The 36-mile Lenape Trail, named after the native peoples who used to inhabit northern New Jersey and link 18 parks with 11 municipalities in Essex County. It follows a horseshoe pattern.
The trail—which follows dirt or gravel paths and paved walkways—reveals an Essex County that’s more than urban downtowns and leafy suburban enclaves. The trail’s eastern end passes through manicured parks and often along effervescent brooks and rivers. It then turns west and climbs over two thickly forested ridges: First Watchung Mountain, and Second Watchung Mountain.
Leaf-peeping in the fall seems to improve with each step, particularly atop Watchung Mountain’s ridges. First Mountain, in particular, offers unmatched views of Manhattan in the east.
[RELATED: Leaf-Peeping Reaches New Heights in High Point State Park]
It is a suburban trail and requires some long walks, sometimes on busy streets. My trail walk was broken into five segments. I stayed in mostly park or forest areas and avoided most of the streets. The longest segment one-way is 7 miles.