New Jersey – Splitrock Reservoir Loop

Splitrock Reservoir Loop

Last weekend my husband and I went for our first hike in New Jersey at Splitrock Reservoir Loop.

It was great to be out again in nature after a five-month break from hiking. Normally we would hike through the winter in Virginia, but in December I got offered a job in NYC and we were busy with preparations leading up to our move to Northern New Jersey (Jersey City) in early January. After moving, of course, there was the adjustment period to the new job, plus the colder northern weather that kept us from hitting the trails. We also adopted two cats from an NYC shelter and wanted to provide them an adjustment period of feeling comfortable at home. After what seemed an eternity of not hiking, my job had settled down and the weather started getting better.

We decided to go somewhere nearby for our first hike in the area. Splitrock Reservoir is about an hour drive from Jersey City if you don’t get caught in traffic. The loop around the reservoir, which looks like a lake, is about 11 miles long.

Starting the Trail

The start of the trail was difficult to find — we had to walk along a dusty road to find the blue-blazed Split Rock Loop Trail. Once we started hiking on the trail, it felt good. The trail around the reservoir is not very clear in most places and it was like a scavenger hunt finding each trail blaze.

In some parts the trail hugged Splitrock Reservoir and you could see a lovely view of the water through the trees.

The Views


Almost halfway through we stopped at Indian Cliffs, which had big boulders and a lovely view of the reservoir.

By the time we reached this point, we were already starting to get tired. It was clear that not having gone hiking for several months diminished our stamina. We had our PB&J sandwiches and laid down for a quick nap in the warm sunlight.

After relaxing for a while, we continued around the loop.

Word of Warning on the Markings

Near the top of Splitrock Reservoir you have to turn on to the white-blazed Four Birds Trail to continue around and back to the parking lot.  The while blazes were even more difficult to find in the forest than the blue ones. As a result, we got a bit turned around in a few places trying to find the trail. I wouldn’t recommend this loop for hiking beginners for this reason.

Finishing Up the Hike

On the way back down, in a couple places the trail was right by the water. It was a hot day and the breeze coming off the reservoir was refreshing.

The last couple miles were the toughest. We had gone around the loop counter-clockwise. By the end, however, we realized going around clockwise would have been better due to there being some steep slopes in the southwest corner of the reservoir.

To Conclude

The hike itself was good exercise. Although the elevation gain at any one point was only 100-200ft, the trail went up and down at least 20 times. The total ascent and descent amounted to 2000 ft each.

Unfortunately, for us this trail was a bit too close to civilization. On the Split Rock Loop Trail we encountered motorbikes and heard the revving of engines for half the day. Actually, this is not allowed, according to small signs on the trail, due to the damage it causes. The West side of the reservoir (white-blazed Four Birds Trail) was quieter, as there were clearer signs that motor vehicles are not allowed there. It was also quite dusty in the area — we were surprised when we wiped our faces with towels to find a layer of dust and bits of sand.

Overall, the Splitrock Reservoir Loop was a solid hike within close driving distance of NYC. However, in the future we’re going to aim to visit parks that are further away.

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