The Round Valley Reservoir in New Jersey is well-known for its pristine clear blue waters. The reservoir was formed in 1960 when two large dams flooded the Cushetunk Mountain valley (the Lenape Native American name 'Cushetunk' means 'place of hogs'
). The reservoir is the deepest body of water in New Jersey and is also sometimes referred to as the 'Bermuda Triangle' of New Jersey due to the multiple drownings that have occurred there in the past few decades. Fortunately, there are several trails to explore around the lake instead of going swimming! The park is also one of the few that offers wilderness camping, so is a perfect place to go to in order to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.*Cick here to learn more about the difficulty rating.
View from the south carpark
The best way to get to Round Valley Reservoir is by getting on the I-78 (Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway). If you are coming from the east (taking the I-78 west) from New York City or New Brunswick, you will need to take exit 20A to get on Route 22 heading west. If you are coming from the west (taking the I-78 east) from the direction of Phillipsburg or Allentown, then you will need to take exit 18 to get on Route 22 heading east. Once you are on Route 22, following the signs will direct you to the park.Direction to the Round Valley Reservoir when taking the I-78 west
There are three main trails at Round Valley Reservoir: the Pine Tree Trail and the Family Hiking Trail that lie to the west of the south carpark and are very short (1.6km and 0.8km loops respectively) that pass through pinewood (Pinus sp.
); and the much longer 14.5km-long Cushetunk Trail, which was the one that we were to snowshoe on. The Cushetunk Trail heads eastwards from the south carpark instead and makes an almost complete loop around the reservoir (no trails completely circle the reservoir), passing by the wilderness campsites along the way. This trail has been described as "rugged, rocky and steep", albeit I found it to be extremely tame (so much so that you can even mountain bike on it) compared to the occasionally impenetrable jungle terrain that I am far more used to.This was, quite literally, a walk in the park.Conifer cones
You need to be aware of the park opening hours on the day you go as you need to be out of the park before it closes. The opening hours are generally from 08:00 to 18:00 (to 16:00 from November to February) but vary depending on the day and the season. The exception is if you are there for camping of course (campsites are open from April to October and cost USD22
per night) in which you will need to check-in at the park office by 16:00. The map of the trails and the opening hours of the park can be found here
Snowshoeing is a form of hiking that allows you to extend your hiking season well into winter. The gear is fairly inexpensive and the skills are very easy to learn. Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the hiker over a larger area (called 'flotation') so that one's feet do not sink into the snow, contributing to postholing
in the process. The fact that you end up walking on the layer of snow also means that your presence is also far less detrimental to the environment, since it does not contribute to trail erosion.When putting on the snowshoe, push your foot all the way to the front before securing it. Then only secure the back, snugly and not too tight.
Navigating slopes when snowshoeing comes with its own set of techniques. Steep hills with very powdery snow require you to kick into the hill and step up. Doing so plants the crampons into the snow and directly underneath the balls of your feet. You can also step a few times in each step to compress the snow underneath. This helps to create a solid base for each footstep. Also please remember to stay away from icy slopes as they tend to be quite unforgiving! When going downhill on the other hand, try and keep your body upright and your knees bent. Poles help quite a bit here since they not only assist with balancing, but also with stability and control. Take the slopes slowly at first until you get used to them, and don't rush.
The poles that I just mentioned also help when navigating around obstacles. A thick layer of snow tends to hide objects underneath and testing the ground in front of you for holes, logs, rocks, or tree wells, can help tremendously. If the person in front of you is using poles, also be sure to keep your distance to avoid getting poked!One last thing to bear in mind is that skiers have the right-of-way on trails as it is far easier for you as a snowshoer to step off the trail than it is for a skier to maneuver around you. Always be sure to show proper trail etiquette when encountering others on the trails.