Now that the temptation of summer is upon us, the urge for breath-taking views and water filled hikes begins. If you are on the hunt for a good waterfall hike to do with your little one(s) check out Hemlock Falls in South Mountain Reservation, NJ. This hike and waterfall area will not disappoint. It’s great fun for kids and dogs alike who like to splash in the pools beneath. If you are Babywearing, be aware of loose rocks and tricky footing in some areas. Overall the hikes are easy to moderate and should take no more than a couple of hours with hang time included. While there are many ways to access Hemlock Falls, below I’ve highlighted the three most direct ways. (see map...)
For the easiest route to the Falls (D8) you will want to enter South Mountain Reservation on Crest Drive off of South Orange Ave. A small and immediate parking area is at the entrance. The large trail (unmarked, but called Openwood Trail on map) directly in front of the parking will lead you to the falls in about 15-30 depending on your pace. The large trail will lead you to a large descending staircase. At the end, turn right and continue on the yellow trail (Lenape Trail) until you hit the falls. You can also dip right onto the second red trail (that looks like a bull’s eye). This will also link with the yellow (to follow take a right) and will take you to the Falls down a steepish decline. Above Hemlock Falls, is almost cooler than the Falls because it is so unexpected. There are views and small pools that you can explore. You can get here by following the first right turn off the main trail, or take the red stairway to the left of Hemlock Falls once you are there. Either way is fine, but it is worth it to check out.
You can also enter the park, via an unmarked parking area further along on South Orange Ave that is located between two overpass bridges (upper right corner of D8). This parking can only be accessed when heading towards the town of South Orange (east), so you may have to do a turn around. This is perhaps the shortest route to Hemlock Falls (~15 min at toddler pace). Once parked follow the main trail down the hill. At the bottom you will find a kiosk. Turn left here and follow the yellow trail until you get to the Falls.
If you are taking NJ Transit to Millburn, the train station is a 5 min walk to the trailhead. You will enter SMR at Locust Grove (see D1) and follow the white trail (Rahway Trail) This is a longer, but beautiful hike to Hemlock Falls. Easy to moderate. I would give yourself about 4 hours for this hike with children.
This Essex county gem is a “close enough” especially for future house hunters. NY Times considers the Maplewood-South Orange area Brooklyn West. And while there are plenty of young, laid back parents and kiddies, the food leaves something to be desired…so pack a snack! For more information on Waterfall hikes click here!