Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawayanda State Park

Posted on: August 1st, 2018 by

 

The ascent to the Pinwheel Vista on the Stairway to Heaven trail in Wawayanda State Park is an extremely rewarding and enjoyable hike that leads to one of the most stunning views in the state. Have you tried hiking it with kids?

 

Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawayanda State Park

There are two options for hiking the Stairway to Heaven Trail.

The Stairway to Heaven Trail hike is part of the Appalachian trial and takes you on a boardwalk over marshland, through a forest, near a cow pasture, and over a suspension bridge, before crossing Route 94 to a steep ascent to the phenomenal Pinwheel Vista. This complete there-and-back hike is about 7.3 miles. If you are looking for a shorter, albeit steep, hike that will have you immediately climbing up Wawayanda Mountain, I recommend starting the trail after it crosses Route 94. There are parking spots along the side of the road (use the address 441 New Jersey 94, Vernon Township, NJ). Parking here allows you to bypass the first 2 miles of the hike and puts you directly on the Stairway to Heaven trail with a total roundtrip (there and back) of 3 miles and a total elevation gain of around 900 feet. This stretch of hike is quite strenuous, but the views of the Kittatinny Mountains when you reach the Pinwheel Vista make it absolutely worthwhile!

 

Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawaynada State Park

 

Our hike along the Stairway to Heaven Trail

We were eagerly looking forward to this hike as we counted down the days until the weekend. This particular Sunday in June came with a prediction of rain but we prefer not to modify our plans due to weather! With our snacks, water, and bug spray packed, we drove to the Stairway to Heaven trail, parked along Route 94 to bypass the first 2 miles of the hike. Few cars were parked along the side of the road near the start of the trail, which was not surprising given the overcast skies. We grabbed our jackets and started the trail which begins by traversing a lovely field of flowers.

 

Stairway to Heaven trail hike in New Jersey highlands

 

With the mountain looming overhead, we began the ascent, maneuvering through the switchbacks and climbing over rocks. As this hike is part of the Appalachian Trail (white trail markers), we passed a number of solo and group hikers. We chatted with some of them at various points along the trail, and they filled us in on their journeys since starting the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in the spring. My daughter was so impressed with their stories that a week later she told the pediatrician during her annual visit that she wants to be an Appalachian Trail tour guide when she grows up!  

 

Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawaynada State Park

 

The rock scrambles continued as we made our way up the Stairway to Heaven Trail.  Just when we were beginning to think that the vista would never appear, we come across a gigantic pile of rocks with a sign that said “The View”.  

 

Hike the Stairway to Heaven hiking Trail in Wawaynada State Park

 

From this huge rock pile, we followed the dirt path and quickly reached Pinwheel Vista. This amazing vantage point is a perfect place to refuel, relax, and take in the view of the valleys below and the Kittatinny Mountains in the distance.  We were even able to see the High Point Monument in the distance.  After we felt sufficiently energized by food and fresh air, we retraced our steps down the mountain. Despite the threat of rain, the weather was absolutely perfect for the hike. This hike can have crowd levels equivalent to a mall in the days leading up to the holidays, but we were able to enjoy this fabulous trail with few hikers, allowing us extra time to climb boulders and examine rocks in a chilly mountain stream.

 

Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail along the appalachian trail in Wawaynada State Park

 

We rewarded ourselves for a hike well done with a delicious Italian meal at Grappa Ristorante in Warwick, NY. We sat outside and enjoyed some of the best Italian food we have ever eaten. As soon as we returned to the car to drive home, the skies opened up. At this point in the day though, the rain didn’t bother us as we had enjoyed an amazing Sunday morning in the New Jersey Highlands!

 

Hike with your kids Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawaynada State Park

 

Want to hike more with your kids?

Check out these Jersey Family Fun blog posts about hiking.

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