Hiking Apshawa Preserve, New Jersey
Many people associate New Jersey with the Meadowlands or the Jersey shore or the many oil refineries that dot the northern part of the turnpike. Believe it or not, there is another New Jersey that encompasses a rather large portion of the state. That is – the forests and hills that are found in the central and northern part of the state. In fact, the hills are numerous and remind me a lot of Connecticut.
Saturday I had the opportunity to do a hike in those hills and jumped at the chance. My research pointed to a nature preserve in Passaic county, a reasonable drive from my sister-in-law’s house. The Apshawa Preserve was listed on the NJ Hiking website as one of the best hikes in the State. My brother-in-law and I chose to hike the Blue and Green blazed trails which covered about 3 ½ miles.
There was one very unique feature to this preserve that I had never seen before – a six foot high gated fence that surrounded a good portion of the almost 600 acres of the preserve. This fence was erected to keep out the numerous white-tail deer that have cleared a good portion of the low growth forest in the preserve. It was ironic that during our hike the only animals we saw were some white-tailed deer!
The trails were very well marked and for the most part were well cleared except for one section of the Green trail that had numerous blow-downs. There is a reservoir in the preserve which feeds a lovely stream that meanders through its southern end. After hiking the Blue trail up and down some gentle sloped hills we connected to the Green trail. At about ¾ mile we started to head down a more pronounced slope toward a small pond and dam. The dam seemed an odd feature for this location, until we hiked downstream another ¼ mile and discovered an old abandoned water treatment facility. There were a couple stone buildings and four large steel cylindrical tanks lying along the edge of the stream.
Just a bit further downstream were some picturesque cascades that lulled us into thinking this hike was all visual beauty and no exertion. We were wrong! No sooner had we walked away from the cascades then the Green trail took a sharp right turn and started to climb. And a healthy climb it was – about 300 vertical feet in about ¼ mile. The summit was wooded but yielded a few views of the rolling hills and valleys to the north. Although a bit out of breath from the aggressive uphill hike, we chose to only spend a few minutes at the top before starting down. The downhill route was much more gradual than the uphill which made for a pleasant descent. The northern end of the Green trail passed out one of the preserve’s gates to the southern end of Butler Reservoir and its earthen dam. A spur trail took us right to the lake’s picturesque granite banks. After we backtracked away from the reservoir, we headed east and back through another gate into the fenced preserve. In a short distance we met up with the Blue trail again and took it back to the parking lot.
It was a very enjoyable 3 ½ mile hike that included lovely scenery, a nice variety of trails and a demanding uphill section leading to the preserve’s high point.