Highlands Trail Loop Trail is a 6.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Lake Hopatcong, NJ that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Glacial Erratics, Northern Bog, Limited views, climb Highest point in park. Mahlon Dickerson Reservation is the largest county park in Morris county. Most of the hike takes you onto the Highlands trail which is part of a long distance trail that when complete will stretch from the Delaware River to the Hudson River and traverse the NY/NJ Highlands region. The trail goes through some nice cool valleys lined with Beech trees and the Headley overlook were you get views of the Weldon Brook wildlife Management area and Lake Hopatcong. After you leave the Highlands trail you get onto to the Boulder trail were you can observe Glacial Erratics. After going through the boulders you get onto the Pine Swamp Trail. This trail takes you to the Highest point in Morris County and along a Northern Bog, lined with hemlock, Rhododendron and Spruce trees. After going along the bog you come to the old Ogden Mine rail bed. This will take you back to the Parking.
I went on the 6.8 loop on a mountain bike. It starts out nice and manicures, easy. Soon enough it changes to very technical, rocky trails. I found myself pushing my bike up quite a bit though I was there to exercise I was hoping for more rhythm and cadence. There was no scenic overlook but I found it tiring but if you can handle the technical stuff and are in good shape you might want to try this loop. Bring a patch kit or extra tube. Go early or expect lots o flies.
The colors of the trails changed frequently and without reason. My 5 friends and I were all baffled and had to stop a lot to reorient. The highest point is such a bummer. It's just a sign in the woods, no view, summit, or overlook. We were disappointed.
I have used this trail alot over the years, both as hiker and hike leader. It is a nice change of pace from the generally more developed trails around it in the park. You get a nice variety of woodland, swamp and stream environments, and some great views. The dogs (on leash) love it. If you have a knowledgeable guide accompanying you, there are abundant historical/archeological remains of 19th century habitation, iron mining and a mine railroad. Most of those features are easily missed - except, of course, the railbed which is part of another trail. There are a number of intersecting trails that offer nice diversions, and this trail is shared by several of these trails which are under a different management. The bears are there, but are generally easy to get along with. I have seen 1-2 bears per hike at times, while often going weeks without seeing one. Most of them would really prefer to leave you alone - or more particularly that you leave them alone. Well worth a morning or afternoon.