This New Jersey Hike Leads To An Abandoned Graveyard


If you’re looking for a hiking experience that combines history, mystery, and adventure, check out the Four Birds Trail in Morris County. This walk takes you to an abandoned graveyard from the nineteenth century, a bat-watching platform, and a hawk-watch spur. Here are some specifics about this exciting hike and what to expect along the way.

The Four Birds’ Trail

The Four Birds Trail runs 19.4 miles through the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area and Farny State Park. The trail is named after four endangered bird species in the region: bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, and red-shouldered hawk. It is marked with white blazes. It is rated moderate to challenging because to its diverse topography, which includes rocky hills, ponds, and woodlands. Some segments may include scrambling or bushwhacking. The southern end is accessible from a variety of locations, including the intersection of Green Pond Road and Lower Hibernia Road in Rockaway.

The Hibernia Cemetery

The Hibernia Cemetery, also called Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, is an unusual stop on the Four Birds Trail. The cemetery, located roughly 0.6 kilometers from the southern trailhead on the right side, was established in 1869. It was the ultimate resting place for workers and families from the Hibernia iron mines and furnaces. It contains approximately 92 burials, including marked crosses, headstones, and metal plaques, for Irish immigrants from the 1800s iron industry. Despite the tranquil ambiance among trees and wildflowers, several visitors have described a creepy or ominous atmosphere, especially at night or in foggy weather.

The Hibernia Mine and Bat Viewing Platform

Another highlight of the Four Birds Trail is the Hibernia Mine and bat-viewing platform, which is about 0.1 mile from the southern trailhead on the right side. The mine, which was part of the Hibernia iron enterprise from the 1700s to 1916, produced high-quality iron ore. After shutting down, it became New Jersey’s largest bat hibernaculum, attracting up to 30,000 bats each year until white-nose syndrome caused a significant reduction. The bat-viewing platform provides views of the mine entrance as well as historical information on bats. Dusk is the best time to see the bats emerge to feast on insects.

The Hawkwatch Spur

For bird enthusiasts, continue trekking along the Four Birds Trail until you reach the Hawk Watch Spur, which is about 2.5 miles from the southern trailhead on the left. A short walk from the main route, marked by a sign guiding to the hawk observation platform, provides a panoramic view of the surrounding terrain and Splitrock Reservoir. This location is perfect for seeing hawks, eagles, falcons, and other raptors, especially during the fall migration season, which runs from September through November. Wildlife such as deer, foxes, turkeys, and bears can also be seen.

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The Four Birds Trail provides more than just physical activity and beautiful scenery; it also reveals hidden gems of New Jersey’s history and wildlife, such as the Hibernia Cemetery, Hibernia Mine, and Hawk Watch Spur. This trail is suitable for both a short stroll and a lengthy expedition. Make sure you have enough gear, drink, snacks, and a map, and remember to respect the wildlife and gravesites you come across along the trip.

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