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Swartswood State Park
This hike follows old woods roads and footpaths through the forest, passing several attractive ponds.
Allowed on leash
Swartswood State Park trail map (available at the park office)
Take Interstate Route 80 to Exit 25 and proceed north on U.S. Route 206 for about 12 miles to a T-intersection in the center of the Town of Newton. Continuing to follow U.S. 206 North, turn left on Spring Street for one block. Then, with the Sussex County Courthouse ahead to your left, turn right onto Water Street, again for only one block. At the next intersection, turn left onto Mill Street (County Route 519). Continue on Route 519 for 0.4 mile, and turn left onto County Route 622. Follow Route 622 for 4.3 miles, and turn left onto County Route 619. In 0.6 mile, the main entrance to the park is on the right (you might want to stop here to pick up a trail map). Just beyond, turn left at a sign for the Duck Pond Multi-Use Trail Area, and park along the side of the road (do not block the gate).
You will notice a brown sign marking the start of the Duck Pond Multi-Use Trail on the left side of the road (before the gate), and a wooden bench to the right. To the left of the bench, three yellow blazes on a tree mark the start of the yellow-blazed Bear Claw Trail. Follow this trail through a pleasant second-growth forest, crossing numerous stone walls – evidence that this area was once farmed. After climbing a low rise, the Bear Claw Trail descends to end at the paved Duck Pond Multi-Use Trail.
On the other side of the paved trail, a sign indicates the start of the Spring Lake Trail. Actually, though, you will first be following the white-blazed Dove Island Trail. Continue ahead on a footpath, which soon curves sharply left and begins to run parallel to the shore of Duck Pond. Like the other ponds that you’ll be passing on the hike, Duck Pond is known as a “sinkhole pond” – meaning that it was formed in a depression in the limestone that underlies the area. The water level in this and other sinkhole ponds varies significantly from season to season, and they are home to a number of rare and endangered species.
After crossing a low stone wall (where a path leads, left, to the lakeshore), the Dove Island Trail bears right, away from the water, and it soon ends at a junction with the red-blazed Spring Lake Trail. Turn right onto the Spring Lake Trail, which follows the route of an old woods road, now largely overgrown with tall grass.
At the next two intersections, bear left. (The unmarked trail that goes off to the right at the first intersection leads to a parking area on Dove Island Road; at the second intersection, the trail to the right leads to an overlook on the southwestern shore of Spring Lake.) After passing the second intersection, you will notice Spring Lake through the trees on your right. Just beyond, a green-blazed connecting trail begins to the left, but you should continue ahead on the red-blazed Spring Lake Trail, which makes a short ascent and then turns sharply right.
Soon, you’ll reach a four-way intersection. A blue-blazed connecting trail begins to the left, but you should turn right and follow an unmarked trail that leads down to the shore of beautiful Spring Lake. This lake is technically a sinkhole pond, but it is deep enough that is filled with water year-round. A bench has been placed near the shore, and you will want to spend a little time contemplating the scenic surroundings.
When you’re ready to continue, take the right fork of the trail (facing away from the lake) that leads back to the red-blazed Spring Lake Trail. Turn right on the Spring Lake Trail, which soon passes through a hemlock grove and reaches a third sinkhole pond. This one, known as Little Frog Pond, is little more than a shallow grassy depression partially covered with water, and it is an interesting contrast to the two larger ponds that you passed earlier in the hike.
The Spring Lake Trail continues through dense groves of hemlock and eventually comes to an intersection where the red blazes lead both straight ahead and to the left. This is the beginning of the “tail” of the loop, and you should continue straight ahead to reach the trailhead on the entrance road to the Duck Pond Group Camping Area. Turn right, follow the entrance road back to Route 619, turn left onto Route 619, and follow it a very short distance to reach the turn-off for the Duck Pond Multi-Use Trail Area, where the hike began.
To view a photo collection for this hike, click here.