Simply put, a trip up Pyramid Mountain north of Boonton is a perfect hike. Well-blazed and -maintained trails, an occasional light scramble, frequent vistas, unique rock structures, challenging climbs and near-complete isolation… what’s better than that?
The Pyramid Mountain National Historic area features three glacially formed rock formations (or, glacial erratics) that you would say defy physics if not for the fact that physics made them happen. Trails, and off-shoots, guide you to all three; but there’s far less ballyhoo for dozens of unique rock formations that make for a good sit or scramble. Vistas range from the modest (a big valley with some high-line power wires) to the majestic, like an unparalleled view of the NYC skyline and glimpses of the valleys and towns below.
There’s a large parking area with quick access to the trailhead at 472 Boonton Ave. in Boonton. On a weekday afternoon, it was half-full, and could easily fill up on the weekends. We took one side of the blue loop up to the magnificent tripod rock, then the other side of the blue loop back to the lot—about 3 miles in total, with (and this is a rough estimate) about 800 feet of elevation.
Much of the elevation, if you swing to the left loop of the blue trail occurs within the first half mile or so—it’s a little more even, with a steeper final ascent on the right side of the loop. Walk down a tree-curbed gravel path to a bouncy wooden bridge and you’ll be in the elements. The trail rises steeply before sweeping into switchbacks. When you get to what feels like the top of the trail (about three-quarter miles in), there are plenty of vistas with natural, large, smooth rocks to take in the scenery.
Make sure you bring a copy of the trail map, or take a photo of it before you enter; though the trail is very well blazed, there are a handful of moments where you’ll want to confirm you’re on the right path, or know how long a loop to bear rock, let’s say, will add to your hike. But, really, the blazes keep you on track and the signs for offshoot attractions are well placed.
The trail descends a bit as you close out the left side of the loop; you’ll be walking on crunched leaves and pine straw with the occasional flash of sunlight making its way through the canopy. Abundant wildlife will dart off into the foliage; we didn’t see a bear on this trip, but warning signs encourage hikers to be bear aware, and anecdotally speaking, this is exactly the place you’d see a bear.
The two sides of the loop combine, and you’ll continue on the blue trail toward tripod rock, which you’ll reach in a third of a mile or so. The rock is stunning; it’s a 180-ton boulder balanced on three much smaller rocks. The Wisconsin Glacier moved these rocks into this awesome position about 18,000 years ago. Around tripod rock, theres space to hang out and take a breather before heading back.
Now, the return trip, down the right side of the loop is mostly downhill, but in at least three stretches, you’ll be grabbing onto stone to make safe travel. The path in these stretches is perfect—beginners might feel a little uneasy at their diciest points, but they’re all eminently do-able, and hikers will get an extra dopamine hit for traveling across them and maybe taking the trail less traveled back to the main trail.
After the passage of rock, the trail becomes an easy cool-down jaunt back to the lot; you’ll pass again through the valley, back into the woods and end up at the lot having tackled a challenging, but accessible hike.
Go here: Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area. 472 Boonton Ave. in Boonton. More info here.