Overview: One of the toughest hikes in New Jersey with unending ups and downs, this nearly 11 mile loop around Splitrock Reservoir rewards you with fantastic views and plenty of wildlife.
Length: 10.8 miles (can be extended to 13.8 miles by continuing on the Splitrock Loop and the Four Bird Trails south of the parking area.
Elevation gain: +2,042 feet
Location: Farny State Park and Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area in Rockaway Township, Morris County
About the Four Birds Trail: Four Birds Trail travels in Rockaway Township for 19 miles—from Hibernia through Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area, Carny State Park, and Newark watershed lands to Route 23. Trail volunteer Bob Rooke named the Four Birds Trail because he consistently spotted four birds inhabiting four distinct habitats—wild turkeys in the hardwood forests, great blue heron in the marshes, osprey near the lakes, and soaring red-tailed hawks on the cliffs.
Parking: Park at the Car Top Boat Launch and Parking Area at the south end of Splitrock Reservoir on Splitrock Road. GPS address: 406 Splitrock Road, Rockaway, NJ
- NY-NJ Trail Conference Jersey Highlands Trails Map #125 (your best option)
- Morris Trails Partnership map
- NJ Fish and Wildlife – Splitrock Reservoir Access Site map
- NJ Fish and Wildlife – Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area map
This hike follows the white-blazed Four Birds Trail and the blue-blazed Splitrock Loop Trail, along with a short road walk along the Splitrock Road, to create a 10.8 mile loop around Splitrock Reservoir.
To do the loop clockwise: From the parking lot, head west along Splitrock Road and across the dam. Within a quarter mile, the white trail crosses the road and enters the woods to the right. We’ll follow the white blazes for approximately 5 miles until it connects with the blue-blazed Splitrock Loop Trail.
Soon, you’ll reach a small stream and easy rock-hop.
The trail continues with relatively small but relentless ups and downs.
A few times, the trail hugs the shore and offers nice views of the reservoir.
As the trail bends around the northwest end of the lake, another view to the south and east opens up.
After about 5 miles, you’ll reach a junction and the start of the blue-blazed Splitrock Loop Trail. Shortly after, at the northernmost part of the trail, you’ll reach a view of Misty Pond to the north.
The trail continues and begins to climb steeply. Soon, you’ll reach an area of exposed rock called Indian Cliffs. This is the best spot on the loop to take a break and have a snack. There’s no shade, but the views are spectacular, with Splitrock Reservoir to the south and west and Misty Pond visible to the north.
Continue to follow the blue blazes. If the leaves are down, there are a few possible viewpoints along the way, but they are almost completely obscured in the summer. Still, it’s a nice trail. Pay close attention to the blue blazes – it can be easy to lose them. After about 5 miles, you’ll once again come across Splitrock Road. Follow the road back to the parking lot.