In the heart of Sussex County lies one of New Jersey’s most picturesque spots. Known as the Pochuck Boardwalk trail, this section of the Appalachian Trail is in Vernon. What makes it one of The Best NJ Hiking Trails is that the hike is perfect for all skill levels. In fact, the bulk of the mile and a half hike features a boardwalk that makes things very simple.
The Pochuck Boardwalk trail begins on McAfee Glenwood Road. It continues over a couple branches of the Pochuck Creek as well as one narrow, scenic road, then a railroad. After that, it leads up to an open field off Vernon Warwick Road with a spectacular view of Wawayanda Mountain. The trail is easy to follow and full of various nature landscapes. Of course, the boardwalk that zig-zags through the tall grass is a popular sight (and a mandatory Instagram post).
Pochuck Boardwalk is a popular hike during the weekend, so parking can be scarce. The best option is almost always along the right shoulder of McAfee Glenwood Road. (Though your GPS may call the address 1 Meadowlark Drive, Glenwood). You can also find street parking along the trailhead. But avoid parking on side streets like Meadowlark Drive, Vlietstra Drive, Carol Drive, Black Creek Road, and Ann Place; this is a residential area, and parking is by permit only.
Otherwise, as a last resort, you can park in the Stairway to Heaven Trail lot on Vernon Warwick Road. If you park here, though, you’ll do the hike in reverse. So instead of starting at Pochuck Boardwalk, that is where you will end up.
If you begin from McAfee Glenwood Road, there are two porta-potties and an info board nearby. This board has a map and recent news about the trail and surrounding area. When you’re ready to start, simply head onto the Pochuck Boardwalk. It may seem unassuming at first, but it’s a beautiful sight. In fact, you’ll quickly forget you’re in a residential area, as nature takes over your line of sight very quickly.
Hitting The Pochuck Boardwalk Trail
The terrain changes many times throughout the hike, but not enough to trip you up. If you don’t own a pair of hiking shoes yet, running shoes will suffice. For instance, even when you’re off the boardwalk, the land is mostly solid and flat with few rocks.
The path will lead you to the wooden suspension bridge and then continue through a slightly hilly, rocky portion. There are a couple of vistas here that showcase the scale of the forest around you before moving onward. After that, you’ll come to Canal Road. Follow it to the right and cross over a smaller bridge over the Wawayanda Creek. You’ll quickly come up to a little sign for the Stairway to Heaven Trail that bears left: Follow it.
Shortly after crossing the next small creek, there’s a dirt path that will lead you to a wooden-plank trail. After that, you’ll come up to a stile to cross over a barbed-wire fence. Then after walking on more plank walkways, you’ll have to cross a couple more around a railroad. Once over the railroad, you’ll step out into an open field with Wawayanda Mountain in the distance. Sometimes there are cows roaming the field; if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. (Please don’t bother them.) When you’re ready to head back, just retrace your steps back to McAfee Glenwood Road.
From McAfee Glenwood Road (start) to Vernon Warwick Road (end) is just about two and a half miles; the Pochuck Boardwalk constitutes a mile and a half of that. So round trip, you’re looking at roughly five miles. With this in mind, make sure you bring enough water and maybe even a snack with you. If you plan to bring a pet, note that they may have to walk over a couple stiles. This could pose an issue for some.
Overall, this portion of the Appalachian Trail is gorgeous as well as a refreshing hike. Beyond that, you’ve got the Stairway to Heaven Trail, which leads up the Wawayanda Mountain to Pinwheel Vista. If you’re curious what that hike is like, stay tuned to this very series!
If you’re new to hiking, be sure to check out The Best Safety Tips for Hiking in NJ.
All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ