Farny State Park

Splitrock Reservoir in winter.

Farny State Park is one of the least visited parks in New Jersey. While a major trail crosses it, the trail, as well as the surrounding forest, remains very wild. Partially this is because the terrain is very difficult to hike, but also because the park is hard to find and doesn't offer any kind of facilities or special features, such as scenic vistas or waterfalls. If you are looking for solitude and a nice, secluded spot to have a picnic, however, you've come to the right place.

Getting here
Take Exit 37 off I-80 and turn north onto Rt. 513 (towards Hibernia). After you pass the town, look for Upper Hibernia Road to your right. The road is hard to spot, but before you see it you'll see a fire station sign pointing to the right (this is several minutes after you passes a different fire station). Follow the road for about a mile, and turn left onto Split Rock Road. After the asphalt ends and the road gets more holes than Swiss Cheese, continue until you see a small parking space, enough to accommodate four cars, to your left. If you see white blazes here, you are on the right spot.

This is a linear hike; you'll be returning on the same trail. The hike, while only about five miles long, is very strenuous, thanks to many steep ups and downs, very rocky footing and a difficult stream crossing. Unfortunately, the stream crossing comes relatively early into the hike, which rules out family outings after heavy rains.

Some boulders seem to defy gravity.
Right at the beginning of the hike you'll get a taste of what awaits you, as the trail climbs steeply up a rock wall. It levels off, however, and after two small overlooks of the Splitrock Reservoir the trail starts a long but steady descend. You'll soon cross one of several dirt roads, which are frequented by off-road drivers, and come to a wide stream. In December of 2003, the stream was relatively deep and wide, and crossing was difficult. If you are unsure you can cross the stream on the stones, walk for a few minutes downstream until you come to a fallen tree, which allows for a comfortable crossing. Then retrace your steps back to the trail.

After crossing the stream, the trail comes to another rock face and starts a steep climb. Get used to it; this pattern will repeat over and over again. As you near the top of this climb, you may notice a rocky overhang to your right; a perfect spot to weather a sudden rain. The trail soon levels off and descends slowly once again. It soon turns left and away from the reservoir and traverses the hillside. You'll notice a swamp down below, on your right side, which the trail circles around. As you descend down the valley and climb up a bit, you should stop for a while to enjoy the view. In winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you'll be able to see the entire valley. The sight is truly impressive, and usually you'll be here alone, which makes the enormous valley appear even larger. You'll cross a small hill in the middle of the valley; I like to go closer to the edge here, which overlooks the swamp, and sit down for a while.

Several steep rocky climbs make the hike quite difficult.
Once you decide to go on, you'll come across another rock face, and you'll climb some more. This is probably the most strenuous climb, matching the way down from the other side, which you'll climb when you hike back. You may notice a slanted rock on the top of this climb, which seemingly defies gravity. In fact, there are lots of such rocks all over the park, and unfortunately many of them are quite unstable, so watch your step. You'll descend on the other side, cross another small valley and a dirt road, and climb some more to what appears to be the highest point of your hike. After this, the trail descends to the lake and follows its shore for a short time. The hike ends when you come across a small island just off the shore. You'll be able to cross on a few stepping rocks, and you'll find the flat, rocky island an ideal place for a quick lunch or (as in my case) the perfect spot for a nap.

When you retrace your steps, you may find the way back a little easier. While the beginning and the end of the hike are on roughly the same level, your way back will involve many more gradual ascents than steep climbs, and being familiar with the stream crossings, you shouldn't have any problems walking back. The scenery, however, will look entirely different, so you won't be bored walking back to your car.

Difficulty: 8 out of 10. While not too long, the terrain is very rocky and there's a lot of elevation change.
Orientation: 9 out of 10. Excellent trail markers, but the park may be hard to find.
Beauty: 5 out of 10. Nothing you can't see elsewhere, for less effort. The main purpose of this hike is solitude.

Additional resources
Official home page
Park reviews at Epinions.com

Time table
Net time Total time Notes
75 - 120 min 75 - 120 min The first half of the hike is very technical and quite strenous. Add more time if you have difficulty to find a good stream crossing at the beginning.
75 - 120 min 150 - 240 min Even though the way back is a little easier, expect to be tired. Take it easy of you don't race against dusk.
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, 2003

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