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|Park Overview:|| |
A site in transition from the grounds of long-abandoned Essex Mountain Sanatorium into a new, spacious suburban park on Second Watchung Mountain; accessible from the Lenape Trail as a side trip
|Dogs:||Dogs on leash|
|Trail Miles:||7 miles|
|Park Acreage:||284 acres|
|Verona, Cedar Grove, |
|Park Description:|| |
Hilltop Reservation is a relatively new nature preserve in one of the most densely populated counties in the United States. One advantage is that cell telephone service is available throughout. It is located on a site that formerly included the grounds of the Essex Mountain Sanatorium, and before that other public service institutions dating back to the mid-1870s. The Sanatorium was established in 1907 to treat tuberculosis patients; the effort was ultimately abandoned in 1977. The current and early 20th century names are revealing, because they draw attention to the fact the Reservation is elevated - namely a site on the Second Watchung Mountain [sometimes mistakenly called "Orange Mountain"]. The Watchung Mountains are a group of three long low ridges of volcanic origin, around 400 to 500 feet high, lying parallel to each other. For additional information, see the Trail Conference's Watchung Region.
The site is in transition since the NJ Department of Environmental Protection dedicated the land for conservation and recreational purposes in 2001. The Hilltop Conservancy, a private not-for-profit organization, has assumed a leading role to revive the site. Still, in 2011 many of the buildings constructed around 1900 - after a fire destroyed the original structure -- continue to stand as abandoned reminders of its past. The Reservation is part of the Essex County Park System.
Physically, Hilltop Reservation has the general shape of an irregular, long rectangle extending northeast from Verona - which is situated in a valley between the First and Second Watchungs -- to Cedar Grove. It parallels Fairview Avenue for much of the way, with smaller sections spreading out into Caldwell and North Caldwell. The Reservation's highest point is 670 feet.
|Trails Overview:|| |
According to a 2010 trail map, the Reservation has eight relatively short blazed trails ranging from 0.3 mile to 1.8 miles. The network of interlacing trails adds up to just short of seven miles, and provides several opportunities to plan lollipop hikes [part in-and-out; part loop].
No copies of trail maps are available at the parking areas. Hikers are encouraged to print maps from the link at the top of this section before heading into the Reservation.
Note: biking is restricted to paved roads within the park.
Driving: Hillside Reservation can be reached in numerous ways in this suburban setting. Bloomfield Avenue [Route 506] and Fairview Avenue are two main intersections near its southwestern corner at the Verona Community Center. Use the Map Tab above, or Google "Verona, NJ 07044." The Reservation is too new to be identified on Google's street map, but a satellite view shows the absence of suburban development.
Public transportation: NJ Transit Bus #29 from Newark Penn Station runs along Bloomfield Avenue to Verona. DeCamp Bus #33 from the Port Authority Bus Terminal [W.42nd Street and 8th Ave] also runs along Bloomfield Avenue. Ask to get off at the Verona Community Center [Bloomfield Ave. and Linn Drive].
|Contact Information:||The Hilltop Conservancy |