The weather is beautiful now, so take advantage of everything the South Mountain Reservation has to offer. The South Mountain Reservation is a 2,110 acre jewel right in our backyard. As the largest park in the Essex County Park System, the Reservation is a unique nature preserve on the Rahway River. It is located in central portions of Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange, and borders South Orange, between the first and second ridges of the Watchung Mountains. Designed by the Olmsted brothers, the Reservation has been preserved primarily in its wild state. Woodlands abound with a variety of hardwood trees and hemlocks towering above streams, creeks, ponds, and waterfalls.
More than 50 miles of trails and inspiring scenery are available for you to explore. Enjoy the stunning vistas of New York City and Jersey City. Admire the dramatic 25-foot waterfall at Hemlock Falls and the cascade of Maple Brook in the deep woods. And enjoy the ponds, streams, picnic areas and open fields in the interior valley.
The South Mountain Conservancy serves as a steward to the reservation. Through volunteerism and advocacy, this nonprofit group works within the reservation to support, protect and preserve the park. They run regular hikes, trail maintenance days, forest regeneration and native plant care taking. Click here to see the calendar of all planned hikes and activities.
The South Mountain Conservancy also sponsors the Wildflower Sculpture Park which opened in 2012. This park gives artists a chance to showcase their work and expand on ideas in a much larger format. Each spring new works are added to the permanent exhibits that are there. When visiting, be sure to see the Wildflower Preserve which adjoins the Sculpture Park.
The Wildflower Sculpture Park is located in front of the South Mountain Dog Park, which is also maintained by the Conservancy. The Dog Park opened in 2006 and is located in a portion of an old deer paddock. The two-acre facility is divided into two sections – 1.3 acres for large dogs and 0.7 acres for small dogs. This is a great place to take your furry friend for some exercise and socialization.
The South Mountain Recreation Complex offers something for everyone. The complex features the Codey Arena, Turtleback Zoo, MiniGolf Safari, Treetop Adventure Ropes Course, and the Waterfront.
- Richard J. Codey Arena, with two NHL sized rinks, is an ice hockey and ice skating arena. The ice skating arena is open to the public for skating, group skating lessons, private ice skating lessons and birthday parties. Figure skating sessions and ice hockey camps and clinics are also available year round.
- Turtleback Zoo opened in 1963 and took its name from a rock formation the Lenape Indians called Turtle Back Rock. Over the years the zoo has grown and expanded to include giraffes, wolves, jaguars and cougars, among many other animals. Coming soon are lions and hyenas! In addition to enjoying the animals, visitors can ride on the zoo train, play on the prehistoric playground, ride the endangered species carousel, feed the birds in the aviary, relax in the butterfly tent, and dine in the Savannah cafe. Turtleback Zoo is now accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association meaning it is considered one of the elite zoos and aquaria in the United States.
- MiniGOLF Safari, added in 2010, is an award winning 19 hole course with an African safari theme. Life-sized animal statues are located throughout the course.
- Treetop Adventure Ropes Course is a forest adventure park with 22 stations of rope bridges, zip lines, zigzag boards and logs. It takes approximately 90 minutes to complete the course.
- The Waterfront provides access to McCloone’s Boathouse Restaurant which offers beautiful views of the Orange Reservoir. Paddleboats can be rented for a fun afternoon paddling on the Reservoir. The children’s Regatta Playground is the newest addition to the Waterfront complex and it links with the Clipper Pavilion picnic area. Finally, there is a 1.7 mile walking trail around the Orange Reservoir which provides additional access to some of the trails in the South Mountain Reservation.
The South Mountain Reservation is truly one of the most stunning features in our local area. And it is quite literally, right in our back yard.