This route starts at NJ’s highest waterfall, Buttermilk Falls. Hike steeply uphill to the Appalachian Trail to Crater Lake and Hemlock Pond.

7.2 miles – Moderate trail surface; steep in the beginning (so again at the end). Walking stick or trekking poles are helpful if you have them. Rocky sections but also a lot of easy woods roads.

Hike Info:

–Trail Map
–Park info
–Online Map

  • Super short: Just climb up the stairs around the falls and enjoy. You can continue on the BLUE trail at the top, but be aware it is quite steep right from the start and more than a stroll in the woods. Consider combining a stop at Buttermilk Falls with a short hike at Tillman Ravine on the way.
  • Medium: Buttermilk Falls trail to an unmarked woods road to Hemlock Pond and return; roughly 5 miles.
  • Alternate Medium: Good 6.4 loop to Rattlesnake Mtn, w/o Crater or Hemlock, is in Hiking
    New Jersey
    .
  • Optional add-on: Silver Spray Falls (Hidden Falls) trailhead is about .5 mile from Buttermilk Falls (walk north along Mountain road, trailhead is unmarked, there is a pull off area with room for 1, maybe 2 cars). Then it’s about .25 miles from the trailhead to the falls. Cross the stream or you’ll miss it. Trying to locate these falls is part of the fun, and people often don’t find them on the first attempt.
  • Nearby: Tillman Ravine, Appalachian Trail – Crater Lake to Blue Mountain, Millbrook Village and Van Campens Glen, Van Campens Glen.

Our two cents:

Buttermilk Falls is mere steps away from a parking lot and requires no hiking to see it, so this means the area can get crowded.

A set of elaborate stairs can be climbed to get other views of the waterfall. The route below continues up past the falls to Crater Lake and Hemlock Pond for an awesome day out.

Update 7/2019 Re-hiked, description/online map updated, added photos and moved some older ones to their respective trail blog. 1/2018 – Added winter parking note. 4/2016 – Minor description changes; only hiked to falls for photos. 6/2013 – Trail description and GPS coordinates revised, more photos and a video of the falls added.

Buttermilk Falls after recent rainfall:

Map:

Map# 121 of the Kittatinny Trails map set. The portion of this route that loops around Crater Lake can be confusing; we strongly recommend to have the map set with you, and use our Buttermilk Falls online map.

Note: Google’s map data has the Appalachian Trail marked incorrectly in the area between Buttermilk Falls Trail and Crater Lake. It does not split in two, one of these trails is an unmarked trail.

Books:

A shorter alternate loop (6.4 miles) from Buttermilk Falls can be found in Hiking
New Jersey
.

A long backpack on the Appalachian Trail that skirts near Crater Lake can be found in 50 Hikes in New Jersey. An excellent guide to all of the trails in the region is Kittatinny Trails.

Parking: N41.13702° W74.88917°

Mountain Rd, Layton, NJ 07851. This is a park road and doesn’t contain a street number. Lot can fill up.

Lot is a medium-sized dirt lot, reached by a dirt road that has bumps and potholes – many are rather deep.

Mountain Road is fine with a regular car if you take it slow – but if you tool around in a really sweet ride you may want to have someone else drive 🙂 or park at either end and walk down the road to the falls.

Rt. 206 N, past Culver’s Lake. Left onto Struble Road. This becomes Dimon Road. Pass two parking areas on the left for Tillman Ravine.

At the intersection near Walpack Cemetery, turn left onto Mountain Road. Keep going on Mountain Road until you see a large dirt lot on the right with Buttermilk Falls on the left.

Alternate Parking: Parking can be approached from the other direction: North on Rt 602 through Millbrook, R onto park road 615 Walpack Flatbrook Road, R on Haney’s Mill, and cross a bridge on to Mountain Road, the falls parking is on the left about a mile in – although we feel the 206 way is easier.

Winter Parking: Many roads in the area are gated in January or at first significant snowfall so you’ll need to walk down Mountain Road to access the falls.

For roughly a mile road walk, use the alternate directions above, park at the gate, and walk from there. You can also park on the other end at Walpack Cemetery but from there it’s almost a 2 mile walk down Mountain Road.

Restrooms:

None at the Falls parking. If you approach from Rt. 206, there are outhouses at the two Tillman Ravine parking lots on Mountain Rd.

If you approach from the other direction, there may be portas at Millbrook, and restrooms when it’s open. During the hike there are two composting toilets in the parking lot at Crater Lake.

Buttermilk Falls seen from the parking lot.
Buttermilk Falls parking area
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Buttermilk Falls after lots of rain.
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Buttermilk Falls when it's not flowing as much.
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Stairs alongside the falls.
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Top of the falls.
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Looking down the falls from a viewing platform.
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Looking back at the top viewing platform that is at the edge of the falls.
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Top of the falls
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Top of the falls
Buttermilk Falls trail. The steepness doesn't translate in photos.
Buttermilk Falls trail
Buttermilk Falls trail
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Buttermilk Falls BLUE trail
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Buttermilk Falls BLUE trail crosses a woods road.
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Buttermilk Falls BLUE trail
Limited view heading up Buttermilk Falls trail
Buttermilk Falls sign at the junction with the Appalachian Trail.
Appalachian Trail and Crater Lake Trail
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Limited view along the Applachian Trail
Crater Lake Trail
Crater Lake Trail
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Crater Lake
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Crater Lake
Crater Lake Trail continues at the gate in the parking area
Crater Lake Trail continues on a woods road with power lines
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On the trail to Hemlock Pond
Hemlock Pond Trail
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Hemlock Pond
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Hemlock Pond
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Woods road around Hemlock Pond
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Other side of Hemlock Pond
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Other side of Hemlock Pond
Swampy area
Stream crossing with rocks.
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Woods road on the way back.
Buttermilk Falls trail on the way down.

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Hike Directions:

Overview: Buttermilk Falls (BLUE) – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Crater Lake (ORANGE?) – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) – Hemlock Pond (ORANGE) – Blue Mt Lake Trail (unmarked) – Woods Road (labeled as such on the map) – Buttermilk Falls (BLUE)

0.0 – After viewing the falls, climb the stairs more views of the falls. At the top, cross a wooden footbridge. Follow BLUE (Buttermilk Falls). Immediately the trail is very steep. Head steadily uphill with a few level sections.

1.1 – Continue on Buttermilk Falls (BLUE), crossing unmarked Woods Road.

[Variation: turn right and follow the woods road to Hemlock Pond.]

Buttermilk Falls (BLUE) continues to head steeply up, over some rock slabs.

1.4 – Pause on the climb up and turn around for a limited view.

1.5 – Buttermilk Falls wooden sign. Turn RIGHT, now following the Appalachian Trail (WHITE). [Buttermilk Falls (BLUE) ends].

Shortly, the Appalachian Trail will turn right away from the old woods road it was following, then soon turns left.

2.4 – Sign for Hemlock Pond (ORANGE). Turn LEFT to continue following Appalachian Trail (WHITE).

———
Note: The trails in the area around Crater Lake can be confusing. Plus, on older maps the trail to Hemlock Pond and the trail that circles Crater Lake were combined and marked ORANGE.

The current edition of Kittatinny Trails (2016) now has the blaze color of the trail around Crater Lake as “none” while Hemlock Pond is still ORANGE. The park map on the kiosk in the parking lot doesn’t denote colors for any trail.

Orange blazes are visible on the Crater Lake Trail, however. We’ve updated the description to use “Crater Lake (ORANGE?)” and “Hemlock Pond (ORANGE)”.
———

Shortly, follow Appalachian Trail (WHITE) to the RIGHT, where it is co-joined with Crater Lake (ORANGE?). [Crater Lake (ORANGE?) also goes left].

2.7 – Follow Appalachian Trail (WHITE) as it bears RIGHT, over a rock slab, to a little bit of a view. [Crater Lake (ORANGE?) continues straight and meets with the A.T. in a bit.]

2.8 – Appalachian Trail (WHITE) curves around and ends up back at Crater Lake (ORANGE?).

Turn RIGHT to now follow Crater Lake (ORANGE?). There were orange blazes in this area.

[Continuing straight on Appalachian Trail (WHITE) is an alternate route. It is a short steep scramble down and will meet up with this route later, reducing the mileage a little.]

Continue following Crater Lake (ORANGE?) an easy woods road. It will loop around and gently go downhill.

3.2 – Continue straight on Crater Lake (ORANGE?) where the Appalachian Trail (WHITE) crosses it. Ignore any side trails.

3.7 – Crater Lake Parking lot. At the edge of the lake are some rocky outcrops to sit on. Map kiosks and toilets are in the lot.

To continue following Crater Lake (ORANGE?), look for the woods road beyond a metal barricade in the parking lot. [The informal path near the lake is not the trail.] A power line is visible along the woods road.

3.9 – At the end of the lake, Crater Lake (ORANGE?) bears LEFT. [A woods road goes right and leads to the “Mount Paradise” area marked on the map.]

4.0 – Follow Crater Lake (ORANGE?) as it turns RIGHT. [A woods road continues straight as well.]

In just a bit, it turns LEFT. Then turn RIGHT to now follow the Appalachian Trail (WHITE) again.

4.1 – At the sign for Hemlock Pond, continue straight to now follow Hemlock Pond (ORANGE). Trail descends on a rocky footpath.

4.4 – Continue following Hemlock Pond (ORANGE) as the trail jogs to the RIGHT and then a quick LEFT when crossing an unmarked trail.

At another junction with a woods road Hemlock Pond will be visible ahead. Continue on Hemlock Pond (ORANGE) to the waters edge, where there is a spot to sit and get a view of the pond.

Backtrack to the junction and turn RIGHT to now follow Blue Mt Lake Trail (unmarked), an easy woods road around Hemlock Pond. The pond is somewhat visible through the trees on the right.

Pass a woods road on the left [this leads to Blue Mountain Lakes.]

4.9 – At the end of the Pond turn RIGHT. [A woods road goes left and leads to Blue Mountain Lakes.] A large rock outcrop makes a good break spot with nice views of Hemlock Pond.

5.0 – Continue along the pond edge and then turn LEFT down a faint trail.

5.1 – Continue straight, now following Woods Road – this is actually called “Woods Road” on the map as opposed to the other unnamed woods roads. [A woods road also goes right which circles around the other side of Hemlock Pond.]

5.3 – Swampy area on the right with a stream crossing just after. Rocks and logs formed into a bridge makes an easy crossing.

(This used to be harder, especially if the water was high. It could become that again if the makeshift bridge ever washes away.)

6.2 – Turn LEFT and again follow Buttermilk Falls (BLUE). Retrace the route steeply downhill back to Buttermilk Falls.

Hiked: 6/22/19. Full route.
Hiked: 4/10/16. Silver Spray Falls and Buttermilk Falls only, for photos.

Hiked: 6/15/13. Trail Blog: “Buttermilk Falls, Crater Lake and Hemlock Pond Loop
Hiked: 10/4/09. Trail Blog: “Buttermilk Falls, Crater Lake, Hemlock Pond… and a bear hiking the AT
Hiked: 4/10/06. Trail Blog: “Buttermilk Falls to AT to Crater Lake and Hemlock Pond