Allamuchy Mountain State Park – Deer Park Pond
Last Saturday was a beautiful day for a hike, seeing as it was the middle of February and the daytime high reached about 60°F. My friend, Joanna, reached out to me on Friday morning after seeing the forecast and asked if I had a hike planned. I hadn’t, yet, but quickly took a look to see what might be fun to do in the area. I had been doing some trail running and hiking in Allamuchy Mountain State Park recently, but hadn’t really gotten that far into it yet, as I had been staying mostly along the Sussex Branch Trail and surrounding area. So I figured this would be a perfect day to go explore some more of the park and invited the Trailseekers Crew to come along.
I put together a route that would have us start and finish at Waterloo Village, a restored 19th century canal town located in Byram, NJ. We met up around 10 am but had a couple who were running a few minutes late. There would be 8 of us heading out on the hike. Liane, Byron, Elizabeth, Joanna, Liz, Keira, Vee, and myself. Not bad for a last minute hike! It was just about 10:30 when we got started, but the delay ended up working out great for us, as you will see in a bit. The trail starts off along the bank of the old Morris Canal and quickly passes under an overpass for Route 80.
The trail along the canal comes to the Waterloo Concert area. It’s a grassy field with a stage that has hosted some pretty great events over the years. Today, it was being used for some Army helicopter training. And we were there at exactly the right moment. Three helicopters came in right over our heads and landed in the field where they picked up some soldiers before heading back out. It was a pretty cool experience and the closest I’ve ever been to a helicopter. As much fun as I was having on the hike, I was a little jealous of the soldiers getting on that helicopter and would have traded places with them if I could. A helicopter ride is definitely something I am adding to my bucket list, and hopefully one that I’ll be able to cross off soon.
About a mile and a half into the hike we left the Highlands Trail, crossed over Waterloo Road, and headed up the green blazed Waterloo South Trail. This would be the toughest part of the hike, as it’s about a half mile climb up to the top and the intersection with the white blazed Deer Path Trail. About halfway up the hill one of our hikers, Keira, felt a twinge in her knee and was considering going back. She was concerned about not being able to continue on if it was going to be a lot of steep climbs. I assured her that the worst of the climbs were over and Joanna lent her some hiking poles so she was able to push on.
After we reached the Deer Path Trail it flattened out considerably. We followed this trail for about a half a mile until we reached the blue blazed Lake View Trail. This would follow the southern coastline of Deer Park Pond for a half a mile or so. When we reached the pond we were immediately taken with its picturesque beauty. There was still a layer of ice covering the pond, and with the unseasonably warm weather melting the top of it you could see a beautiful reflection of the blue sky.
We were all excited to take some pictures of the pond and Byron was even brave enough to venture out onto it a bit to try and get some close-ups of the ice while some of the girls used the break to stretch out and even do a little yoga. We took our time here and ate our lunch under the pine trees before continuing on down the trail. This is a perfect little picnic spot and this pond would be great to kayak or paddleboard on. Made me wish I had bought the inflatable one that I could carry up here.
“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” ~ Wallace Stevens
We continued along the Lake View Trail for another mile or so. This section of the trail was quite flat and well maintained. There was even an old “No Parking” sign along the trail, so I’m guessing this was once an access road to the pond. It made for a nice easy stroll and we had a great time talking with one another. Liane even broke out her Pocket Chainsaw that her mother bought her for Christmas. We couldn’t believe how quickly it cut through the wood!
The Lake View Trail leads to a parking lot at the end of Deer Park Road where we picked up the yellow blazed Birch Trail. The Birch Trail is a little more than half a mile and would bring us back to the Deer Path Trail. This was our furthest point out and marked the beginning of the return portion of our hike. There’s not too much spectacular to see along this portion of the trail, just a couple of small pools of water really, but it was an easy and enjoyable hike heading back towards the Waterloo North Trail.
We had stopped for a quick break when Liz mentioned that her boots were bothering her. They were loose and rubbing against her which was causing some hot spots that would eventually lead to a blister. I was showing her how to tie a lace lock in them to keep them from loosening up as she walked when Joanna snapped a photo of us. It’s a really cute candid pic, especially with how interested Vee seems to be in my impromptu lesson.
The Waterloo North Trail led us back down the road where we got back on the Highlands Trail and headed back to the parking lot. The reflection along the canal here is spectacular if the sun catches it right. I was hoping to have time to explore Waterloo Village at the end of the hike, but everyone was tired and hungry, so we’d have to save it for another day and instead headed to Bell’s Mansion in Stanhope for some food and drinks. Overall it was a nice hike with good company on a very pleasant day, especially for the middle of winter.
Pros: Beautiful Mountain Pond, Historic Canal and Village.
Cons: Some Highway Noise, Mountain Bikers
Overall: The Deer Park Pond loop in Allamuchy Mountain State Park is a nice day hike. It’s not one of the more popular State Parks in the area so you won’t find a ton of people here, although parts of the trails are used for mountain biking.
I was pleasantly surprised by this hike and am looking forward to exploring more of Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Until next time. Namaste!
Here’s some more pictures from my adventure in Allamuchy Mountain State Park