Tucked away near the Pennsylvania border, Schooley’s Mountain, NJ is a hidden treasure of nature and history dating back centuries. One of the best places to experience both of those is Schooley’s Mountain Park, a quaint county park located near the towns of Long Valley and Hackettstown. With more than a half-dozen trails, a lake, and tons of room for outdoor activities, it’s the destination for this State Park Spotlight.
Schooley’s Mountain Park History
Schooley’s Mountain, NJ takes its name from the Schooley family. The family were significant Quaker landholders in the Morris County area in the 1700s. The area around Schooley’s Mountain Park first became well-known in the mid 19th century, thanks to the iron-rich chalybeate springs located throughout the area. These springs were said to have healing powers and drew tourists from across the northeast. These included some of society’s most richest and most famous, including the Astors, Vanderbilts, President Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and more. Quite simply, if you lived in New Jersey or New York and wanted to get away, Schooley’s Mountain was one of your top options.
The area has seen a variety of uses over the centuries. Originally the site of an early power station, it eventually became a YMCA property known as Camp Washington. Starting in the 1920s, this popular camp operated for about three decades before shutting down. However, the impact is still felt in the area, as Camp Washington Road borders the park’s western edge. Morris County purchased the land in the late 1960s and opened the park a few years later in 1974. Since then, it’s been a key part of the Long Valley and Hackettstown area’s outdoor recreation spaces. ff
Schooley’s Mountain Park Hiking Trails
Schooley’s Mountain Park’s hiking trails cover a variety of different landscapes within the park’s boundaries. There are seven in total, in addition to portions of the larger Patriot’s Path and Highlands Trail.
Grand Loop Trail (Yellow Blaze with Black Dot) – As the name would imply, this trail consists of a long loop around the mountaintop area of the park. Starting from the picnic pavilions or the parking area, you can hike either clockwise or counterclockwise, respectively. This shady, heavily wooded trail is mostly flat, with some gradual inclines/declines along the southern half. The Grand Loop intersects with several of the park’s other trails, including the Quarry Stone Trail, Highland Cut, Beeline Trail, and Upland Meadows Trail.
Falling Waters Trail (Blue Blaze) – This challenging trail starts near the southeastern end of Lake George, and descends alongside Electric Brook as it flows down toward the valley. Portions of this trail involve some significant rock scrambling, which can be difficult or impossible for children, pets, or hikers who aren’t in great shape. Still, it’s one of the most scenic trails in the park. The latter half of the trail climbs back up the mountain along a fairly steep path, ending at the scenic overlook of Long Valley.
Highlands Cut (Red Blaze) – This short trail cuts through the highest elevations of the park, bisecting the Grand Loop Trail. It can only be accessed via the Grand Loop, and can provide a shorter but slightly more challenging circuit within the park.
Beeline Trail (Yellow Blaze) – The Beeline Trail is located at the southeastern end of the park, and is the only trail that can be accessed from areas outside the main park entrance. With a trailhead located at the bottom of the mountain along Fairview Avene, the trail climbs the mountain and connects with the southeastern corner of the Grand Loop Trail. While short in distance, this trail is of moderate difficulty due to the elevation gain and sometimes-uneven path.
Quarry Stone Trail (Pink Blaze) – This connector trail links the Grand Loop to the park’s scenic overlook, which provides beautiful, picturesque views of Long Valley and beyond.
Upland Meadows Trail (Orange Blaze) – For a slightly extended version of the Grand Loop, try starting or finishing with the Upland Meadows Trail. The scenery at Upland Meadows is about what you’d expect – a treeless space filled with tall, wild grasses along a relatively flat stretch of ground near the park’s parking lots.
Loree Chapel Trail (Green Blaze) – Located along the cliffs opposite the Falling Waters Trail, this short path leads from the park’s lodge to Loree Chapel. This small outdoor worship space was built in the 1940s when the area was still operated as a YMCA camp.
I hiked the Falling Waters Trail at Schooley’s Mountain Park and shot this video on July 14, 2021, using a GoPro Hero8 Black.
Lake George – Look But Don’t Touch
Lake George is Schooley’s Mountain Park’s largest body of water, located near the western edge of the park. It was once known as Electric Light Pond, thanks to the hydroelectric power station that harnessed the power of the nearby waterfall to power the town until the 1920s. That connection is still evident today, as the waterway that flows into and through the lake is known as Electric Brook.
While Schooley’s Mountain Park’s Lake George may be beautiful and even has a small sandy beach on the shore, swimming has unfortunately been prohibited for years, due to high pollution levels linked to local runoff and geese and other bird droppings. Still, you can enjoy the scenery and even do some fishing in the lake, including from the long floating bridge that crosses it. The nearby Boathouse is available for rentals for special events, and provides great views of the lake as well as extensive indoor and outdoor space.
How To Get To Schooley’s Mountain Park
Address: 91 East Springtown Road, Washington Township, NJ 07853
By Car: We’re at the fringe of suburban and rural New Jersey here, so don’t count on getting here without a car.
From northeastern New Jersey, New York City, and areas east, take I-80 west to exit 26. From here, US Route 46 West will lead you toward Washington Township. Make a left onto Naughright Road a little over three miles down Route 46, and then turn right onto East Springtown Road. The approximately 55-mile drive should take an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic and your starting point. From northeastern Pennsylvania or northwestern New Jersey, head east on I-80 until exit 26, and follow the same directions as above.
From central New Jersey, Philadelphia, or points south, take either US Route 206 or NJ Route 31 north. For the former, take either US Route 202 North or I-287 North until they meet Route 206. When you reach the town of Chester, turn left onto Coleman Road. Coleman Road eventually turns into Naughright Road, and you’ll take a left about two miles down the road onto East Springtown Road. For the latter, join NJ Route 31 near Flemington and head north. Turn right onto County Route 513 near High Bridge. This will eventually intersect with Schooley’s Mountain Road/County Route 517. Veer left onto Camp Washington Road, which passes directly by the park. This trip will take an hour to an hour and a half or more, again depending on traffic and your starting point.
Is It Worth A Trip To Schooley’s Mountain Park?
Even in the nation’s most densely populated state, it’s still easy to find pockets that feel like the middle of nowhere. Schooley’s Mountain and Long Valley can feel like one of those. If that’s what you’re after, Schooley’s Mountain Park is an excellent piece of nature waiting for you to explore. Still, keep in mind that it is still a significant drive from the region’s major cities and hubs, and New Jersey has a number of excellent state and county parks.