New Jersey Butterfly Club

A chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

Schooley's Mountain County Park

by Tom Halliwell

County: Morris.

Municipality: Washington Township.

Directions: FROM THE SOUTH, at the light in the center of Long Valley, take Schooley’s Mountain Road (Rt. 517) north for 0.7 mile and turn right onto Camp Washington Road. Go for 1.0 mile (bearing right when East Springtown Road intersects) to the park entrance sign on the right. Turn in and drive to the uppermost parking lot and park as far to the left as you can. FROM THE NORTH, at the light at the junction of Routes 517 and 57 in Hackettstown, take 517 (Mountain Road) south for 3.4 miles to the light at East Springtown Road. Turn left and go 0.7 mile to a stop sign. Bear left and go 0.3 mile to the park entrance on the right. Turn in and drive to the uppermost parking lot and park as far to the left as you can.

Parking: In addition to the parking area mentioned above, 3 other parking areas are available: (1) By The Lodge at Schooley's Mountain Park on Camp Washington Road, about 0.2 miles SE of where Camp Washington Road intersects East Springtown Road. You can park in lots on either side of the road if there's no event at the facility. (2) In the cul-de-sac at the end of Cherry Street. Leave the main part of the park by turning right onto East Springtown Road. At the first intersection turn left onto Naughright Road. Take this for a few tenths of a mile and turn left onto Flocktown Road. Take the 2nd left (in a few tenths of a mile) onto Cherry Street and drive to end. Park along the curved cul-de-sac, being careful not to block the gate or any driveways. (3) A small lot for Patriot's Path off East Springtown Road. Leave the main part of the park by turning left onto East Springtown Road, go about 0.1 mile, and turn right into the lot just as the road bends to the left.

Nearest sizable town: Long Valley is about a mile south of the Park and easily reached by taking Schooley's Mt. Road south. Turn left at the light in town for food and gas. Hackettstown is about 3 miles northwest of the Park and reached by taking Schooley's Mt. Road north. Restaurants, fast food, and gas are available on Schooley's Mt. Road after you cross the Musconetcong River into Warren County.

Habitats: Mostly deciduous forest. Several fields/meadows are kept open by periodic mowing.

Maintained/Marked trails: Yes. Easy to moderate. Click here for a Trail Map which can also be easily found online. Several of the forested trails are somewhat rocky. Morris County's extensive Patriot's Path cuts through the Park.

Restrooms: Yes. Toilets are available at the main part of the Park. Drive to the uppermost parking lot and turn to the right. Restrooms are uphill at the far end.

Picnic tables: Yes, in the main part of the Park among the trees separating different sections of parking lots.

Notable species: Harvester (rare), Oak Hairstreak (rare), Red-banded Hairstreak, White M Hairstreak (rare), Appalachian Azure, Great Spangled Fritillary (often abundant), Meadow Fritillary (rare), Northern Pearly-eye, Long Dash (declining).

Best time to visit: June to August.

Exploring Schooley's Mountain Park:
(1) From the end of the top-left parking lot in the main section of the park, walk farther left onto the trail leading into the woods. The trail soon enters and crosses an open field, passes through another short stretch of woods, and enters a second meadow. In the wooded sections look for Northern Pearly-eye, Little Wood-Satyr, and Common Wood-Nymph. White M Hairstreak has been seen on the ground here a couple of times. In the meadows look for Eastern Tailed-Blues and the occasional Common Checkered-Skipper on the mowed paths. Both meadows can offer good butterflying, but the one farther from the parking lot usually has the better wildflower display and usually more butterflies. The best time is late June through August, when Blazing Star, Wild Bergamot, Butterfly Milkweed, and other wildflowers put on a show. Red-banded Hairstreak is uncommon, but annual, while Spicebush and Tiger swallowtails may be abundant. Great Spangled Fritillary, Ladies, Monarch, Silver-spotted Skipper, Wild Indigo and Horace's duskywings, and several species of grass-skipper can also be found nectaring on the blooms.

(2) Visit the parking lot at The Lodge at Schooley's Mountain Park in early to mid-June, when there is a chance to find Appalachian Azure. Slightly larger than Spring Azure, Appalachian lays its eggs only among the flower buds of Black Baneberry (Actaea racemosa). If you walk back out the Lodge driveway and turn right onto Camp Washington Road, you should find numerous plants of the baneberry along both sides of the road. Be very careful of Poison Ivy, and—especially—of traffic, as cars often travel very fast on this road. Look for the pointy spikes of flower buds on this tall plant. If you are lucky you might find an Appalachian Azure flying around the plant(s) checking them out for the perfect time to lay eggs. The best strategy is probably to patiently wait and watch. When you get bored watching Black Baneberry you might walk around the field that goes down to the lake below the parking lot. Many common butterflies have been found here, and Harvester has been found (once) in the woods near the outflow of the lake.

(3) From the cul-de-sac at the end of Cherry Street walk around the gate and into the large field. Continue out along the mowed central trail leading straight ahead. The best butterflying is usually in the section past the evergreen grove on the left. The trail loops around this back field, eventually bringing you back to the central trail. The field can be observed from the mowed trail or by bushwhacking out into it. If doing the latter, rubber boots are helpful to protect against ticks and Poison Ivy. In June the field typically has much Butterfly Milkweed—and sometimes a spectacular flight of Great Spangled Fritillaries (more than 100 individuals have been estimated in several years). In addition to the many common species that you may find along this trail (especially along the back of the field) are less-common ones such as Oak Hairstreak (once), Gray Hairstreak, Red-banded Hairstreak, and Common Ringlet. Long Dash was formerly annual here but seems to be declining. Look for it in early to mid-June visiting purple flowers such as Wild Geranium, Cow Vetch, and most especially Harlequin Blueflag iris. Unfortunately, most of the iris have died out, but a few persist out in the field. While at the back end of the field you might like to walk straight into the woods where the central trail makes a 90-degree left turn near a bench. The woods trail quickly gets to Electric Brook and Patriot's Path. Take a brief walk in either direction on Patriot's Path and you might find Northern Pearly-Eye, Little Wood-Satyr, and Common Wood-Nymph. Harvester has also been seen here near American Beech trees.

(4) From the small parking lot for Patriot's Path you can go in two directions. If you take Patriot's Path into the woods, in about 15-20 minutes you will come to the area described at the end of the section above. It's a lovely walk along Electric Brook, but the trail is a bit rocky and many people prefer to get to the "Cherry Street field" by driving. However, you can walk in the other direction from the parking lot by crossing East Springtown Road (be very careful of fast traffic) and walking left and in past a small building to a mowed trail along the edge of a small wetland. The trail winds along the edge of the field that borders East Springtown Road. In some years this can offer excellent butterflying, while in other years it is almost empty! The disparity probably has to do with the mowing regimen of the park; in good years Common Milkweed, Indianhemp, and Canada Thistle are plentiful. Species of interest that have been seen here include American Copper (rare in this park), Gray Hairstreak, Red-banded Hairstreak, Meadow Fritillary, Common Ringlet, and Long Dash.

Special precautions: Ticks and mosquitoes—bug repellant is recommended. Beware of fast moving traffic when butterflying along the roads.

You might also want to visit: The Kay Environmental Center, 200 Potterville Road, Chester.

Further information about Schooley's Mountain County Park is available.

To view a larger map, click on 'View larger map' icon in upper right hand corner. (Tip: The satellite view may also suggest good potential butterfly habitat to explore.)

Upper Lot Trail

Upper Parking Lot - Entrance Trail to Fields.

Upper Field

One of the Upper Fields.

Bergamot and Blazing Star

Wild Bergamot & Blazing Star in Upper Field.

Cherry Street Field

Cherry Street Field.

Springtown Road

East Springtown Rd. Near Patriot's Path.