The four mile long (one way) Iris Trail starts at the eastern end of High Point State Park off of State Highway 23, near the Radio Towers. The red blazed trail heads south into the park paralleling the Appalachian Trail before joining it briefly north of Lake Rutherford. This section of the Appalachian Trail through High Point State Park is also part of the Long Path and the Shawangunk Ridge Trail.
This area was severely affected by blight that practically wiped out the American Chestnut during the 1920's. The forest has long since recovered and the combined section of trail offers excellent views of Lake Rutherford to the east that can be seen through the maturing growth of white and black oak, sugar maples, and sassafras.
At the Rutherford Shelter, one of two Appalachian Trail Shelters in High Point State Park, the Iris Trail turns southwest, crosses a number of springs, and then turns southeast crossing the Appalachian Trail. It finally comes to an end at the Deckertown Turnpike near the southern end of the park.
On the southwestern banks of tiny Sawmill Pond, High Point State Park offers a 50 site campground. Somewhat unusual, the campsite is for tent camping only and recreational vehicles are not allowed. Facilities are austere lacking showers, a playground, amphitheater or other activities but the scenery of High Point State Park helps makes up for that. Two group campgrounds are also available with space for 25 or 35 people respectively. Be sure to bring your canoe or kayak so you can paddle around Sawmill Pond keeping in mind that gasoline engines are not allowed. Half of the sites are available on a first come first serve basis; the other half can be reserved through the mail.
If you are looking for more comfortable lodging then consider spending some time in one of two, three bedroom cabins located along the eastern banks of Steeny Kill Lake. Both cabins have furnished living rooms, full kitchens, hot and cold water and showers. Each cabin will comfortably handle six people and with prior permission from the park up to eight can stay. A group cabin is also available and accommodates up to 28 people. The cabins are ideally located close to High Point, State Highway 23, and the lodge at Lake Marcia. Like Sawmill Pond, paddlecraft and boats with electric motors are permitted.
When the temperature goes up in the summer people go to the swimming area at Lake Marcia to cool down. The lake is spring fed so the water is clean, clear and cold. The lake has excellent facilities including a new lodge, lifeguards on duty, and bathhouses for changing.
Consider taking the 225 mile High Point to Cape May Bike Trail if you like mountain biking. The trail starts at High Point and meanders down paths, roads and state highways to the southeastern corner of New Jersey at Cape May. Coursing through the park for close to nine miles, start off at High Point and head north on State Highway 23 for 1-1/2 miles. Take a left onto Saw Mill Road toward Deckertown Turnpike and head south for ½ a mile. Take a left onto Deckertown Turnpike and climb up the steep hill that comprises the ridge that cuts through High Point State Park. Your reward is a restful coast down the other side toward Sussex County Road 519. If you want to make the route a loop you can take scenic Sussex County Road 519 north through hardwood forests back to State Highway 23 in Colesville. From there you can head north on State Highway 23 back to Highpoint.
In the winter people come to High Point State Park to visit High Point Cross Country Ski Center. Offering 9-1/2 miles of groomed trails, half of the trails are covered by snow making equipment assuring quality skiing as long as the temperature is cold enough. The park provides rental equipment for a fee and the trails are patrolled. If things get too cold be sure to visit the lodge by Lake Marcia to warm up by the fire, drink some hot chocolate or eat a hearty lunch.
If your plans won't take you through New Jersey in the winter don't despair. You can visit High Point Cross Country Ski Center to try out rollerskiing. Equipment and classes can be provided on this new form of outdoor activity that assures that cross country skiing can be enjoyed twelve months out of the year.
Despite 12 months of available activity at High Point State Park visitation peaks in October. It is during this time that leaf peepers come by the thousands through the park and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area to see the oranges, reds, and yellows of the Mid-Atlantic Fall. Whether you drive by car or get out on foot the forest takes on an earthy smell and is best visited immediately after the passing of a cold front when a stiff northwest wind rustles the leaves and exhilarates the body.
High Point State Park seems a world away from Newark and New York City, less than 100 miles to the east. Offering four seasons of adventure, hiking, camping, paddling, cross country skiing, incredible scenic views, and unique terrain are waiting for you. Located just eight miles off of Interstate 84, High Point State Park can offer a short diversion from the interstate or a long weekend getaway from the urban canyons of the eastern metropolis.
Just The Plain Facts
Name: High Point State Park
Location: Northwestern New Jersey, Port Jervis, New York
Nearest Major Air Service: Newark, New Jersey
Fees & Permits: $5 per car weekdays, $7 per car weekends and holidays, visitors on foot are free. Visitors can purchase a $35 annual state park pass. Campsites are $10 per night, $7 reservation fee, and cabins are $42 per night or $294 per week.
Why Visit: Highest point in state of New Jersey, excellent views, cross country skiing with snow making, good hiking along the eastern ridges of the Delaware Gap, Atlantic White Cedar highland swamp. Several endangered species of wildlife, great fall foliage viewing.
When To Visit: Year round, but most facilities are open from April 1 to October 31. Park can be crowded in October. Cabins are open from May 15 to October 15.
Essential Gear: Depends on very wide variety of activity, sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellant, bear bells, camera, binoculars, water (other equipment strongly recommended)
You Should Know: Reservations for campsites at High Point State Park can be made by contacting the park. If you hike beware of deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. Wear long light colored pants tucked into your socks, use insect repellants and inspect for ticks at the end of each day. High Point State Park has a significant population of black bears so follow bear country procedures especially when camping. Buses are not permitted on weekends or holidays.
More Information: High Point State Park, 1480 Route 23, Sussex, New Jersey 07461, (973) 875-4800. For cross country skiing (973) 702-1222.