Beyond L.A.: High Point State Park (NJ) and Raymondskill Falls (PA)

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“Hiking” might not be the first word that is associated with New Jersey but even the most densely populated of all the states has its pockets of nature. Similarly, while New Jersey’s high point (known simply as High Point, elevation 1,803) doesn’t carry the weight of names like Whitney, Rainier, Washington or Hood, it is a scenic spot nonetheless and depending on the route taken to it, offers a surprisingly challenging hike. In this edition of “Beyond L.A.” we are going to explore High Point State Park and Raymondskill Falls, located just across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.

TIPS FOR L.A. HIKERS

Covid-19 Considerations: As of this writing, Covid-related travel restrictions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been lifted. However, the visitor center and inside of the High Point monument are closed. 

Getting to High Point: The Blue Dot Trailhead, starting point for this route, is located in Sussex County, NJ, about an hour and a half’s drive from Newark International Airport (EWR). From JFK or LGA in New York, allow two and a half hours. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP) is just over an hour to the west, although flight options may be limited. Philadelphia is farther from High Point State Park (about 3 hours) but might be an option if you are planning on visiting Raymondskill Falls as well (about 2.5 hours). 

Staying at High Point State Park: Tent and group campsites as well as cabins are available at High Point State Park; click here for more information. For information about staying in nearby Milford, PA, click here. If you are coming from the New York area or Philadelphia, there will be many options for lodging closer to those cities that will still allow you to visit High Point and Raymondskill Falls as a day trip.

Weather: Like most northeastern locales, High Point is best visited during the summer, when even July’s average highs are a reasonable 79 degrees. Average annual precipitation is 42 inches, about 3 times that of Los Angeles. Winter visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowmobiling (map here). Weather at Raymondskill Falls is comparable.

Cell phone reception: Weak but reliable

Dogs: Allowed on leash at High Point State Park (although make sure they are comfortable hiking over rocky, steep terrain); not allowed at Raymondskill Falls.

THE HIKES

New Jersey High Point via Blue Dot and Appalachian Trails 

Approximately 6 miles with 850 feet of elevation gain; allow 3-4 hours

This route leaves from a small parking area on the northeastern side of Sawmill Pond. The half-mile Blue Dot Trail starts gradually, heading east through the woods before starting a steep climb. Two spots in particular require rock scrambling; experienced hikers shouldn’t have a problem with this but those with small children might find it difficult. The good news is that by this point you are already enjoying panoramic views to the west, across the Delaware River and into Pennsylvania.

At 0.4 miles (350 feet of elevation gain), you reach the Appalachian Trail. The familiar white blazes lead the way along a forested ridge. At 1.1 miles from the start, look for a granite cliff on your left. A spur leads forward but the A.T. bends right, dropping into a gully before meeting a junction with the Iris Trail on the right and the Mashipacong Trail (a possible return route) on the left.

Soon after, you reach Route 23 and pick up the A.T. again at the far side of a field. Another mile with some moderate ups and downs brings you to a wooden observation deck where you can see the High Point monument straight ahead to the north while also enjoying a 360-degree view. You then descend to a junction with the blue-blazed Shawangunk Trail, your route to the summit as the A.T. branches off to the right. After crossing the paved road, a short but steep climb of almost 200 vertical feet brings you to the highest point in New Jersey.

The dominant feature is the obelisk, built in 1930. At 220 feet tall, it likely holds an unofficial record for highest summit monument in relation to the height of the peak itself. There are plenty of places at the base of the monument and elsewhere on the summit to enjoy the views of New Jersey to the south, Pennsylvania to the west and New York to the north and east. 

To return, you can retrace your steps, but if you are hiking late in the day in order to catch the sunset from the summit, returning via paved roads is a safer option as night falls. An advantage of this route is that it strolls alongside scenic Lake Marcia and also passes by the interpretive center (which, as mentioned before, is currently closed but will likely reopen when it safe to do so). The road is open to traffic so exercise caution.

About halfway down, you reach Route 23. Turn right and head downhill for 0.4 mile along side the road. There is no sidewalk, but a wide bike lane provides a buffer from traffic. (If you watched the sunset from the top, you will probably still have at least some light by this point.) An alternative to the road is to return to the A.T. and follow it to the Mashipacong Trail (see above).

At the park entrance, follow your driving route from earlier a short distance to a junction where an abandoned, fenced-off service road branches off to the left. In just under a mile, you reach the campground. Turn left and follow Sawmill Pond Road a short distance back to the Blue Dot trailhead. 

Start of the Blue Dot Trail
Jumble of rocks on the Blue Dot Trail
Blue Dot Trail past the rock jumble
Heading toward the Appalachian Trail on the Blue Dot Trail
Appalachian Trail heading through a field after crossing the road
View of the summit from the observation deck
Start of the Shawangunk Trail to the summit (leaving the Appalachian Trail)

Summit view
Sunset at High Point

Raymondskill Falls

Approximately half a mile with 100 feet of elevation gain; allow 45 minutes

Located just south of Milford, PA in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Raymondskill is the tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania at approximately 150 feet. A short but steep hike visits two different viewing decks, one that provides a panoramic vista of the gorge from above; the other, an impressive view of the large upper tier. Additionally, the lower tier can be seen below this platform.

Despite its short distance, the hike to Raymondskill Falls presents some challenges, notably a steep ascent/descent along a stone stairway (which, thankfully, has a wooden guard rail.) The stairs connect the upper and lower platforms. By leaving from the west side of the parking lot, you will reach the upper deck first and then descend the stairs; by leaving from the east side, you’ll see the lower deck first and climb the stairs. 

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area features numerous other trails to explore. Hackers Falls, though not as tall as Raymondskill, is another popular destination and the hike starts from the same parking area.

Raymondskill Falls
Looking upstream from the top deck
Looking downstream from the top of Raymondskill Falls (note lower deck)
Descending the stairs to the lower deck
Lower tiers as seen from the lower deck
Stairs back to the parking lot

Text and photography copyright 2021 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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