The Stairway to Heaven hike is a 1.3 mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Wawayanda State Park that climbs Wawayanda Mountain and leads to a viewpoint called Pinwheel’s Vista, with a view of Vernon Valley, the Kittatinny Ridge, and even the Shawangunk and Castkills.
This is one of the most well-known and popular hikes in New Jersey, so expect crowds. This trail has become too popular for its own good, with many people cutting switchbacks and leaving litter behind. If you visit, please practice Leave No Trace – stay on trail and take home all your garbage.
Wawayanda? Wawayanda was the name the Lenape Indians gave to a creek they called “water on the mountain.”
Hike length: 2.6 miles round trip.
For a longer trip, this hike can be easily extended to the west by crossing NJ-94, a cow pasture, forested area, and wetlands along the Pochuck Boardwalk. See the 2nd map below for an overview.
Elevation gain: 900 feet
Location: Wawayanda State Park, Appalachian Trail, Vernon, NJ
Stairway to Heaven Parking
A parking lot that fits about a few dozen cars is available on the side of NJ-94 in Vernon, just south of Heaven Hill Farm and Rt 515. Arrive early or on off-hours because this is a popular trails and the lot fills up.
Stairway to Heaven Maps
- Wawayanda State Park – West map – NY-NJ Trail Conference (free pdf)
- North Jersey Trails Map #116 – NY-NJ Trail Conference (paid)
- North Jersey Trails (West – Map 116) Avenza – NY-NJ Trail Conference (paid)
- Wawayanda State Park map – NJ Parks and Forests (free pdf)
- Appalachian Trail Pochuck Boardwalk map – NY-NJ Trail Conference (Note: this map shows only the start of the trail and is missing about a half mile of the end. We include it here to show where Stairway to Heaven is relative to the Pochuck Boardwalk.)
Stairway to Heaven Trail Description
This trail follow the white-blazed Appalachian Trail up 1.3 miles to the short blue-blazed spur trail to Pinwheel’s Vista.
0.0 miles: From the parking lot on NJ-94, go up the stairs where a kiosk stands. The trail leads up through evergreens, before opening into a panoramic scene.
0.5 miles: The trail swings right (southwest) at the base of the escarpment and edges along the rock talus.
0.6 miles: After the last major boulder, the trail swings left (south) and begins to ascend the Wawayanda Plateau, called “The Stairway to Heaven”: stone stairs and a series of switchbacks.
0.7 miles: Following a steep switchback, reach Annie’s Bluff, a view over Vernon Valley (more open in the winter). The trail continues to ascend along the side of the ridge.
1.0 miles: Pass two massive oak trees known as Proudsman’s Tree House, trees left standing when all others fed the iron furnaces. Alongside the trail within the boulders trickles a seasonal spring.
1.1 miles: Before a boulder field the trail swings right (south-southwest) and climbs up through the rocks, where the trail turns left, running along the cliff’s base.
1.2 miles: After ascending a series of steep switchbacks, the trail runs in a “trough” where on the curve the blue-blazed trail to Pinwheel Vista emerges.
1.3 miles: Turn left onto the side trail (blue blazes) and follow it out to the lookout.
From this point, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.