Places to Run: Sunrise Mountain At Stokes

Quite possibly our favorite running spot in the Garden State, located on the Southern end of Stokes State Forest, Sunrise Mountain is all about 2 things…natural beauty and tough running.  Need a great hill run to add to your training schedule? This is it. It’s a roadside run in a very quiet and serene setting. One straight out-and-back with only one fork make for a 4.67 mile climb from base to summit. The final 3/4 of a mile is so steep and difficult that you will undoubtedly be doing your best  Rocky 4 scream once you reach the summit. The elevation climbs 600 feet throughout the run, so you will be tested – particularly on the descent when you are “braking” on tired legs. Some folks start at the top and run to the bottom and back up, but starting at the base and running to the summit and back is far more common.

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First look out-facing Northwest towards the Gap and Peter’s Valley.

In addition to this road’s relentless difficulty, you will also find some of the best views in the state from atop this mountain.  About half-way up the road, you will see the North/Westerly views of the the Delaware Water Gap, Peter’s Valley and the High Point Monument. Once you get to the top, take the trail to the 2 lookout points. The first look-out is a small off-shoot trail; from there you are just a few steps away from this spectacular view (right).

View from the pavilion at the summit.

View from the pavilion at the summit.

Continuing on for another 2-3 minutes you’ll find the legendary pavilion, a notorious landmark (built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s) to hikers making the trek from Georgia to Maine via the Appalachian Trail. It’s a great chance to meet some AT hikers and hear their fascinating stories… see our friend Yukon (pictured below).

 

The Good

Absolutely beautiful scenery & spectacular views.

Quiet & peaceful.

Very challenging – especially if you need a hill run.

Once at the top, you can take the AT to Maine or Georgia assuming you have no plans for the next 5 months.

You’ll meet really interesting people.

Our new buddy Yukon-halfway to Maine from Georgia.

The Bad

There are bears, seriously. Generally, they are harmless but runners certainly should be cautious. See the State Parks Guide to Bear safety here. We also suggest screaming any Ramones song you can think of, as bears notoriously despise the Ramones.  It sounds ridiculous but this has worked twice for me, seriously.

It’s isolated, so if you turn an ankle 3/4 of the way up, that’s a really long way to limp.

Keep an eye out for the occasional snake. Most are harmless, but again awareness is king.

There is one bathroom at the top and a port-o-john at the bottom. Neither resembles a Hilton Hotel bathroom.

Super Secret Tips

It’s best to run it in the fall.

Take a few minutes at the top to see the views.

Bring your camera.

Talk to the hikers; they are awesome.

Where is it?

Take 206 North in Branchville (in Sussex County) to route 636 to Sunrise Moutain Road. Park in the lower lot, otherwise you have to go around the entire mountain.

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Charlie Hoffmann

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