Green Pond Mountain
And Surrounding Region
Jesse Fried • Jul 22, 2019
Green Pond Mountain is a flat topped mountain ridge located in Rockaway Township. It runs for about 11 miles, bounded to the north and south by the Rockaway and Pequannock Rivers. It rises just a few hundred feet above the surrounding valleys, maxing out around 1230 feet, but its bands of tall light-colored ledges along its southeast facing side make it one of NJ’s most distinctive mountain features. A few other, shorter parallel ridges share similar characteristics, and make up a rugged, wild and strange part of exurban Morris County.
Its namesake Green Pond sits just below the ridge at 1040 feet, in a high valley between it and its neighbor ridge Copperas Mountain. The pond is a picturesque spot, with white cliffs and talus slopes descending right to the water.
In spite of their location in the middle of the NJ Highlands, Green Pond Mountain and the surrounding ridges are characteristic of the Ridge and Valley provence of the Appalachian Mountains. Geologically, they are considered part of the Green Pond Outlier, an isloated stretch of deformed Paleozoic sedimentary bedrock, in the middle of the largely Precambrian metamorphic Highlands. The rocks of the Green Pond Outlier are indeed similar to parts of the Ridge and Valley region: the Kitatinny Ridge in NJ, the Poconos in PA, and the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains in NY. The cliffs on Green Pond Mountain are considered a good place for rock climbing, but they are nowhere near as popular as the Shawangunk Mountains, despite their geologic similarities. The Green Pond Outlier continues north and encompasses Kanouse and Bearfort Mountains in Passaic County, and Schunemunk Mountain across the NY border.
The Four Birds Trail climbs up and down the northern parts of Green Pond Mountain, but the trail is very poorly maintained. There are several nice viewpoints from the tops of tall ledges, encompassing Green Pond, some large swamps below, and the surrounding Highlands. The oak forest on top of the ridge is notable for its extensive mountain laurel. The trail winds up and down through a network of old, heavily eroded woods roads. I saw a bear up here once in the middle of a summer day.
There is a strange little valley between Green Pond and Copperas Mountains, the Pequannock River, and a slope leading up to Green Pond that plays host to extensive wetlands, Route 513, a former ski area now home to Morris County’s Craigmeur Recreation Complex, a few nice-looking houses, and some very lush forest on a gentle, north-facing slope of what seems to be thick glacial till. The trail passes through this forest and crosses a little stream, much less rocky than usual for the Highlands. Many big persimmon trees, rhododendrons, tulip poplars vigorously regenerating in openings, and impressive white oaks and sugar maples are some of the highlights of this Jersey Jungle. One wonders if this area was ever cleared for farmland. The forest, though certainly not old growth, does not seem to be recently disturbed, despite the close proximity of a small neighborhood.
Copperas Mountain has a great east-facing view. Charlotteburg Reservoir is visible directly below, part of the Newark Watershed. Behind it are the hills of the Highlands, including a rock outcropping known as Indian Cliff, with the NYC skyline as a background.
This area is surprisingly off-the-beaten-path, despite the sprinkling of nice houses throughout it, and its proximity to the urban core. Other more distant hiking areas seem more popular. To hike here, we had to pay $12 each and go through a frustrating bureaucratic experience at the Newark Watershed office, so that might partially explain it..