New Jersey has a long history of mining minerals such as iron, copper, and zinc. Mining began here in the 1600′ s when Dutch settlers first started searching for copper along the Delaware.
In Mine Township in Morris County, Dickerson Mine Preserve is a 280-acre park featuring nine trails. They are well maintained by Jersey Off-Road Biking Association (JORBA) so expect to see plenty of mountain bikers along with hikers enjoying these scenic trails. The first mines in these hills were founded in 1713. During the Revolutionary War, these mines were one of the richest sources of iron ore in the country. The tract was worked until 1807. In 2006 Morris County purchased the land and named this park for the 12th governor of New Jersey, Mahlon Dickerson.
We chose this hike on a warm Dec. midweek day. We tend to hike slow and take lots of pictures, and want to go when there might be the least amount of mountain bikers sharing the trail. Finding the trailhead was a little tricky, but we finally found the entrance of Frank Street. The official park sign is down.
The trail was straight up a gentle incline. The path was leaf-strewn and rocky. About 2/10 of a mile in, we came to the remains of a stone foundation. There’s a creek that runs along the left side of the White Trail. The remnants of a stone wall are running along the other side of the trail. This part of the trail felt like it had once served as part of the Ferramonte Railroad, one of the rare switchback railroads that once ran in NJ.
You’ll come to a gravel road. Make a right, and a few feet along, you’ll pick up the White Trail again. Continue following the White Trail. At this point, you’ll see the remains of a moss-covered four-walled stone foundation. Others have speculated that these are the remains of either an old cistern or perhaps even part of the ruins of the Canfield Estate.
At the intersection, follow straight across to remain on the White Trail. If you’re here when the underbrush isn’t overgrown, you’ll see the remains of an old blue Audi as if growing right out of the ground. Continue on the White Trail, and you’ll soon be surprised by a bit of rhododendron forest.
The trail becomes an easy winding dirt/leaf path. Head for the Yellow Trail at the intersection until you see the connection to the White Trail on your right. Make a right when you visit the industrial park. Follow to the left on the White Trail at the end of the industrial plaza. Now you’ll start having lovely views of Sunset Lake peeking through the trees.
Continue along the White Trail at the double white marker. Make a left after crossing the power lines again. Follow the White Trail markers out.
The majority of vegetation in this quiet park is deciduous trees. We did spot the occasional evergreen. We didn’t see any wildlife this trip, although there was lots of evidence of woodpeckers in the trees around us. This was a very peaceful place. The gently sloping hills reached an elevation of 564 feet. We came for a winter hike here. The clear views of the lake, the quiet beauty of the old stone walls, the golden carpet of fallen leaves on the trail – these all contributed to a feeling of serenity on a winter’s day. To paraphrase a quote by David Baboulene, ‘hiking is like mining for gold in the hidden hillsides of your mind.”