Tucked, somehow, between the bustling communities of Montclair, West Orange and Verona is the 400-plus-acre Eagle Rock Reservation, which boasts several trails for all hiking abilities, lush tree cover and unparalleled views of the New York City skyline.
Though it’s a recreation area to be enjoyed year-round, a winter trek through the reservation is a unique experience. Start on the easy Lenape Trail on the eastern edge of the park, and as it begins to loop north, you’ll get a pristine view of New York City, unobstructed by the bare trees at the edge of the area.
Though it’s liable to be icy in stretches of the reservation (indeed, you should wear shoes or boots with some tread), there’s beauty to be found in the iced over mini-waterfalls, the thin glaze on the streams and the autumn leaves petrified in iced puddles on the trail.
Now, the trails do tend to interweave, end abruptly and take you in loops if you’re not careful. We recommend studying the trail map before entering if you’re not familiar with the area, because you may end up needing to start following the blue blazes when the reds end, or you may find yourself on the yellows for some reason, only to circle back to blue. A compass, or a phone with service can also help you navigate, but the reservation is small enough that if you’re not in a rush for time, you can have a mini-adventure using the sun to navigate you back to your car. (Plus, another benefit of winter: you can, when necessary, cut through the untrailed areas to get back on track without fear of ticks or poison ivy).
In total, we walked close to three miles in a little over an hour, hitting all areas of the reservation. Paths are well-cut throughout so, when you’re on one, you should be able to get around with ease (with the occasional need to hop on a rock to cross over a creek, or grab a tree to steady yourself up an icy incline.).
At the end (or beginning) of your excursion, you can check out the 9/11 memorial and sculptures at the entrance of the park, with, again, terrific views of the Big Apple. There’s a higher-end restaurant here, the Highlawn Pavillion, open for dinner all week except for Monday, and brunch on Sunday (bring a change of clothes).
It’s a surprising area to immerse yourself in nature, given the density of the surrounding areas, but for its ease of access, well-maintained trails and lush woods, we recommend it for locals on a lunch break or those looking for a unique weekend outdoor experience.
Eagle Rock Reservation. Eagle Rock Ave & Prospect Ave, West Orange. More info here.