Jesse Fried • Sep 16, 2018
The main ridge of the Ridge and Valley province in New Jersey, the Kitatinny ridge stretches from the Delaware Water Gap to the very northern tip of the state. Formed from the exposure of an erosion resistant layer of Shawangunk Conglomerate, it is continuous with New York state's Shawangunk Ridge to the north and Pennsylvania's Blue Mountain to the south. The ridge-forming conglomerate, though somewhat folded, generally dips to the northwest and forms some southeast-facing cliffs. As a result of deformation, the ridge line is broken up into interesting shapes.
On its SE flank is the Great Appalachian Valley, whose rolling hills underlain by shale support a still viable dairy industry and fertile farmland in addition to sprawl. On its NW side is a somewhat rugged landscape of hills leading down to the Delaware river that parallels the ridge.
High Point, the highest point in the state at 1803 feet above sea level, is on the ridge near the New York border. Sunrise mountain is another significant peak with a road to the top and a cool stone shelter. South of that are many smaller lookouts and local high points on the ridge such as Rattlesnake Mountain. Above the cliffs of the Delaware Water Gap is Mount Tammany.
All of these spots have a vista at a slightly different angle. In general the west facing vistas look out onto the Delaware Valley, and the edge of the Pocono Plateau, with its steep ravines emptying into the Delaware. Beyond this is the very flat ridge of the Pocono Mountains, with High Knob standing out. A vantage point to the southwest encompasses Camelback Mountain, near the instersection of I-80 and I-380 west of Stroudsburg PA.
The views north show High Point and its gleaming white obelisk. Behind these are the Catskills in the distance! There is a nice if distant angle on the more western Catskill High Peaks, especially Graham Mountain and Doubletop Mountain. The peaks around Slide Mountain such as Peakamoose and Table are all together as a blob.
To the east you can see across the Great Valley to the western slopes of the NJ Highlands: from Wawayanda Mountain in the north down to the rocky hills of Jenny Jump State Forest rising out of the valley.
Some nice ponds, reservoirs and swamps line the ridge. Sunfish Pond, located a few miles north of the Water Gap, is famously beautiful.
Only a few roads and highways cross the ridge. Route 80 dramatically runs through the Water Gap, Route 209 goes across Culvers Gap by some nice lakes, and Route 23 ascends almost all the way to High Point. There are only two or three local roads aside from these.
The Appalachian Trail follows the ridge for its entire length, which seems a little excessive. Sure, it is beautiful hiking country, but there are also other things to see in New Jersey.
Like many rocky hilltops in NJ, the ridge and upper slopes support a scraggly oak-dominated forest: chestnut oak, scrub oak, scarlet oak (I think), and on better sites black and red oak. Pitch pine is mixed in. Lower slopes support hemlock and norther hardwoods. Rhododendron can be found along streams, but not as extensively as in places like Pennsylvania. I've noticed that the lower west-facing slopes are especially rich in ferns. White Pine is occasionally seen throughout.