A hike that has it all: stunning boardwalk through the Pochuck Valley flooded with wildflowers, the excitement of a suspension bridge, numerous wildlife sightings, a climb up the side of a mountain, a vista spanning for miles, and one rockin’ name. It’s no wonder the Stairway to Heaven Trail is one of the most popular hikes in New Jersey.
Route: White blazed Appalachian Trail, left on Blue Spur
Length: 7.3 miles out and back
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
+893 County Rd 517, Glenwood, NJ 07418
Beginning of the boardwalk there are a dozen or so spots. I would recommend coming early, mid week, off season, or later in the day.
+441 Vernon Warwick Rd, Vernon Township, NJ 07462
Plan B if you cannot find parking at the beginning, head to the parking lot at the base of the mountain, but be sure to backtrack and enjoy the boardwalks. There are no fees for parking in either location.
Leave the street to begin on a marvelous portion of the white blazed Appalachian Trail. Summer wildflowers were showstoppers on this meandering boardwalk, a heaven for butterflies, birds, dragonflies, and swooning hikers.
There are so many variations, some I had never seen before.
A vibrant purple flower caught my eye and I was mentioning how I wondered what it was called. Conveniently, a fellow hiker was able to identify the flower for me as purple loosestrife, although beautiful – invasive. Crossing over swampy areas, be sure to stop and look for turtles.
Soon you will cross the splendid Pochuck Suspension bridge over a shallow creek.
Further down the trail a smaller bridge is a good place to look for snakes, we saw three basking in the sun.
Trade the boardwalk for more narrow planks, and wildflower fields for grass that cows are grazing on.
The hill in the background is where you will be climbing to reach Pinwheel Vista. Cross the busy road and pass by the Plan B parking lot, soon you will enter the woods. The path becomes rocky and you pass by boulder fields.
As the trail has been flat until this point, all of the elevation gain is saved for this portion of the trek. Many stone slabs are fashioned into stairs, resulting in the name of the hike. There is one sneak peak of a view along the way, a great spot to take a water break.
Continue up until you reach a ginormous rock cairn, can’t miss it!
Take a left on the blue spur and it’s just a few moments to your final destination: the pinwheel vista. Out of the woods into the sunlight there is a nice splash of rock face to spread out on and take in the panorama.
Along with the views and vultures, you can spy the planks you walked across and a monument designated the highest point in the state.
Head back the way you came.