Biking – Round Valley is surrounded by one of New Jersey’s toughest Mountain Biking Trails - Cushetunk Trail. The Cushetunk trail is 9 miles out and 9 miles back (18 miles total). We were told that that hike/bike trail to get to the camping area of Round Valley was easy, and it was not a part of the Cushetunk Trail – that information was incorrect. Nick and I road (mostly pushed) our bikes with (some of) our camping gear on our backs up and down 3 miles of difficult, rocky terrain before arriving at the 3 mile stretch of the camping trail.We didn’t mountain bike all 18 miles of the toughest trail in New Jersey, but for the not-so-adventurous those first 3 miles to arrive at the camping trail were brutal. Worsened by the false hope that the trail was easy, high temperatures of the day, heavy packs and my lack of planning in regards to water consumption. Soon after hitting the campground trail we were greeted with water from a pump and a much smoother path for our final 2 miles to our campsite (#19).
Camping – Nick and I had reserved campsite 19; it sits on the water with enough room for about 4 smaller tents. There were 3 areas to set up a camp fire, and an opening with a private, but rocky, beach area on the water. We spent most of our time around the fire on this beach area looking out across the water of Round Valley Reservoir; the view was beautiful. Not all of the sites sit on the water’s edge, many of them are surrounded by so many trees and that combined with the wooded hike to get to the campsite, you could forget you are even around water.
Speaking of the potty, there are no flushable toilets or hot showers at these campsites. There are out houses with toilet paper available along the camping trail. The closest you will get to a shower is a dip in the reservoir, unless you have one on your boat. There is also no electricity on any of the campsites. I had my phone on “airplane” mode all weekend so I could have it for an emergency and still use it for an alarm clock in the morning.I normally don’t need an alarm clock when sleeping in a tent, but it happened to rain that weekend, so I wasn’t sure if the sun was going to show its smiling face to wake me up in the morning. We were fortunate enough to bring our Kelty “sun shade tent” that was very useful when it rained. This allowed us to be able to sit outside and watch the rain fall over the water vs. being stuck in a small tent all evening. Although this sun shade did end up leaky along the seams as its made for sun shade and not rain, still love that thing! – review for this will be in another post.
Hiking – By the time we set up camp on the first day it was getting late. It had taken us a long time to get to the site with the bikes and we needed to get ourselves back to the car and have the boat to the campsite before the sun set. Editors note: our sail boat is not set up with lights to be able to boat at night nor does it have a motor.Given our time constraints we decided it would be faster to hike back than try to bike back. That it was! The trail was still difficult, however it was much easier than taking the bikes. The trail had so many steep rocky areas that we ended up carrying the bikes for a good portion of the trail. Not having to carry the bikes made the hike back quicker and much more pleasant.
Most of the trail is in deep wooded areas with rocky paths. There are a lot of fallen logs and loose rock areas. My suggestion is to make sure you have good hiking shoes and possibly a walking/hiking stick. Taking steeper areas slow and keeping to the sides with less gravel is also helpful. There were many people hiking on this trail to the camping area the weekend that we went (Labor Day weekend 2012) who also had never been to this campground. As we hiked back to the boat we passed many tired hikers who couldn’t wait to make it to the campsites.I want to stress that the trail is not that bad if you are prepared for it. Lots of water, the right shoes and a light pack could be all that you need to make this a pleasant experience. There were a lot of misinformed first timers on this trail this weekend (just like us!) who were carrying heavy packs, were not in the right shoes (pretty sure I saw some flip flops out there) and were running out of water.
Sailing – This entry is specifically about the sailing trip we took while camping on Labor Day weekend 2012. Nick and I have been sailing at Round Valley Reservoir for years and will have many more posts regarding this. Keeping that in mind, it was almost 5pm by the time we got the sailboat in the water for our voyage back to the campsite. We have noticed that the wind through the valley often makes for excellent sailing conditions, except after 5pm.
Had there been wind, or had we had a motor or even paddles we could have made it to the camp site in about 10 or 15 minutes. Although we did have a little trouble actually finding the site, since we set up our tent back in the wooded area and put nothing out on the water front area. Another obstacle that could have been avoided. The second day we stayed there we set up our bright orange and green Kelty sun shade on the water front area – that made the site much easier to find!Another note about boating to your campsite, or even hanging out along the water – sound bounces off the mountains/hills/water – so be careful what you say…. Even if it’s a whisper. Everyone can hear you!