Stairway to Heaven – Appalachian Trail to Pinwheel Vista

April 2, 2016 – Vernon Township, NJ

Difficulty: moderate – strenuous

Length: approximately 7.5 miles

Route type: out and back

The Pochuck Boardwalk  and Pochuck Creek Suspension Bridge are a unique and scenic section of the Appalachian Trail that is popular with hikers. Pinwheel Vista is a scenic outlook atop Wawayanda Mountain which is said to offer one of the best views in all of New Jersey. With that being said, it wasn’t tough deciding to do this hike.

I was a little disappointed that morning when it was raining, but I needed to get my hike in. It was supposed to clear up later on so we didn’t rush to get out the door. We geared up expecting the worst and off we went. Our hike was to begin at the boardwalk so we parked off the side of Route 517 which has parking alongside the road. These are the GPS coordinates N41 14.084 W74 28.852 for parking on 517.

It was still raining when we started at the trailhead, but it seemed to be letting up. So I donned my Yankees cap and we were off. Immediately I was pleased with this hike as the boardwalk was better in person than in the photos I had viewed online.

There was not another soul on the boardwalk and I was pleased. It was easy to photograph the surroundings without any strangers getting in my shot. It was a pleasant walk as the skies started to brighten up a bit. Birds started chirping and I was able to get a shot of a Red-winged Blackbird.

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Red-winged Blackbird

We continued along stopping often to capture images of all the twists and turns that this boardwalk was comprised of. Be advised that this boardwalk is completely exposed and on hot summer days it would be a good idea to wear some sunscreen and have plenty of water.

After a little more than a mile or so the 110 foot suspension bridge came into view.

I have to say, that with each step the bridge became more impressive. I have crossed countless bridges along the trails that I have hiked, but nothing as grand as this.

After crossing the bridge it was sort of a let down as we were spoiled by the boardwalk and had to continue on puncheons across a swampy pasture.

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puncheon

Off in the distance I could see our destination, which was still a little ways off. As we hiked across the pasture we had to cross over  a couple of stiles one being over railroad tracks and the other over Rt 94.

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stile

After crossing the tracks and the road we continued on the Appalachian Trail. It was mostly a dirt path for a bit with views of Wawayanda Mountain and Pinwheel Vista in the distance.

In no time we reached the “Stairway to Heaven” portion of the hike. It was the most grueling part of the hike and I knew it was coming. If you look at the above images, the trail led almost straight up from the base of Wawayanda Mountain with not too many switchbacks. The only photographs that I took on this section were right at the beginning.

The hike from here was steep and rocky. We rested as much as we needed, but we continued on using both hands and feet at times. Luckily it had stopped raining and the rocks were not soaked, which would have made it a tougher climb. By the time we reached the top it was almost straight up. being exhausted already, it made it that much tougher. I wasn’t about to quit now and all of a sudden there it was. Views, views and more views.

We took in the view and relaxed for a bit. I was in no hurry to leave here, but the hike was only half done. being an out and back, we had to retrace our steps and return the way we came. When we got back down to earth I turned around and took some shots of Pinwheel Vista.

We crossed over Rt. 94 to the pasture and the cows were out grazing and blocking the puncheon trail. I walked over to one of the cows to get my photograph taken and it started grunting as it started to move towards me. I hastily retreated and in the process almost stepped in it. I repeat….almost.

The rest of the hike was uneventful, although it was a pleasant walk back. Since now it was afternoon, the boardwalk was filled with people. I am glad we started out when we did. That’s all for today folks. Happy hiking.

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me

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