While New Year’s Day is supposed to inaugurate our year-long resolutions to make positive changes in our lives, we know good and well that the day is usually spent in bed or on the couch, recuperating from last night’s indulgence in booze, food and debauchery. Many of us say that January 1st will initiate the “new year, new me” phase, but few people actually take advantage of that first day of the year to do something awesome; and before long, all those resolutions are scrapped and put aside for next year.
CavemanUnbound decided that we were tired of falling into that same trap; and so we woke up bright and early, shook off the grogginess and made our way to one of the most scenic mountain-top viewpoints in New Jersey: the Stairway to Heaven on Wawayanda Mountain in Vernon Township, NJ.
Located along a beautiful section of the Appalachian Trail, the hike’s best access point is from the parking lot on Vernon Warwick Rd. (route 94). There, you can stop to admire the cow pasture (if you’re into that kind of thing) before taking the AT going west toward the mountain. The trail starts off as a very easy path through an open field with an awesome view of the approaching Wawayanda Mountain; we even saw an older gentlemen jogging along the path and into the woods (he received the CavemanUnbound Medal of Manliness). The base of the mountain is very rocky with some large boulders to climb over. From there you’ll begin to ascend the “stairway to heaven” which is a moderately strenuous incline on stone steps with lots of switchbacks which take you all the way up the mountain. The stairway does get exhausting after a while and you’ll definitely break a sweat. We did this hike in 20 degree weather and found ourselves having to shed layers of clothing to “cool down” as we scrambled up the trail.
While climbing along the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, keep an eye out for a blue-blazed side trail that leads to the spectacular lookout known as the Pinwheel Vista. The markers are very easy to miss so be alert so you don’t miss out on the amazing sights from the outlook.
When you reach the Pinwheel Vista, you are immediately greeted by a breathtaking panorama of the neighboring mountains and the valley below. At an impressive elevation of 1,050 ft, you can catch sights of Mountain Creek, High Point Mountain, and the Catskills. The scenery from the top of the mountain is a true wonder and we recommend that you find a place to sit down, relax and take some time to absorb all the beauty and splendor of the landscape. This is a very popular destination for hikers so chances are that you’ll be sharing this view with a crowd. Luckily for us, it was the first day of the year, and a cold one at that, so we didn’t come across much traffic on the trail. We were easily able to find a comfy spot to unwind and peacefully enjoy the view.
After about an hour at the vista, which we spend relishing our conquest of the Stairway to Heaven and the sweet spoils of our victory, the cold got a little too intense and we made our way back down the mountain. This hike was the perfect way for CavemanUnbound to ring in a new year that is going to be full of so many more awesome adventures.