Panoramic Time-lapse From Wildcat Ridge Hawk Watch (YouTube video courtesy of Dave Blinder)
Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area, located off Rt. 513 in northern Morris County, features an official Hawk Migration Association of North America “hawkwatch” at the top of the ridge. This is a great place to see migrating hawks in the spring and fall as they ride the thermals along the ridgetop.
The Wildcat Ridge hawkwatch effort began in 1997 and is staffed with NJDEP Fish and Wildlife volunteers who perform hawk counts from August 15 to November 15, and again in the spring from February 15 to May 15. A kiosk provides information about the site. Unfortunately, a viewing platform on the ridgetop was destroyed by vandals and funding has yet to be secured for its replacement.
The breathtaking view of the Highlands forest and valleys is well worth the walk to the lookout even when the hawks are not moving. On a clear day the New York City skyline is visible from this overlook high on the edge of the ridge. As this panoramic time-lapse video illustrates, the view provides a glimpse of northern New Jersey’s vast Highlands forest – a resource valued by hundreds of species, including humans. No other area in north Jersey has the large unfragmented forests needed to preserve populations of endangered hawks, owls, and increasingly rare songbirds. These forests are also highly important to the millions of people living in urban centers whose drinking water comes from the lakes and streams of the Highlands, purified by its forests and open space.
The trail network here includes a segment of the Highlands Trail.
Directions to the Hawkwatch
From I-80, take exit 37 (Rockaway/Hibernia), turn left (north) at the light and follow Green Pond Road (County Rte. 513) for 6.3 miles, then turn right onto Upper Hibernia Road (at Marcella Community Club). Or if coming from the north, take the Green Pond Road exit off Route 23 and go 5.1 miles south, then turn left onto Upper Hibernia Road. Follow Upper Hibernia Road for 2.7 miles (it becomes a dirt road) to the white gravel parking lot on right, marked with a sign.
A bit further across the road are two white gate posts. Enter and walk to just before the yellow gate. Turn right here, and follow the orange-blazed trail to the hawkwatch site, a 20-25 minute walk. If you prefer a quicker route, you can instead go around the yellow gate, and follow the road to the site, a 15-20 minute walk. If following the road, about 3/4 mile up you will see a large stone pile (cairn) on right marking a trail that joins the orange trail about 35 feet into the woods.