Beaver Brook Trail

The end of the journey, the Beaver Brook.

Beaver Brook Trail, featuring some of the most unusual sights in New Jersey, will make you work hard to enjoy them. Long and tiring ascents and descents, dangerous footing and a narrow trail will be in your way to enjoy some of the best shy wildlife sightings in the area.

Getting there
Take Route 15 north off I-80. Two miles into Route 15, turn right onto Berkshire Valley Road (if you come from I-80, don't cross Rt. 15). Another two miles, and another road, the Taylor Road joins your in a sharp angle. Park the car across the street right behind this point.

The white-blazed trail starts on the southern edge of the parking lot. At first, the trail is relatively level. A few minutes into the hike, notice a very unique tree with six stumps on the right ride of the trail. Judging from the amount of empty cans of cheap pseudo-beer, this appears to be a favorite hangout spot for the local youth.

Soon, the trail starts picking up ground, fast transforming your kike into a full-scale ascent. This part of the trail consists mainly of dirt, and the hike is easier than, let's say, a comparable climb up Mount Tammany. As the forest opens to your left to a rocky ravine, follow carefully for the white blazes. At one point, the trail veers to the right, in a rocky climb, while the obvious trail (unmarked from now on) goes straight. The turn is indicated by a sign on a large boulder, where the white blazes lack in contrast. It is very easy to follow the wrong trail here, so as soon as you loose the white blazes, go back. The unmarked trail ends within a mile at a "No Trespassing" sign, at a woods road that you will cross two more times.

As you climb up the rocks, be careful. Many of these rocks are loose, and the trail is very narrow. Fortunately, this is a very short section, and soon you will find yourself on the top of the hill, on the usual (for New Jersey) flat bedrock. At several places, you will be able to spy a decent view to the east, but the views are inferior to those you can see elsewhere. As you continue, the trail will level off, reenter the forest and then start a long descent.

One of the beaver lodges.
This part of the trail maps the hill in a series of descents and short level walks. Wildlife is plentiful in this area; in a single hike I have found two species of frogs, a few hawks resting on the tree branches, and heard the murmur of a bear. According to Nature Walks in New Jersey by Glenn Scherer, bear droppings are also to be found here.

As the trail descends, you will find your way to a wide streambed. During my last hike, it was dry, despite two days of rain (it was still raining), which leads me to assume that the crossing here is quite easy at any time of the year. The ascent that follows isn't that easy, however. Mimicking the previous ascent, you start out on a dirt trail, only to switch to rock on the last leg, until you find yourself on the top of the Valley View Lookout. This offers probably the best view of the hike, yet not as impressive as other views. However, the large flat rock allows for some resting here.

As you go on, the trail descends a little, then levels off in a forest, with thick undergrowth. The trail is not too obvious here, so watch the blazes. Soon, the trail crosses a woods road, and the forest opens a little. In another ten minutes or so, you will arrive to the Beaver Brook. The trail turns slightly left, and runs parallel to the brook. Between the trees, you will be able to see that the brook is in fact a large swampy area, courtesy of numerous beaver dams. You will be able to spy a few beaver lodges, but as beavers are nocturne animals, you won't see them. Probably the best place to observe the beaver habitat (and most likely the main reason for your hike) is a little farther, where you cross the woods road again. Go down that road, which soon crosses the Beaver Brook. This crossing offers a nice and unobstructed view.

Backtrack your steps and continue on the trail. Soon, it will cross the brook as well, and approach the Lost Lake. Due to the recent rains, I found this crossing to be too difficult and turned back here. According to Scherer's book, there should be a bridge here, which I found missing, and the lake is supposed to feature a few more beaver lodges.

Safety tips
This is a very new trail, only five years old. Because of that, it has not been worn down yet. Parts of the trail are on loose rocks, others are on sloped bedrock. The lichen on the bedrock makes the rocks look dry, even if they are wet and slippery as ice. Be very careful here. In addition, you may think of taking the woods road back, which is much better scalable. Unfortunatelly, not only you will run into some "Ne Tresspassing" signs, but most likely into a horde of off-road vehicle drivers.

Difficulty: 8 out of 10, Several long ascents and descents (from both sides), and dangerous footing.
Orientation: 6 out of 10. Well marked, but several times the trail leaves the obvious trail.
Beauty: 7 out of 10. The scenis view is sub-standard, but the wildlife is outstanding, if you are lucky.

Time table
Net time Total time Notes
20 - 60 min 20 - 60 min This is the initial climb, up to the highest in a short series of overlooks. It is also the hardest part.
30 - 60 min 50 - 120 min The trail reenters the woods, levels up and then descends. After crossing a streambed, the trail climbs to yet another overlook.
30 - 60 min 80 - 180 min The trail levels out again and starts yet another descend. It approaches the Beaver Brook, runs parallel to it and crosses it.
80 - 180 min 160 - 360 min Depending on how tired you are, the return trip will take about the same time, or even longer.
Methodology: The lower number is how long it took me to finish each part. While I'm in mid 20s and in a relatively good shape, I tend to stop often to take pictures or simply enjoy the view. It is very likely that your time will be close to mine. The upper limit is my time adjusted to the difficulty of the trail and various distractions. I assumed a family with children in my calculation. I believe that the upper limit is rather extreme. I have not taken into account the time spent for an extended break.

© Jozef Purdes, 2002

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