This was the first time I did a legit sunrise hike. I did a "hike" at the Garden of the Gods if you saw this blog post. However, the Garden of the Gods I was walking the paved bath from a paved parking lot.
My trip to High Point Monument, began with a google search of best sunrise spots in New Jersey. This came up with a few different locations. High Point was in the top four best sunrise spots. With that information, the ball started rolling to plan a camping weekend with friends. If you want to spend a weekend here, check out this blog post to see all that High Point State Park has to offer.
Here is a video to share my experience of this sunrise hike!
Now, you might be wondering why we didn’t just drive up to the monument for sunrise. Well, the park doesn’t open until 8 AM so you need to hike to the monument to see the sunrise.
Before you do a sunrise hike, there is a decent amount of prep that goes into planning your hike. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Sunrise time, then subtract 20 minutes (ie if it’s 5:40 your goal should be to get there by 5:20)
Is the weather supposed to be clear?
How many miles is the hike?
How long will it take you to complete those miles? Buffer extra time.
What is the trail elevation?
What time should you go to bed?
How much time will you need to get up and get your things together to leave on time?
How long will it take to get to the trailhead?
Do you have a headlamp? A flashlight will work but a headlamp will keep the light to where you’re looking and if you encounter a spot where you need to scramble it can be very tricky.
Gear is important to have. I have a blog post on must-have hiking items, check that out for general hiking items. I may include some in the below list, but here are items I say are a must-have and options items:
Those are a few things to consider before committing to a sunrise hike. For this post purpose, I will give a real-time amount for our hike experience so you can learn from my experience. When you go for a sunrise hike, one thing to keep in mind, you cannot slow down the sunrise.
A sunrise hike prep starts the night before. You will need to get all the gear you will need for your early AM departure. Since the sunrise was 5:40 AM, we estimated the hike time taking us about an hour. Our goal was to leave our campground by 4:30 AM and arrive at the monument by 5:20 AM.
Now, a major disclaimer is all trails length for this hike is wrong. We were working with information that said the whole trail would be 3 miles long. It was probably closer to 6 miles. So not only was our time off but so was the distance. We did get to witness the sun rising but not is coming over the horizon.
Since our trip there has been a trail added for some reason we could see at the time. The trail name to look for, Sawmill Lake to Monument High Point, it said 5.3 miles and 1,030 feet elevation. As great as All Trails is, you can run into these issues
From our campsite, the Blue Dot Trail was two campsites away so we were thankfully very close to the trailhead. From here we started on our trek. The beginning of the trail is pretty easy, once you’re about .2 miles in, you hit the rocks where you will need to get ready for a stretch of scrambles. The trail is marked by white markers on trees or rocks.
We had a Golden Retriever with us, this section was special. Thankful my friends have super strength and could pick the dog up to get to the next level. I would say if you do not want to pick up your dog or do not feel comfortable doing that, I advise you don’t bring your dog.
On All Trails, it shoes you hitting .4 miles the Blue Dot Trail ends turns in the Appalachian trail. You will have the option to go right or left, go left (the direction we started to see the blue glow coming). This happens after you follow the scramble bit. The strecth you just completed is the toughest part of the hike.
After you go to the left you will have under one to till you reach a spot where three trails intersect. You want to talk the one straight across. It has red markers. Do not you turn down the Blue Trail or IRIS Trail.
The red trail which is still the Appalachian Trail will bring you out to Route 23 which you will need to cross. Depending on your time, walk across the street to keep taking the trail. The previous day the two friends I was hiking did that section of the trail and you just see trees.
Since we already had a decent amount of morning night we walked through the park entrance to get views of the sunrise. We knew we wanted to see the sun coming up and the section of the trails we would take would mostly be a view of trees.
I'm so thankful we went with the park entrance since we were missing the summit view for sunrise. It was stunning seeing the colorful sunrise reflect off Lake Marcia. This added distance to our hike, but it gave us the chance to see the sunrise and get these stunning photos! We didn’t linger for long because the goal was still to get to the monument and we had distance and the bulk of the elevation to complete.
Now, I am not the best at elevation gain, but I am trying to increase my endurance to get better. Keep the elevation gain in mind for when you reach the later part of this hike. It isn’t terrible but with being tired, it can make you more sluggish.
Once your break off the trail and see the monument with the sun coming up, it is stunning. Spend time here enjoying the view. We were the only ones there! After being at the top for about 30 minutes, a runner ran up the path and that was it!
You can have your own little oasis. It is also a perfect spot to work on poses to get that perfect Insta image. Also, if you have instant coffee, here is the time to sit back, drink it, and just enjoy the view.
From the moisture and humidity, it gave us the impression of being above the clouds! That was probably the coolest element. Even at 1,030 feet elevation, I felt like I was way higher with those clouds below.
On the way out we stuck to the trail and spent time at the High Point Observation Deck to take in the remainder of the sunrise with the monument in the distance. This is another good spot for photos, give the legs some more rest before trekking down the elevation. The hike back is a completely different experience.
You get to see everything in daylight. When you come back to the Blue Dot Trail you have great views of Sawmill Pond. We could even see it right next to our campsite!
Facts & Attractions of High Point Monument:
High Point State Park is located in Sussex, New Jersey
Trenton is the capital of New Jersey
American currency is in American dollars and cents
High Point Monument is located in a part of the state called Skylands
The peak elevation is 1,803 feet
I hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip to Sawmill Campground in Sussex, New Jersey. If you have any questions about the area please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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