Fall in the Skylands Region


When Autumn arrivessome outdoor enthusiasts lament the waning daylight, this season certainly has a bright side. Before revealing their skeleton of branches, the variety of trees in the Highlands region creates a spectrum rivaling the foliage of anywhere in the country.

Enjoying the season's kaleidoscope of colors is made even more enjoyable by the fact that it is so close to home. Why not spend a few hours on aweekend drive through this region's seasonal splendor? Easily found in the heart of the Highlands and readily accessible by car.

Consider starting your journey at Lake Hopatcong. Hopatcong State Park, with its wooded hillsides is an excellent place to begin. At the park, spend part of the morning at the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum to learn about the history of the Morris Canal . While enjoying the colorful landscape, step back in time as you explore the remains of the old turbine that was once a vital part of canal history.

On a calm day, enjoy the peaceful reflection of foliage on Lake Musconetcong at the south end of the park. But if you wish to venture further away from the bustling highways near Netcong, find your way to Rt. 46 W. Making your way past Budd Lake and through Hackettstown, you might smell the sweet aroma of MM/Mars Inc. which makes its home here. As you travel further, you will encounter a landscape much more rural. Driving though the Great Meadows of Independence Township, enjoy the contrast of the dark flatlands and the colorful hillsides surrounding it.

Shortly after the meadows, Rt. 46 closely follows the flow of the Pequest River. On the left, the Pequest Wildlife Management Area offers a wonderful nature center and trails to stretch your legs just across the babbling, trout-filled river. This entire valley is surrounded by the splendid colors of various tree species. By now, you may be getting rather hungry from your drive. What better place to stop for a bite than in Buttzville at the famous Hot Dog Johnny's. Located right on the Pequest River, this hotdog stand will have you reminiscing about the "good old days."

After filling up with a frosty mug of root beer, continue to Rt. 519 S. This bucolic county road offers autumn scenery along its entire stretch as it makes its way past numerous places you may wish to return during the fall and winter seasons. Hensler Farm, Mackey's Orchard, and Wyckoff's Tree Farm, just to name a few.

Heading further south will take you through Harmony Township, home to Merrill Creek Reservior, noted for its views of the Delaware Water Gap and its Bald Eagle inhabitants. Shortly after crossing Rt. 57, you will come to the Jim and Mary Lee Museum on the left. Since starting your journey along the Morris Canal, this might be a good turn around point after checking out the history of the inclined plane here and enjoying the view. If you are short on time, continue south on Rt. 519 to Rt. 22 E. and you will quickly find Rt.78 to bring you home.

If you would rather a more relaxed trip home, make your way back to Rt. 57 and head east toward Washington. In about three miles, you'll come to the small town of New Village. If the scenery is too distracting for you while you drive, pull over at the Bread Lock Park on the right. Making your way back to Morris County along Rt. 57, you will be roughly following the former path of the Morris Canal all the way home. Continuing eastward will bring you through Pleasant Valley, Washington, Port Colden, and Penwell, as you head for Schooley's Mountain.

All the way, you will be dazzled by the hillside colors surrounding you. Whether your journey takes place during the climax of the foliage season or not, you are sure to remember your trip through the Highlands and will undoubtedly wish to return another day! For more ideas on day or overnight trips visit Highlands Tourism.