If you’re in the mood for a fun, moderate hike, Pyramid Mountain offers a number of great trails. This Morris County mountain range has trails open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. Plus, the visitors center is also open seven days a week. But the best hike at Pyramid Mountain, both for new hikers and frequent climbers, is the Tripod Rock trail.
Before the area was colonized, Pyramid Mountain served as a shelter for the Lenape Indians for more than 10,000 years; they used the land’s natural resources to gather, hunt, fish, and live. Then, about three hundred years ago, explorers came across the mountain. Shortly after, they began dividing the area into homestead farms and woodlots. In fact, many of the surveyor stones and stone walls are still there today.
Now that Morris County is a more developed area, efforts are made to preserve the land. In particular, Pyramid Mountain was officially established in 1989. Today, the mountain range offers 1,675 acres of trails, fields, forests, outcroppings, and wetlands. It is most well known, however, for the famous Tripod Rock site.
Tripod Rock is a glacial erratic balancing rock. In other words, it’s an enormous boulder steadily balanced on three smaller rocks. As far as we know, all of the rocks are from the last ice age. The most likely scenario is that sheets of glacial ice carried boulders to the area before melting away.
Despite the sound science, there are multiple oddities about the exact formation of Tripod Rock. Firstly, it is likely thousands of years old, yet it hasn’t budged in all that time. It’s so sturdy, in fact, that parents allow their children to play beneath it. Also of note is that further, intricate rock formations surround Tripod Rock .
Next to Tripod Rock is a bedrock outcrop. In front of that bedrock outcrop are two sets of boulders, which both balance on a pair of smaller rocks. Stranger still is what happens when looking westward from the bedrock outcrop through the space between the two boulders; the line of sight is in the exact direction of the sunset during the summer solstice. Though this is not likely by human design, given the number of boulders within proximity, it’s still interesting nonetheless.
Which Hike to Take
The hike from the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area to Tripod Rock is fairly easy. However, it is just as easy to make a wrong turn and miss the formation completely. For the best route to Tripod Rock, you should start by taking the Blue trail (look for blue rectangle marks); you should follow this trail over a narrow wooden bridge. As you stay on the Blue trail, you’ll pass the Yellow trail on your right. Then you’ll pass the White trail and Red trail on your left. After that, you’ll pass the Yellow trail again (you should bear left to stay on the Blue trail, heading upward.)
If you’d like, at this point you can take a brief detour to Lucy’s Overlook; this gorgeous view of the west is found by following the Blue with White Stripes trail. If you do decide to detour, you can stay on this trail until it connects back with the Blue trail. Then, after you pass the next Blue/White trail on your left (pass, don’t follow), you’re close to Tripod Rock.
After your visit to Tripod Rock, you can take the same trip back without too much effort. Otherwise, you can take the White trail and loop back around to the Orange trail; which runs into the Yellow trail and, finally, back to the Blue trail.
The Best Way Back
Or, if you want to enhance the return trip, you can amp up the adventure taking a longer way back. From the White trail, take a left onto the Red with White Stripes trail; then take a left onto the Blue trail and follow toward the White trail. This will connect back with the Blue trail again and take you back to the visitors center. Meanwhile, this longer way back takes you by Whale Head Rock, Bear Rock, and the Ruins of the Morgan Place. The longer route also takes you along Stony Brook Mountains.
There are a couple of short inclines where you have to climb up rocks; however, this should not prove much of a challenge, even for beginners. Families frequently hike these routes with their young children. With this in mind, Pyramid Mountain is also a great hike to bring your dog on.
You can visit the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area at 472 Boonton Avenue in Montville Township. (If your GPS says Kinnelon, don’t worry; that’s where Tripod Rock itself is, but not the visitors center.) Parking is easy to find in the visitors center lot, near the intersection of Boonton Avenue and Mars Court; though finding a spot can get a little tight, depending on the time of year. When the lot does fill, cars end up parking on the shoulder to the side of the road.
There is often a porta-potty in the parking lot, and the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area has restrooms. If you are in need of more info or require help, park employees are right inside and can assist you. Visit the Morris Parks website to learn more.
All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ