Every cloud has a silver lining, including rain clouds. While rainy weather may keep us indoors when we’d rather be outside, it makes for excellent conditions to view New Jersey’s waterfalls. Cascades that are merely pretty in dry weather can quickly become spectacular after a good soaking.
A great time for a waterfall hike is a day or two after a heavy rainfall. Rain that has fallen on the ground takes some time to reach streams and rivers, so the sun may be out and shining by the time waterfalls are at their peak.
Not surprisingly, most of New Jersey’s waterfalls are found in the rugged, mountainous Highlands region in the northern part of the state. Some are only a short walk from roads and parking areas, while others require a longer hike. Here are some great ones to visit.
Paterson Great Falls – This is the best known of New Jersey waterfalls, and one of the few located in an urban setting. Great Falls is the east coast’s second largest waterfall, behind Niagara Falls, and it is the centerpiece of the recently-established Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. The roaring waters of the 77-foot Great Falls once powered mills and industry in the “Silk City” founded by Alexander Hamilton, the U.S.’s first treasury secretary.
Buttermilk Falls – Great Falls may be the state’s largest, but Buttermilk Falls in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is the highest, at 200 feet. The falls, which cascade down a series of rocky ledges in the Kittatinny Mountains, are easily accessible, located only a few steps from a parking lot. After viewing Buttermilk from below, you can climb steps to the top for a gorgeous view.
Tillman Ravine – If you’re visiting Buttermilk Falls, check out Tillman Ravine at the same time. It’s a beautiful natural area only about 3.5 miles away in Stokes State Forest. Hike through a shady hemlock forest to follow the Tillman Brook as it drops over falls and through flumes and chutes.
Chikahoki Falls and Otter Hole – Norvin Green State Forest in Passaic County is known for its spectacular mountain views and the New York City skyline. Nearby Chikahoki Falls and Otter Hole are added attractions as they tumble over boulders and rock formations.
Apshawa Falls – These falls are not gigantic, but they’re a lovely part of a hike in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford that also features scenic overlooks, a former water supply reservoir nestled in a ring of mountains, a dam with cascading water, and the ruins of an old water purification system.
Greenbrook Falls – Rocky cliffs towering over the Hudson River, and waterfalls, too? That’s what you’ll find at the Greenbrook Sanctuary, a 165-acre woodland preserve on top of the Palisades in Tenafly and Alpine, Bergen County. The waterfalls can be seen from several overlooks above the Hudson.
Hemlock Falls – The South Mountain Reservation is the largest park in Essex County’s system — a green oasis in an urbanized area. It’s an easy walk from the road to this beautiful 25-foot waterfall. If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can hike around it on a loop trail.
Boonton Falls – The Rockaway River cascades through Boonton and once provided power to the town’s iron industry. Located just outside Boonton’s downtown area, Grace Lord Park includes the large Boonton Falls, as well as a smaller waterfall.
Bridal Veil Falls – Located just inside the grounds of William Paterson College in North Haledon, Bridal Veil Falls is located in an old sandstone quarry. A trail passes behind the falls, allowing visitors to stand in a cave behind the falling water.
Tinton Falls – Tinton Falls, for which the Monmouth County town was named, is small gem that can be viewed from a wooden overlook platform off Tinton Avenue. Tinton Falls once powered mills, but is now a quiet spot that can be a refreshing change for vacationers looking to take a break from the beach.
Happy hiking! If you have a favorite New Jersey waterfall hike not listed here, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, maps and detailed hike descriptions, visit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website at www.nynjtc.org or the NJ Hiking website at www.njhiking.com, or visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org.
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