February 2012: Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area

Boonton, New Jersey

Hikers had been coming to Pyramid Mountain for decades to enjoy the wilderness but it wasn’t until 1987, when the spectre of expanding suburbia raised its ugly head, that grassroots efforts led to the creation of a permanent public open space. The Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area now protects more than 1,500 acres of varied trails, fields, forests and wetlands.

There is quite a menu for canine hikers at Pyramid Mountain. Looking for views? Exposed promontories will provide long looks to the mountains in the west or as far as New York City to the east. Want a waterside ramble? Check out the Orange Trail that works the slopes under a rocky ridge along the Taylortown Reservoir. Like to poke around ruins? You’ll find old homesteads and the remains of stone cottages along the Pyramid Mountain trails. Seeking a leafy ravine to escape to with your dog? You can do it here.

Pyramid Mountain tops out at only 924 feet and the summit can be reached mostly on soft dirt, paw-friendly trails. There are enough short, steep climbs,however, to remind your dog he is on a mountain. All told you be climbing about 300 feet. The summit and Tripod Rock are mandatory destinations for first time visitors but don’t be too quick to load the dog in the car and drive away when you get off the mountain. Across Boonton Avenue there is actually more parkland than the Pyramid Mountain side. The terrain is less flashy, mostly meat--and-potatoes stuff but you will find picturesque wetlands, a moderate ascent to the top of 892-foot Turkey Mountain, views of the New York skyline and long, uninterrupted stretches of easily rolling woods walking. Depending on your route - and there are many choices - you can get five miles or so of canine hiking onthe east side of the park. 

Pyramid Mountain is best known for its glacial erratics - boulders that were sprinkled across the landscape by retreating ice sheets from the last Ice Age. The most famous is Tripod Rock, a boulder various estimated at between 150 and 200 tons, that is suspended heroically off the ground by three smaller stones. Nearby notable neighbors include two massive monoliths: Whale Head Rock and Bear Rock, that with a little imagination does resemble a recumbent bear.

From I-287 take Exit 45 ontoWooten Street, turning left from northbound or onto Myrtle Avenue and turning right southbound. Go up the hill to the blinking red light and turn right onto Boonton Avenue (Route 511). Proceed to the park entrance on the left after 2.5 miles.