Great Falls of the Passaic, New Jersey

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Great Falls of the Passaic from the first viewpoint in July 2016

The first time I tried to visit the Great Falls of the Passaic was in 2009 when smart phones didn’t exist (at least not commonly). I was using a GPS system, and let’s just say it wasn’t as easy to identify the best place to head to and park. I ended up getting a bit lost and found myself on one of the busiest streets (full of people) that I had ever been on. I decided it wasn’t worth it.

In July 2016, I was visiting family in New Jersey. We headed back to Newark International Airport, and thunderstorms led to the cancellation of our flight. The next easy flight was 24 hours later, so we had another day to explore. I wasn’t sure what to do. We had already been to New York City, so weren’t going to trek back there. I then realized that the Great Falls weren’t that far away.

This time, with a smart phone in hand, Google Maps led us to the correct parking area for Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. It was a much less stressful time. From the parking area, you can see the falls, but you can also cross the Passaic River and get closer to the falls. It’s hard to get a picture of the full falls, so both viewpoints are interesting as they give you different perspectives.

Directions:

  1. From I-80, take xit 57B toward Downtown/Paterson. (If headed west, it will be exit 57A-57B.)
  2. Merge onto NJ-19 N.
  3. Take the Grand Street exit. Turn left onto Grand Street.
  4. Turn right onto Spruce Street.
  5. Turn right onto McBride Avenue, and the parking area will be on your left.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 55′
Length of Hike: roadside

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The view after you cross the river

Where in the World is Great Falls of the Passaic?

Hewitt Falls, New Jersey

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The view of Hewitt Falls from afar (July 2016)

I visited my cousin in northern New Jersey for a graduation party, and I figured I might go in search of more waterfalls in the area. There are a number in the region…the last time I visited, I tried to visit Clinton Falls, but found it to be marked with no trespassing signs (and there wasn’t much water flowing anyway).

Hewitt Falls was only three miles or so from my cousin’s house, though they weren’t sure whether water would be flowing. It has been pretty dry. So my sister and I set out to find Hewitt (Mine Hole) Falls.

So after getting to Long Pond Ironworks State Park and parking at the visitor’s center (I think), it took me a moment to figure out which direction to head. After heading to my left (the west), it ended up it was easy to find the falls.

Here’s where the complication comes in…There are these red signs that say Mine Hole is closed, and it goes as far to say that activities such as swimming are not allowed. I’m not one to try and break any rules, but I thought to myself, “Oh, well hiking must still be OK…I’m not going swimming or doing anything except trying to find the waterfall and take a few photos…” I even mentioned this to my sister. So we arrive so that I can see the falls, as you can hopefully tell in the picture above, and that’s when the New Jersey State Park rangers appear and say that this area is off limits. He mentions the red signs, and my sister said we’re from out of state and we honestly interpreted the signs to mean hiking was still OK. Luckily, he seemed to get that we weren’t trying to break any rules, and even said we could take a few more pictures. I didn’t have my fancy camera with me anyway, so my cell phone had to suffice.

If the signs are up (and they’re obvious), obviously heed the warning presented. My cousin mentioned that someone died at the falls while jumping off of them, and that may have to do with the closure. That may change at some point. There was some yellow closure tape that had been pulled down by a previous visitor (which would have been a much clearer sign to not go any further), so leave that up if you find it! As of 2019, the New Jersey state park website doesn’t mention anything about not being able to hike along the Sterling Ridge Trail, which should lead to Hewitt Falls.

Directions:

  1. From West Milford, we headed east on Marshall Hill Road, which may also be called the Greenwood Lake Turnpike (or merge with the turnpike).
  2. Follow this to the Long Ponds Ironwork building on your left before you cross the lake/reservoir. Even if you don’t visit the waterfall, the buildings are interesting (but I’m not even sure if they’re also off limits?) (If you don’t know what constitutes the Mine Hole, how do you know what to do or not do?)
  3. Head left/west toward the buildings and then after a while you’d veer north following the Wanaque River.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 10′
Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Hewitt Falls?

Schooleys Falls, New Jersey

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The upper portion of Schooleys Falls (in April 2016)

I had a chance to visit the Pennsylvania/New Jersey area recently, and was trying to find at least one waterfall to visit during my time there. There are a lot of waterfalls there, so it’s not really that difficult, except when you’re a bit lazy like myself. After looking around, I realized that I was near a small but easy-to-hike-to waterfall in New Jersey, Schooleys Falls, and decided to stop and visit.

Schooleys Falls is found in Schooleys Mountain Park, which is relatively easy to find. There are two separate parking areas. Both parking areas and trails can lead to the falls, though I’m not sure if one of them is better. The smaller parking area on the west side of the park may have made an easier hike to the falls, but a sign said that a portion of the trail was closed. I decided to head back to the larger parking area on the northern side of the park. From there, I was still able to follow the trail to the falls, though the trail did seem to be a bit rocky and unclear at moments.

Even with some of the uncertainty about whether I was on the trail, I still found the hike to Schooleys Falls to be very enjoyable. I was one of just a few people out on this Sunday in early April. The falls are surprisingly bigger than I expected, though it’s hard to realize how big they are since you can only see portions of the falls at any one time. I have included two pictures here, and the distance between these two drops is not much (maybe 100-200 feet), but it’s not easy to photograph them at the same time. The lower portion of the falls was intriguing because the rocks are tilted at an angle. I didn’t tilt my camera, the crest of the waterfall is at a slant.

Directions:

  1. There are multiple ways to arrive at this park, so I’m going to explain which way I arrived. I was on US-46, which passes through Hackettstown. East of Hackettstown, you’ll come to Naughright Road on your right.
  2. Take a right onto Naughright Road (assuming you were heading east on US-46).
  3. Drive just under 3.5 miles along Naughright Road to E Springtown Road. Take a right onto E. Springtown Road.
  4. You will pass the first entrance to the park as you’re driving along E Springtown Road. You can start here, and it doesn’t really matter where you park as long as you follow the trail that heads south along Electric Brook. (It can help to look at a park map before starting.)
  5. You could also continue along E Springtown Road for a bit longer and then veering left onto Camp Washington Road. After a few tenths of a mile, you will come upon the other parking area to your left. This was the one that said the trail was partially closed.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 28′
Hike: ~ 1 mile

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The lower portion of Schooleys Falls

Where in the World is Schooleys Falls?

Lower Laurel Falls, New Jersey

Lower Laurel Falls in May 2009

New Jersey is another one of those states where you wouldn’t necessarily expect many waterfalls, but there are surprising number of both tall and large waterfalls in the state. Lower Laurel Falls isn’t particularly tall or wide, nor is its upper brother, Upper Laurel Falls. The scenery is particularly beautiful, though, and that makes up for the size.

New Jersey’s border with the Delaware River is very scenic. It is more hilly (mountainous?), and it’s very enjoyable to drive down the roads that wind through the area. The Laurel Falls are found northeast of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and are very easy to get to from that area. As you head to the falls, you’re actually travelling on a very old road that has been used to transport goods for hundreds of years. Once you get to Laurel Falls, you might not necessarily expect anything extremely exciting, but it’s definitely far more worthwhile than I originally imagined.

Directions:

  1. On I-80, take exit #1 (in New Jersey). Depending on whether you’re going east or west, it can be easy or complicated. Going west, it’s just a straight-shoot exit. If you’re going east, you will have to exit at the visitor’s center, loop around, briefly get back on I-80 heading WEST and then take exit #1.
  2. Once you’ve exited, you’ll head north on NJ-606 (Old Mine Road). At one point, you will end up on a one-lane road, so you might have a little wait because of stop lights.
  3. After about 3.8 miles on NJ-606, you’ll reach a campground/parking area on your left. It is for the Worthington State Forest, and there will be a bathroom there, along with a park and camping. Park here, if possible. (On weekends or holidays, it may be VERY difficult to find parking.)
  4. From the parking area, cross the road, and head up the Douglas Trail. Follow the creek there and you’re sure to find the falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip (to see both falls)

Where in the World is Lower Laurel Falls?

Dingmans Falls, Pennsylvania

Dingmans Falls in May 2009

Dingmans Falls is another spectacular waterfall found on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware Water Gap. Of those waterfalls in the area, Dingmans Falls is one of the easiest to access, and this makes it very popular. It deserves that popularity.

The waterfall is found at the end of a boardwalk leading to the base of the falls. Along the way, you will pass the thinner, but tall, Silver Thread Falls. The boardwalk is handicap accessible. Once you get to the base of the falls, you will see a beautiful combination plunge/cascade waterfall that looks like it’s leaning on its side! It’s a unique waterfall in an area full of waterfalls.

Directions:

  1. As you’re driving along US-209 in Pennsylvania, you will enter the town of Dingmans Ferry. Continue south on US-209 for a short distance.
  2. There will be a sign for Dingmans Falls, and you will turn right onto Johnny B Mountain Road.
  3. Head down Johnny B Mountain Road to the parking lot for the falls.
  4. Head down the handicapped accessible trail. Silver Thread Falls will be the first falls you encounter.

Note about Dingman’s Ferry: This is one of the few places where you can drive into New Jersey across the Delaware River. There are only a few bridges that allow access across the river, so if you’re looking for some waterfalls in New Jersey, this may be a good place to cross. (Buttermilk Falls and other New Jersey waterfalls in the Delaware Water Gap are most easily accessed by crossing this bridge.)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 75′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Dingmans Falls?

Unnamed Falls, Worthington State Forest, New Jersey

After trying to find the Great Falls on the Passaic and failing, I had some time to kill. I decided to head back to the Delaware Water Gap area and look for some more waterfalls right near the Delaware River. I was trying to find Laurel Falls and pulled off at the wrong area. As I was looking around, I realized there was a trail that started across the road from where I was and I also heard what sounded like a waterfall. This wasn’t recorded anywhere in the book, but I decided to take a look anyway.

I had parked in a turnoff right near the road leading to the visitors center for Worthington State Forest. I crossed the road, and started exploring. The first path I took did not lead directly to the best view of the falls, but I could tell there was a small waterfall a ways above me. I then walked back down to the road, and headed up a slightly steeper trail to my left. After trudging through a bunch of plants, I finally got a great view of this waterfall. I really like this waterfall, maybe because I found it by myself without the help of any book or map. It was unexpected, and the unexpected can be very cool.

The GPS coordinates for the place I parked were: 41.00477˚N, 75.09867˚W. This may be a little bit off, but it’s the general area where the waterfall was found.

Directions:

  1. On I-80, take exit #1 (in New Jersey). Depending on whether you’re going east or west, it can be easy or complicated. Going west, it’s just a straight-shoot exit. If you’re going east, you will have to exit at the visitor’s center, loop around, briefly get back on I-80 heading WEST and then take exit #1.
  2. Once you’ve exited, you’ll head north on NJ-606 (Old Mine Road). At one point, you will end up on a one-lane road, so you might have a little wait because of stop lights.
  3. As you’re driving along, you’ll come to an entrance for the visitor’s center for Worthington State Forest. (At least I think…it may have been something else, but I think it led to a visitor’s center or to a check-in area?)
  4. A VERY short distance after that, there will be a small pulloff area to your left. Pull off there and you should hear the creek and see a trail that leads in the general direction of the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

An unnamed waterfall in Worthington State Forest (May 2009)

Where in the World is Unnamed Falls?

Tillman Ravine Falls, New Jersey

I guess the most surprising thing about Tillman Ravine Falls is simply that it’s in a place you would least expect. I guess when I think of New Jersey, I imagine chemical plants and mobsters, though the area where this waterfall is found conjures up much different feelings. Tillman Ravine Falls is in Stokes State Forest, which is a beautiful area in northwest New Jersey. The waterfall seems very isolated, though there is a village nearby. It was amazingly quiet, though, and I didn’t see anyone else nearby.

The waterfall was narrow, and had multiple different pieces, though none of them were that large. I chose to include the picture below since it was the most scenic/photogenic of all of the pieces, though there are other equally interesting parts. It’s just fun to explore the area to find the various falls. The waterfall is also nearby the much larger Buttermilk Falls and Silver Spray Falls.

Directions:

  1. From Walpack Flatbrook Road (aka Sussex County Road 615), head toward Walpack Center.
  2. Turn onto Tillman Road. Go about 0.6 miles.
  3. The road then branches off in three directions. Continue going straight. Do not turn left or right!
  4. Go about 0.6 miles further to a parking area for Stokes State Forest, which will be on your right. Park here.
  5. From the parking area, walk down the hill toward the creek to the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 10′ (for this portion)
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Tillman Ravine Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Tillman Ravine Falls?