A solid hike offering solitude and featuring the picturesque Two Brooks Trail, ridgeline hiking, and panoramic views from the Bearfort Fire Tower.
While this is an otherwise moderate hike, it does require a stream crossing that can be relatively difficult.
Hiking in the Pequannock (Newark) Watershed requires a permit issued by the City of Newark.
Hike length: 4.5 miles
Elevation gain: 450 feet
Location: Pequannock Watershed, West Milford, NJ
Parking: Park in the P4 parking area pull-off on the east side of Clinton Road where it crosses Mossmans Brook in West Milford, NJ: Google maps link. A Newark Watershed permit is required to park here. If the pulloff area is full, there is also a small lot immediately to the south of here on the west side of the road.
- Pequannock Watershed Trail Map
- NY-NJ Trail Conference Jersey North Jersey Map (Avenza)
- NY-NJ Trail Conference North Jersey Trails Map West #116 (print)
This hike requires crossing a stream on the Two Brooks Trail that can be challenging.
Immediately south of the P4 parking area is the trailhead for the white-blazed Two Brooks Trail, which is co-aligned with the teal diamond-blazed Highlands Trail.
The trail at first parallels the Mossmans Brook, then breaks away to the left. There are no views, but it’s a lovely, picturesque trail.
After about a third of mile, you’ll reach the first of the “Two Brooks” which you cross on a wooden footbridge. (Note: When I hiked this trail in January, 2021, the bridge had been damaged, apparently by a fallen tree)
About a half mile later, the trail passes a swampy area on the right which the second stream drains into.
A short distance later, the trail reaches the second stream, makes a sharp left turn and descends on a narrow path parallel to the stream.
A short distance later, you’ll reach the crossing for the second stream. This crossing can be difficult. There is a sign warning about this stream crossing in the reverse direction, but there is no sign warning you as you approach it from the west.
The trail crosses the stream on a large boulder in the middle with some smaller rocks. If the crossing here is difficult, you can continue just a little further north for a potentially easier crossing.
After the second stream crossing, the Two Brooks Trail climbs about 100 feet and terminates at a junction with the yellow-blazed Fire Tower West trail.
Turn left to follow the yellow blazes. Here, the trail is again co-blazed with the teal diamonds for the Highlands Trail. A short distance later, you’ll pass a junction with the start of a blue-blazed trail on your right (which we will take on the return).
Continue to follow the yellow and teal blazes for almost a half mile.
Along the way, you pass a few exposed ridges with partial views to the west.
Soon, you’ll reach a 4-way junction where the Highlands Trail makes a sharp turn to the right. Follow the trail uphill a short distance to a large clearing where the 68-foot Bearfort Station Fire Tower sits at an elevation of 1,331 feet.
The original lookout on Bearfort Mountain — circa 1880 — was a wooden platform or tree lookout. The Newark, NJ Watershed Department built an iron frame tower in 1909, and replaced with a 50’ wooden tower, which burned in 1932. A tree platform was used until the current 68’ steel tower was built in 1934. It is a McClintock-Marshall design and may have been supplied by Aermotor under contract. Bearfort remains an active lookout with over a century of service.New Jersey Forest Fire Service
Of course, there are panoramic views of the surrounding area from the top of the tower (why else would it be there?).
When you’re done exploring, you can return via the same way you came, or make a small loop by heading west along the red-over-white-blazed Fire Tower Ridge Trail, which follows a nearly parallel ridgeline back.
After about almost a half mile, look for a junction with the blue-blazed Newark Connector Trail.
Turn right and follow the blue blazes for about 200 feet until it reaches the yellow-blazed Fire Tower West Trail (and teal Highlands Trail).
Turn left to follow the yellow blazes and in another 200 feet, turn right at the junction with the white-blazed Two Brooks Trail. From here, follow the white blazes across the two streams and retrace your steps back to the car.