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?