Located in far northern New Jersey, High Point State Park sits atop the world famous Pinelands region, sandwiched between the Pocono Mountains to the west and the Catskill Mountains to the northeast. Less than a three hour drive from New York City, the 14,193 acre park is home to a number of attractions and activities.
Part of the Kittatinny Mountains, the highest point in the state of New Jersey sits in the northern reaches of the park. At the top of New Jersey's tallest knob, 1,803 feet High Point has a 220 feet tall obelisk monument similar to other war monuments located on Bunker Hill in Massachusetts and on the Floyd Bluff in Iowa.
The monument was constructed in 1930 to honor the war heroes of New Jersey and some of the best views in the region could be found from the observation deck at the top of the obelisk. On a clear day both the Catskill and Pocono Mountains are visible and the entire Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area can easily be seen stretching 40 miles off to the south.
Regrettably the monument has fallen into a state of terrible disrepair. In 1997 after one of the 700 pound bronze doors was stolen and the stairs were deemed unsafe due to corrosion, the monument was closed completely to public access. For the next two years the monument's fate was uncertain until funds from private sources and the government became available. The monument is currently undergoing a complete face lift, both inside and out.
You shouldn't be discouraged from visiting High Point just because access to the monument is closed. From New Jersey State Highway 23 you can take Scenic Road north to High Point. The views are respectable especially looking toward Port Jervis, New York to the north.
High Point State Park's lesser known attraction is the 1,500 acre Dryden Kuser Natural Area. This boggy and swampy region is home to rare upland groves of Atlantic White Cedar. Located at 1,500 feet above sea level, this is the highest place in the world that these cedar trees can be found. The Dryden Kuser Natural Area is also home to the endangered Cooper's hawk that can be spotted in the summer time turning lazy circles seeking out thermals.
While visiting High Point State Park, enjoy an outstanding 1.5 mile nature trail hike through the southern corner of Dryden Kuser Natural Area. If you continue on Scenic Road from High Point around the northern end of Lake Marcia you can take Cedar Swamp Road north to the trailhead. Be sure to visit the Visitor Center to get an interpretive trail guide before going on your trek. The trail goes around the remains of a 30 acre glacier lake that has slowly turned into a bog over the last 15,000 years. The easy trail has a number of benches to rest at and the brochure describes the geography, plant, and animal life that thrive in the park. This is also an excellent area to spot porcupine and white tail deer. A significant number of black bears call High Point State Park home so you should always be alert when out on the trails.
For a slightly more challenging hike that combines both of these areas you can take the 3.5 mile Monument Trail. From the northwest end of the monument parking lot you can take the red-green blazed trail north into the Cedar Swamp. The trail then loops back around climbing along the knobs and ridges and offers excellent views to the west and east that aren't offered at High Point itself. Be sure to look for Turkey buzzards circling high over the top of the ridge as you approach the monument at High Point on the return leg.
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