Verona is blessed with several great venues for walkers, like the West Essex trail, which we wrote about early this month. But in my book, the best place for winter walks is Eagle Rock Reservation, a 408-acre oasis of county-owned woods straddling the borders of Verona, West Orange and Montclair. On bitter cold days when I shudder at the very thought of the whipping winds of Verona Park, I head to Eagle Rock, and invariably find the woods calm and still, the trees providing insulation and protection from the wind and cold. Definitely bring the dog, which you can let off-leash (if he’s the kind who will come back), and the kids, who could use some unfettered winter fun of their own.
Enter the woods on Afterglow Avenue, just beyond its intersection with Gordon Place. The large green Essex County sign marks the beginning of the yellow trail, which you can follow for five minutes or so to steps that lead up to a rise with a magnificent view of the New York skyline. (Don’t let the dog or kids get too close to the edge. If the broken beer bottles there don’t hurt them, falling over the edge certainly will!) You can then follow the yellow trail along the rise, where it picks up the blue trail as it descends. Shortly after the beginning of the blue portion of the trail, you’ll see two large rock formations on the right, which my kids like to use as mini-rock-climbing walls. From here, you can walk a bit further and then bear right, working your way into a circle to return to start, or walk further into the woods. If you do, you’ll eventually come to a paved road that winds up to the Highlawn Pavilion. If you turn back in the direction you came, you should be back to start in 15 to 20 minutes or so; making your round trip under 45 minutes, depending on how long the kids linger to rock climb. And best of all, by now you’ll certainly all be warm as toast.
The Essex County Parks Department’s trail map is here, but the trails aren’t coded by color. That would be a nice upgrade in the new year.