TRIP REPORT: High Point Monument – Appalachian Trail, NJ 5-14-16
Hiking stats at a glance:
Trailhead: Appalachian Trail Parking lot – High Point State Park
Miles round trip: ~4
Total Elevation Gain: ~500 ft
New Jersey’s Highest Point (1,804 ft)
Total Time: ~1.5 hrs
With a less than optimal weather report for the weekend and limited free time we decided it would be better to stay close to home instead of making the 4.5hr trip up to the Adirondacks. As a result we decided to head over to High Point State Park to hike to the High Point monument which sits on top of the State of New Jersey’s high point at 1,804 ft. It may not be a massive mountain but it is a nice park with good trails and beautiful pastoral scenery. It was also a bonus that Kelly had never been there so it was worth the trip.
We started the hike at the Appalachian Trail Parking lot which is right after the park entrance on your left. If you pass the park office you have gone too far. From this parking lot it is an easy 4 mile round trip hike up to the monument and back.
Once we geared up we hit the trail. There were some ominous clouds in the sky throughout the hike but thankfully it never actually rained and was otherwise pretty warm.
The trail through this section is pretty short as you need to cross the road a couple of times throughout this hike which actually makes it feel even shorter than it actually is. The trail was also generally in pretty good shape but we did encounter some mud in this particular section.
After only a few minutes of walking we hit a 4 way trail junction for the Appalachian Trail (AT) and other trails in the park. At this intersection we made a right turn and stayed on the AT which would take us right by the monument.
After another very short section we found ourselves back at the road and next to the park office. The park office does offer bathroom facilities should you need them. From here we followed the trail slightly to the right and looked for the AT trail sign on the opposite side of the road.
The sign marking where we needed to go on the other side of the road was pretty easy to find and the trail continued on the other side of the open field at the tree line.
From here the trail got a bit more rocky as we gained a little bit of elevation but overall it was still very easy and clearly marked. The bugs were starting to buzz but luckily it seemed like it was still too early for the mosquitos.
The trail was actually also pretty quiet and we didn’t actually see anyone else on it all day which was nice. Despite being such a crowded state the trails in my experience are usually pretty quiet. The landscape was also quite varied as we made our way up the ridge which made for a nice experience.
We were making good time and one last “steep” section put us on top of the ridge where we were able to enjoy our first, mostly obstructed, views.
Once on top of the ridge the landscape changed again and gave way to a pretty unique combination of foliage that is not common anywhere else. It actually reminded me quite a bit of being in Acadia National Park which is always a good thing.
After another few minutes we were also able to get our first clear view of the monument and where we were ultimately headed. The picture doesn’t really do it justice but from this vantage it looks huge and really looms over you as you work your way down the trail.
After another few minutes of hiking we reached a wooden platform which serves as a nice overlook of the valley below. The trail passes right next to it so it is impossible to miss.
From the overlook you can also get very nice view of the surrounding area. I think more people need to see this view of NJ to realize we are more than just toxic sludge!
After spending a few minutes at the overlook we continued on our way just to make sure we beat the rain if it ever came. The trail dips back down into a small col before making your final push up to the monument. At the base of the col we reached another trail junction which marked the end of our time on the AT. From here we followed the blue blazed trail of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail which was straight ahead and took us right up to the monument.
One more intersection over the road put us on the final approach up to the monument.
Once past the road we made our way up the last hill up to the monument. This section was probably the steepest of the whole hike but it was easy and didn’t take us more than a few minutes to get up it.
Once passed the hill we came out of the woods in the shadow of the monument. Up on the monument there were a few people milling around who had driven up to the top but it was still pretty quiet. Unfortunately the monument itself was still closed but normally in the summer months you can enter the monument and climb its steps all the way to the top.
We stayed on the summit for a few enjoying the view before we decided to make our way back down. We decided to run back down the road instead of hiking back down the way we came so we could get a little training in for our upcoming race in June. The run back down was pleasant and uneventful but we did get a chance to stop along the small lake you could see from the summit before making it back down to the parking lot.
We made it back down pretty quick having spent about an hour and a half total on the hike. It was shorter than most of the hikes we do regularly but it was very nice, especially for being so close to home. I would be happy to go back and do some of the other trails in the area. I also still have some ideas of doing the 40 mile trek from the Delaware Water Gap to High Point at some point in the future. At the end of the day, if you are in the area I would definitely recommend this hike as a short little excursion that is nice for the whole family.