Branch Brook Park holds an annual Cherry Blossom Festival celebrating its famous collection of cherry trees. The park features woodlands, meadows, a lake, sculptures, sports facilities, and stone bridges. Branch Brook Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers Firm and is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Lenape Trailhead: Clifton Ave & 8th Ave; nearest car entrance: Clifton Ave. Click on the link below to hear a clip from Timestorm set in Branch Brook Park.
Belleville Park borders the northern end of Branch Brook Park where the Lenape Trail connects the two parks. It features winding walking paths, sports fields, and a collection of cherry trees. The land that is now Belleville Park once belonged to the Hendricks family, owners of the Belleville Copper Rolling Mill. Belleville Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers Firm.
Yanticaw Park features a valley section with walking paths and vast open areas along the meandering Third River, which the Lenape Trail crosses over. The Lenape people called the river Yountakah as was recorded on a deed they made with Captain Robert Treat in 1666. It also has an upper area with several sports fields and courts. Nutley Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers Firm.
Brookdale Park is home to the Essex County Rose Garden, featuring about 1,500 rose bushes. More recently, a pollinator garden was added. The park offers many recreational facilities such as a stadium with grandstand seating and an archery range. The Lenape Trail aligns with the outer western portion of the park's running/walking circuit. Brookdale Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers Firm.
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens showcases over 10,000 iris plants, including some planted in the 1500s. Named in memory of Frank Presby, founder of the American Iris Society, the gardens were independently maintained until they became part of the Essex County Park System in 2009. Peak blooming season is mid-May-early June. Also on the grounds is the PresBee Sanctuary, home to a colony of honeybees. Recommended parking for Presby Gardens & Mills Reservation: Laurel Place (2-hour limit Mon-Fri).
Mills Reservation offers a series of hiking trails over a 157-acre forest along the First Watchung Mountain. A highlight is Quarry Point, an overlook with a viewpoint of the NYC skyline. The New Jersey Audubon Society hosts Hawkwatch events in the reservation. The Lenape people were reported to have used the area to send smoke signals. The Olmsted Brothers Firm designed a section of the reservation. Recommended parking for Presby Gardens & Mills Reservation: Laurel Place (2-hour limit Mon-Fri).
The Cedar Grove Reservoir has a public section that includes a portion of the Lenape Trail. Along the trail, you'll come across a short Bamboo Jungle that makes for a fun, brief detour. Although construction of the reservoir began in 1901, there were many setbacks such as malaria and smallpox outbreaks that delayed the completion of the site by more than 2 years. The reservoir serves as the water supply for the city of Newark.
The West Essex Trail is a rail-trail that follows about 3 miles of the old Erie-Lackawanna Railroad line. The north end begins on the Essex-Passaic county line with the path winding its way through Cedar Grove and Verona. The portion that aligns with the Lenape Trail is in Cedar Grove.
Cedar Grove Park is the most recent addition to the Essex County Park system. It sits on nearly 80 acres of land that was once the site of the former Overbrook Asylum. The Lenape Trail briefly aligns with a walking path on the western side of the park. Recommended parking: Cedar Grove Park lot (next to the Robert J O'Toole Community Center).
Hilltop Reservation is a wildlife habitat and nature preserve spanning 284 acres that formerly held county institutional buildings, including a county jail and a sanatorium where tuberculosis patients were treated. The Lenape Trail joins the reservation off of a path in Cedar Grove Park. A brief climb leads to a walk through grasslands and wildflowers before descending towards Bloomfield Ave in Verona. Recommended parking: Cedar Grove Park lot (next to the Robert J O'Toole Community Center).
Verona Park is known for its lake, which is used for recreational boating and fishing. The northern part of the lake features a small island and dam. There's also an impressive stone bridge at the center of the lake. Another highlight is the cobblestone stone bandstand/gazebo that has been used for concerts and theatrical productions. The Lenape Trail encircles most of the lake. Verona Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers Firm.
Eagle Rock Reservation covers over 400 acres and includes several hiking trails. An overlook of NYC was dedicated as a memorial to the victims of the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. During the American Revolution, George Washington is said to have watched British troops cross the Hudson River from here. The Lenape Trail joins in the north end (Verona) and continues to Eagle Rock Ave (W Orange). Recommended parking: Eagle Rock Observation lot. Nearest car entrance: Mountain Ave.
South Mountain Reservation spans over 2,000 acres of forest. Features include 50 miles of trails, lookouts of New York City, picnicking areas, a 25-foot waterfall, and a Fairy Trail. An ice skating rink, zoo, and reservoir are also part of the reservation. South Mountain Reservation was designed by the Olmsted Brothers Firm. This reservation is best explored in 2 visits. Recommended parking: 1. Hemlock Falls parking area (South Orange Ave.) 2. Locust Grove/Lenape trailhead (Glen Ave.)