Sunday, August 2, 2015

Camp Jefferson and Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, NJ

NOTE:  Trails through Camp Jefferson are closed until 5 pm on summer weekdays when camp is in session.
New Trails to Open at Camp Jefferson (Oct 2009) - Jefferson Township
Mahlon Dickerson Reservation - Morris County Parks

GPS Coordinates 40.98022, 74.59913
Parking at Camp Jefferson

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation Trail Map - Morris County Parks (Only shows Highlands Trail through Camp Jefferson, not Camp Jefferson trails.)
My unprofessional rendition of a Camp Jefferson trail map with approximate mileages since there doesn't seen to be a map.
Camp Jefferson and Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, NJ at EveryTrail

HIKE DISTANCE:  5.3 miles

Getting started is a little difficult in the summer.  The teal Highlands Trail/yellow trail is supposed to start to the left of the skate park which, as you can see in Dan Balogh's picture from 10/31/2011, it clearly does.  Fast forward to 8/2/2015 and the skate park sign is gone, the post with blazes is gone/overgrown and the blazes on that same tree can't be seen from in front of the skate park, which may no longer be a skate park.
Once you make your way through a few feet of overgrowth, you can see the blazes on that tree - almost.

Things clear out a lot then the trail comes out at ...
... cabins and follows the gravel road.
Here it is joined by the orange trail which ...
... leaves to the left just before the lake.
Camp Jefferson Lake
The moon at 6 AM.
An open air theater across from...
... a dock.
It's very pretty and peaceful here at 6 AM.
At the far end of the lake, orange follows a service road...
... before continuing along the lake as a footpath.
Sunrise at 6:30 AM.
Camp contraptions.
Orange ends back at teal/yellow.
We took the yellow Upper Trail out intending to return on the blue Lower Trail.
The woods are very pretty along the Highlands Trail/yellow trail.
Following along the ridge.
Everything is well marked and clear.
The other end of blue which we will take on the return route.  But first...
How to get through the overgrowth in the power cut?  Some of this greenery was up to my head!
Stopping for a picture of the view before going in.
Even trusty trail dog Shawnee can't tell which way.  If there are blazes, you certainly can't see them.
Impenetrable growth covering walls of boulders on the other side but at long last...
...we found blazes on the other side.  (Shawnee is shaking off because all of that overgrowth was soaking wet.)
And thorny.
Relieved to be on the other side but oh no, we eventually have to go back.  We'll worry about that later.
For now, leaving Camp Jefferson and the yellow trail and entering Mahlon Dickerson on just the teal Highlands Trail.
The Highlands Trail crosses a woods road which is the Winona Trail to the right, our return route.
Continuing on the Highlands Trail at the intersection with the Winona Trail.
Another power cut but this one was not nearly as overgrown.
A blaze is obvious in the power cut but you have to climb up to it in order to see...
... the blazes continuing across and back into the woods.
A creek crossing.
Back across that same power cut further north.
Then a right on the black-on-teal Winona Trail which is a service road.
She gets bored silly on gravel service roads and lags behind to where I think she is getting too hot and/or tired and start worrying about her.
A red eft that apparently does not mind the gravel service road and there were many, many more that I had to be careful not to step on.
Avoiding that icky gravel as much as possible.  I agree, though, it's not pleasant to walk on at all.
Two different colors of efts.  And the race is on!
Winona Trail
At the end of the Winona Trail, watch for the cairns and Highland Trail blazes on the left.
Retracing on the Highlands Trail.
Not lagging any more and happy to be on a footpath again.
Back at that overgrown power cut.
Fortunately the blazes were at least visible in this direction.
But we still had to hack our way through overgrowth.
Yes, right through this and that was way over Shawnee's head, and taller than my waist.
Almost there...
We made it and entered back into the woods.
It looked somewhat overgrown when we turned left on blue...
... but it opened up and the trail was pretty clear.
Well, for a while.  Then we entered into a mass of Sandy blow downs that were never cleared.
Shawnee was able to slide under the first mass of blow downs but I had to take off my backpack and do the blow down limbo to get under.
Things didn't look so bad until...
... the trail become completely obliterated by blow downs.  In trying to get around the mess, I lost the trail and ended up bushwhacking back up to the Highlands Trail/yellow trail.
Orange joins in then leaves to the right to loop around the lake.
Instead of turning left into the woods and following the trail back through overgrowth to the former skate park, we continued through the camp.  Enough overgrowth battling for today!
This leads straight back to the parking area.  It's a shame there has not been maintenance on the camp trails because they go through a lovely area and are definitely trails worth having.


  1. Beautiful go through quite a lot to do these hikes. I admire you and Shawnee. Is your camera heavy? You get some really good close ups? Thanks for sharing! Joanne

    1. Thanks, Joanne. The camera isn't that heavy, it's light enough get used to it hanging around your neck. I used to have a Nikon SLR that was bigger and heavier and absolutely miserable to take on hikes so I rarely did and the pictures weren't that great anyway.


  2. Boy do I wish I had read your perfect description beforehand. I got lost heading back from blue trail blow down to yellow trail, but my puggle was my GPS. This trail needs some TLC. We will try it earlier in the day next time. Thank you so much for the updated writeup.