, you’ll come to a southeast-facing viewpoint from a rock outcrop.

After a short level section, the trail bears left and continues along another rock outcrop. Like the previous outcrop, this one is composed of reddish-purple “puddingstone” conglomerate rock, with quartz pebbles embedded in the rock.

After following the outcrop for some distance, the trail descends to the right and follows another relatively level section. It climbs along another rock outcrop, then steeply climbs over rocks to reach a seasonal viewpoint to the east through the trees. Just beyond, Terrace Pond itself may be seen below to the right (when there are no leaves on the trees).

Continuing along its rugged, rocky route, the yellow trail passes to the left of a huge boulder with some interesting crevices that you can walk through. There is a view over Terrace Pond from the top of the boulder. Just beyond, the Terrace Pond West Trail descends steeply over rocks to reach a junction with the white-blazed Terrace Pond Circular Trail. Turn left and follow the joint yellow/white trail. A short distance ahead—just beyond another rock scramble—you’ll reach an open area along the lakeshore. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the beauty of this secluded glacial lake.

When you’re ready to continue, proceed north along the yellow/white trail. Soon, you’ll come to a junction where you’ll notice a triple white blaze (indicating that the Terrace Pond Circular Trail technically begins and ends here).

Turn left and continue to follow the yellow blazes of the Terrace Pond West Trail, which crosses several wet areas on rocks and logs. After a short climb, you’ll emerge onto a large open rock outcrop. Just to the left of the trail, there are panoramic west-facing views from the top of a peak of conglomerate rock. This is another good spot for a break.

Continue along the yellow trail, which makes several short, steep descents (and a few short climbs). After a relatively level stretch, the trail descends rather steeply. At the base of the descent (and before beginning the next steep descent), you’ll notice a steep rock outcrop immediately to your left. Climb this outcrop for another panoramic view to the west and northwest.

Soon afterwards, you’ll come out onto a wide cut for a gas line. Bear left here and follow along the left side of the steep and eroded gas line for about 450 feet to the bottom of the hill. Here, the yellow trail reenters the woods on the left and goes around a locked gate. The trail leads in about half a mile, over relatively level terrain, back to the trailhead, crossing several wet areas on rocks.

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; Daniel Chazin can be reached at [email protected].

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