Watchung Stables  LbNA # 7795

Placed DateApr 10 2004
LocationNew Providence, NJ
Found By Hikerdoodle
Last Found Nov 13 2010
Hike Distance?


Originally Placed April 10, 2004
Replaced December 29, 2008 (Thanks, Pakrat & JerseyTrailblazers!)

Total distance: Approx. 4 miles for this part of the loop, 10 miles total
Total time: About 2 hours for this half of the loop; 5 for all 10 miles

Watchung Reservation is a small oasis in the middle of suburbia, complete with riding stables (beware of horse feathers while hiking) and a wonderful playground. While you will occasionally see the roadway, cars, and houses while hiking, Watchung is a remarkably peaceful site to find within 5 minutes of a major interstate (which, unfortunately, you can often hear).

There is a 10-mile loop trail that circumnavigates the park; this letterbox was placed so that you only need to complete half of the figure eight “Sierra Trail.” Another letterbox (“Watchung Reservation”) has been placed on the other half of the park for those of you who want a more strenuous hike. The entire 10-mile loop is about 5 hours; this section will take about 2 hours. My paces are a single footfall.

To Get There:
From Route 22: Take Mountainside/New Providence Rd. exit. Proceed uphill (north ) on main road. Turn right on Tracy Drive. At traffic circle take third right and proceed 1/2 mile to Trailside Nature Center.

From Route 287 and 78 East: Rt. 287 to Rt. 78 east to exit 44 (New Providence/Berkeley Heights). ** At T-intersection turn left on Glenside Avenue. After 1.2 miles, turn right into the Watchung Reservation (Route 645) and pass Lake Surprise and then picnic areas as you climb the Watchungs. At traffic circle take first right and proceed 1/2 mile to Trailside Nature Center.

From Route 78 west: Rt. 78 west to exit 43 (New Providence/Berkeley Heights). Turn right at light on McMane Avenue. ** Follow directions from Route 287 and 78 East.

Park at the Trailside Nature Center on New Providence Rd. A trail map can always be obtained within the Nature Center, but the hours are fairly limited; maps are occasionally available at the trail entrances.

If you’re doing this letterbox along with the “Watchung Reservation” letterbox, simply continue along the Sierra Trail instead of following the shortcut back to the parking lot. For the rest of you to get to this starting point, you’ll be taking the shortcut in reverse to reach the Sierra Trail. Follow the paved road at the rear of the parking lot (opposite the Nature Center and Museum) almost to the end where the Orange Trail begins on the left. Take the Orange Trail to the Blue Trail. When the Blue Trail goes left, go right over a small wooden bridge and right again for about 10 yards. Go left onto the bridle trail. At the top of the incline, the Sierra Trail enters the woods on the right. You will be following white blazes for the remainder of the walk.

You’ll walk along Lake Surprise for about a mile, and then cross it along a paved road. You then re-enter the woods on the left, following a bridle trail. The trail will bear sharply to the right, and then left. After about 2 miles, and still on the bridle path, you will cross a couple of culverts (sometimes wet, sometimes dry). About 50 yards further on the right, you'll see Joanne & Pete's tree (poor thing) followed by a large tree with a white blaze on one side, and a fox (bear?) carved into the other (and not by me). You’ve gone too far if the trail goes left off the bridle trail onto a footpath and passes a large fallen tree’s roots sticking about 4 feet in the air.

From the foxy tree, go back 9 paces to the culvert. Take 11 paces at 140 degrees to the Box Trap Tree (this box had a brief foray at the bottom of the 4 foot hole in the trunk before Pakrat and JerseyTrailblazers rescued it!). With your back to this tree (the side away from the trail), go 33 paces at 186 degrees to the twin beeches. The one on the right is a lovers' tree - trunks twining together into the sky. Your prize awaits at the base of the tree on the left, under a suspicious pile of rocks and leaves. At least in winter, you can glimpse the stables through the trees, straight ahead.

Once you've stamped in, follow the white blazes for another 2 miles or so, and you’ll be back at the parking lot.