May 2011: Stokes State Forest

Branchville, New Jersey

The State of New Jersey began buying land for Stokes Forest in 1907 - sometimes paying a whole dollar an acre. The forest is named for Edward Casper Stokes who served one term as Republican governor from 1905 until 1908, forming the New Jersey Forest Commission during his tenure. He donated the first 500 acres. After he left office Stokes remained active in politics, failing in three bids to win a U.S. Senate seat and another term as governor. In 2001, lightning struck his mausoleum in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Millville. The lightning blasted through the mausoleum’s roof and littered the floor with shattered marble, blowing a 6-inch hole in the governor’s crypt. His casket was not damaged.  

Stokes Forest is the chunk of land between the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to the south and High Point State Park to the north giving New Jersey about 30 miles of uninterrupted parkland along the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Lodged between two more celebrated neighbors, Stokes can sometimes get overlooked. With 25 named trails, that should never happen for canine hikers. Before you start, stop in the office and pick up the best trail guide in New Jersey. 

Any type of canine hike is possible here - you could fill up a day just walking on beginner-to-moderate type trails that explore attractive streams, visit old mine sites or just disappear with your dog in a remote patch of woods land. But most visitors will point their dogs in the direction of Kittatinny Ridge and 1,653-foot Sunrise Mountain. Four trails lead to the Appalachian Trail atop the ridge in the vicinity of Sunrise Mountain enabling you to create hiking loops of between four and ten miles, depending on how long you want to walk on the ridge soaking in the views. This is absolutely a workout for your dog and the terrain can be rocky - take care especially coming down across large slabs of stone. 

To cap off your dog’s day at Stokes Forest head to Tillman Ravine for easy walking through a dark, shady evergreen forest of eastern hemlock. The Tillman Brook that carves this moist ravine is one of the prettiest in the state. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted in the campgrounds so that will be the end of your dog’s day at Stoke Forest. Until you come back tomorrow.

Take Route 206, four miles north of Branchville.