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!
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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!
Want to hike more with your kids?
Check out these Jersey Family Fun blog posts about hiking.
- Hike NJ Hacklebarney State Park Hiking Trails with your Kids
- Hike Mount Tammany of the Kittatinny Mountains in NJ With your Kids
- Hike Up Anthony’s Nose in New York
- Hike the Ice Caves Trail at Sam’s Point Preserve
- Hunterdon County Hiking for Kids at the Hunterdon County Arboretum
- Hawk Rise Sanctuary ~ Linden’s Nature & Wildlife Trail
- Discovering a Kid’s Love for Nature in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve
- Updated for 2018, Get Ready for the New Jersey National Trails Day Events