Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stokes State Forest, NJ - Stony Brook/Appalachian Trail Loop from Culver's Gap

Stokes State Forest - NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Stokes State Forest - Wikipedia

GPS Coordinates to Culver's Gap Parking Lot 41.180132, -74.788000

View Larger Map

The paved parking lot is huge.  I would guess it holds about 40 cars and it is not heavily used since the only reason to park there is to hike - nothing else is nearby.  While there is an entrance fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day to get into the park for the other parking lots, this is a free lot.

Northern Kittatinny Trails Map 122 - NY/NJ Trail Conference (this is the better map)
Stokes State Forest Trail Guide - NJDEP (map is not so good but the paper copy available at the park office has nice descriptions of the trails on the back)

HIKE DISTANCE:  10.5 miles

This hike does not include the highly popular and heavily visited Sunrise Mountain but covers many of the lesser used trails through beautiful forests.  The hike begins on the Appalachian Trail which skirts the parking lot.  Head towards Maine.
When the Appalachian Trail crosses over paved Sunrise Mountain Road, turn left and stay on the road for about a quarter of a mile.
Sunrise Mountain Road
Leave Sunrise Mountain Road to the left on the Coursen Trail.
Watch your step! Red Efts are abundant along a section of this trail.
The Stony Lake Trail circles around Stony Lake: (The NY/NJ Trail Conference map shows this as a blue/brown-blazed trail - the markers must be discolored as they appear to be green/tan as shown below.)
Stony Lake
From the far side of the lake note the fire tower up on the Appalachian Trail where this hike goes later.
After circling the lake, a short road walk comes out at the Stony Lake Day Use Area.  The next trail is a little tricky to find.  Turn left before the sign below and walk through the parking lot towards the basketball hoops.
As you near the hoops you should see the brown trail markers of the Stony Brook Trail on the tree.  The trail is to the left of the markers and goes through a grassy area.
The trail becomes very pretty and parallels Stony Brook.
Stony Brook Falls
Stony Brook Trail
The Stony Brook Trail ends at two old barns.  Straight ahead is a gravel parking lot.  Proceed to that lot and turn right on to the Blue Mountain Trail.
The brown/green-blazed Blue Mountain Trail ends at a camping area at Big Flat Brook.
Big Flat Brook
Another short walk along a quiet paved road brings you to the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail which passes through pleasant woods.
Shortly after crossing the paved Sunrise Mountain Road, the Tinsley Trail ends at the Appalachian Trail.  Turn right on the white-blazed A.T. and a short distance ahead on the right is a nice pine needle covered clearing with a view to the west.
Appalachian Trail
From the base of the Normanook (Culver) Lookout Tower, a view of Stony Lake from the beginning of the hike.
Stony Lake in the bottom center.
Normanook (Culver) Lookout Tower (marked no trespassing - climbing up not allowed without permission).
Limited views of Culvers Lake to the east.
Just before the Appalachian Trail starts to switchback down to the parking lot, a couple more views.
Kittatinny Lake to the south.
View to the West - continuation of A.T. to the right beyond dead tree.
The white A.T. blazes are hard to follow across this area.  Keep to the right of the stone surfaces heading towards the dead tree shown above.  Turn right just past that tree and the blazes will pick up again.

[  0.00]  From the information board at the far end of the parking lot, turn left to the white-blazed Appalachian Trail then turn right on the Appalachian Trail
[  0.20]  Turn left on paved Sunset Mountain Road and keep straight when the white-blazed A.T. goes right
[  0.65]  Turn left on the blue circle-blazed Coursen Trail
[  1.55]  Turn left on the green/tan (should be blue/brown) trail before crossing creek
[  2.05]  Trail turn left away from pond and ends; right on black circle-blazed Lackner Trail
[  2.15]  Turn right on paved park road, cross bridge over creek
[  2.25]  Turn left before Stony Lake Day Use Area sigh, proceed through parking lot towards basketball hoops, take brown circle-blazed Stony Brook Trail to left of hoops
[  2.45]  Brown-blazed Stony Brook Trail turns right before foot bridge
[  2.50]  Cross wooden foot bridge, proceed to the right through picnic area
[  2.60]  Take orange/brown trail between picnic pavilion on left and restroom building on right
[  2.80]  Keep left on brown when orange Silver Mine Trail goes right
[  3.25]  Keep right at clearing then left between two old barns; head towards gravel parking area
[  3.30]  At gravel parking area, turn right on blue circle-blazed Blue Mountain Trail
[  3.40]  Keep right at fork when unmarked goes left
[  4.50]  Rock hop creek, veer left towards camping area, rock hop another creek, right on paved road running parallel to Big Flat Brook to right on paved park road
[  4.75]  At "dead end" sign leave paved park road and turn right on the yellow circle-blazed Tinsley Trail
[  5.20]  Keep right on yellow Tinsley Trail when Spring Cabin Trail goes left
[  5.70]  Keep straight on yellow Tinsley Trail when red Swenson Trail joins in from left
[  5.80]  Keep left on yellow Tinsley Trail when red leaves to right (no red blazes at intersection)
[  6.05]  Unmarked trail to left appears to go nowhere
[  6.50]  Pass kiosk, cross paved Sunshine Mountain Road, continue on Tinsley Trail
[  6.55]  Tinsley Trail ends, right on white-blazed Appalachian Trail
[  6.70]  Clearing with view on right (nice break spot)
[  7.85]  Keep straight on A.T. when the brown circle-blazed Stony Brook Trail and blue-blazed trail to the Gren Anderson shelter go right
[  8.80]  Keep straight on A.T. when green circle-blazed Tower Trail goes right; A.T. trail register; Normanook Lookout Tower
[  9.90]  Cross open rock clearing staying right to continue on A.T. to right beyond dead tree, A.T. descends
[10.35]  Left on paved Sunshine Mountain Road briefly then right as white-blazed A.T. continues into woods
[10.50]  Arrive at parking lot


  1. You could turn this hike into an overnight by turning north at Culver fire tower and hiking north two miles to the next AT shelter, then follow the AT south the next morning to the parking area. As AT shelters are first come, bring a tent. There are several good tenting areas around the shelter. (BTW, the French onion soup at Kevin's Steakhouse back at the gap is really yummy on cold, wet days.)

  2. Due to an auto accident in '06, I am paralyzed from the waist down. One thing I miss the most is hiking the trails in north GA/NC. I'm in search of a paved trail with nice overlooks. It looks like I am searching in the right place. Any suggestions?

  3. The NY/NJ Trail Conference has a database of hikes searchable by specific criteria. You can search for handicap accessible hikes here:

    You might also want to consider rail trails: