Hike, Fish and Paddle in the Skylands

A memorable experience awaits in the Skylands Region, a destination that offers a variety of activities for thrill-seekers and casual day-trippers.

With a name like Cranberry Lake you might envision a bog in the flatlands of the Pine Barrens. This 180-acre lake, however, is located about five miles north of Rt. 80 on Rt. 206 and offers scenic hiking, biking and paddling within the hilly terrain of Allamuchy Township. Surrounded by Allamuchy State Park, the area around the lake in the Skylands Region is anything but flat and offers great variety for both the adventurous and the casual day-tripper.

If trails are your goal, the Allamuchy Natural Area offers more than 14 miles of marked trails to explore by foot, mountain bike or horseback. In the surrounding Allamuchy Mountain State Park there are more than 20 miles of unmarked trails waiting to be discovered.

The rail-to-trail Sussex Branch Trail provides access to Cranberry Lake on its west shore from Waterloo Road and a segment of the Highlands Trail also makes its way through this region of the Skylands. Whether you are looking for a relaxed stroll or a strenuous day-hike, there are trails here for everyone.

History buffs of all ages will enjoy a day at nearby Wild West City. Celebrating more than 50 years of re-creating the excitement of the Old West, more than 20 shows per day provide exciting glimpses at cowboys and outlaws as you enjoy the various shops and saloons along Main Street.

If local history interests you, take advantage of scheduled opportunities to explore Waterloo Village on the Morris Canal as well as the pre-historic ways of the Lenape Indians made available to groups.

Perhaps you have a passion for paddling or fervor for fishing. The Musconetcong River provides a three-mile long water trail for canoes, kayaks and rowboats. It flows between Waterloo Road and Saxton Falls. Cranberry Lake also offers a public launch for boats of all kinds and row boats are available for rent.

Nearby Hopatcong State Park also allows fishing, boating and swimming within its 2,500 acres of freshwater Lake Hopatcong. The fishing is excellent in each of these water bodies.

No matter what your daytime destination, food and fatigue will eventually beckon. Your hike may have made you think of the Black Forest in Germany so before heading home make plans to have dinner at the Black Forest Inn in Stanhope.

For those making a weekend of it consider camping at Stephens State Park. You will be lulled to sleep by the peaceful sounds of Saxton Falls.

However you spend your time in the Skylands, enjoy yourself and make a point to learn something unique to the region like the Legend of Wavin' Willie. Be sure to return, seek out other sights and share your experiences with others.