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Hike of the Week

Courtesy of the NY-NJ Trail Conference

WHERE: Norvin Green State Forest
MAP:  North Jersey Trails, Map #21. , Published by the NY-NJ Trail Conference.
FEATURES: This loop hike passes by an old iron mine and climbs to several outstanding viewpoints from which the New York City skyline can be seen.
LENGTH: 5.5 miles.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate to strenuous.
TIME: About four and one-half hours.
DOGS: Permitted on leash.
STARTING POINT: Weis Ecology Center (large dirt parking area on the right side of the road just before the entrance to the Weis Ecology Center).

DESCRIPTION: From the parking area, walk back along Snake Den Road, following the green blazes of the Otter Hole Trail. In about 200 feet, turn right, leaving the road, and follow the red-on-white blazes of the Wyanokie Circular Trail and the yellow-on-white blazes of the Mine Trail, proceeding along a narrow corridor through private property. After going through a stand of spruce trees, the trails continue into a deciduous forest of maple and oak and enter a valley. Soon, the yellow-on-white Mine Trail leaves to the right. Continue along the red-and-white Wyanokie Circular Trail, which now begins to descend. At a sign for the “falls,” the Mine Trail crosses, and at a sign for the “mine,” the orange-blazed Roomy Mine Trail departs to the left. Continue ahead on the red-and-white blazed trail, which is soon rejoined by the yellow-on-white trail.

After about three-quarters of a mile, the trails turn right to cross Blue Mine Brook on a wooden footbridge, built as an Eagle Scout project in 2002. Before crossing the brook, proceed ahead for about 100 feet, and you will see the Blue Mine on the left. This mine, named for the dark blue color of its ore, was discovered by Peter Hasenclever about 1765 and was worked extensively in the 1800s. Today, the Blue Mine is filled with muddy water. A large concrete pad, located at the entrance to the mine, once served as a base for steam-operated equipment.

Now return to the trail and cross the brook on the footbridge. On the other side of the brook, you’ll notice a mine pit to the left of the trail, with a small pile of tailings (discarded waste rock) to its left. The trail passes the remains of an old stone shelter, constructed in the 1930s by members of the Green Mountain Club, to the right. A short distance beyond, the yellow-on-white Mine Trail leaves to the right. Continue ahead, following the red-on-white Wyanokie Circular Trail. Immediately after crossing another stream, the white-blazed Lower Trail begins on the left.

Turn left onto the Lower Trail, which climbs to an east-facing shoulder of the Wyanokie High Point-Carris Hill Ridge. After crossing two streams on rocks, the trail levels off. Soon, it proceeds through a shallow valley, with a series of rock outcrops to the right. After a while, the trail begins to descend gradually through a rocky area.

About two and one-half miles from the start of the hike, the Lower Trail reaches a chain-link fence, which marks the boundary of the watershed lands of the Wanaque Reservoir. After following the fence for only 100 feet, it reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Carris Hill Trail. Turn right and begin to follow the yellow blazes.

After traversing a level, rocky area, the Carris Hill Trail crosses a stream and begins a rather steep climb. The grade soon moderates, but after a third of a mile, it again climbs steeply over rocks, coming out at a viewpoint to the southeast from a rock outcrop. It continues to climb to another rock outcrop, with a somewhat broader view. Here, the trail bears right and ascends to the left of a 40-foot-high massive rock face. At the top of the ascent, a short detour to the right leads to a magnificent viewpoint to the east. The Wanaque Reservoir, contained by the Raymond and Green Swamp dams, is in the foreground, with a long viaduct of Interstate Route 287 visible in the distance. On a clear day, the New York City skyline may be seen on the horizon. This is a good place to pause and enjoy the spectacular view.

The yellow trail now climbs more gradually, soon reaching another viewpoint, where a ten-foot-high balanced glacial erratic is silhouetted against the sky. The trail curves to the right and reaches a fifth viewpoint, this one to the south, with pitch pines and a large glacial erratic. It proceeds through laurel to end, on a rock outcrop with views to the north and west, at a junction with the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail and the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail.

Turn right and follow the blue and teal blazes. The trail descends steeply through mountain laurel thickets, and then levels off, heading north along the ridge. In about half a mile, you’ll reach a rock outcrop with a view ahead of Wyanokie High Point – a rocky dome with pitch pines. This location is known as “Yoo-Hoo Point” – the name apparently derived from the fact that, from here, one can see hikers standing atop High Point and call out to them!

The joint Hewitt-Butler/Highlands Trail now descends to a junction, where the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail joins. Continue ahead, now following the route of three trails, and begin a rather steep climb.

At the next junction, turn right, following the sign to “Hi-Point,” and climb steeply through mountain laurel thickets, following the red-on-white blazes of the Wyanokie Circular Trail. In a short distance, you’ll reach the summit of Wyanokie High Point, marked by a bolt drilled into the rock. The summit features a panoramic 360° view, with the New York City skyline visible to the east on a clear day. To the north and west, one can see Saddle, Assiniwikam and Buck Mountains.

After spending some time savoring the views from this magnificent location, surrounded by pitch pines, retrace your steps, following the red-and-white blazes as they descend very steeply over bare rock. Extreme care is required here during wet weather, or when the trail is covered with snow and ice. When you reach the junction with the Hewitt-Butler Trail, turn right and follow the blue blazes. After a short, gradual climb, the trail reaches a balanced boulder on a rock ledge. It then descends slightly to a mountain laurel thicket, where the white-blazed Macopin Trail leaves to the left. Continue ahead on the blue trail, which soon arrives at a rock ledge surrounded by pitch pines, with a view over Saddle Mountain to the north and Assiniwikam Mountain to the west.

The trail now begins a steep descent on a wide path. The descent eventually moderates, and the trail reaches a junction with the Mine Trail in a mountain laurel thicket. Bear left here, now following both blue and yellow-on-white blazes. In a short distance, both trails end at Snake Den Road, here a dirt road. Turn right and follow the green blazes of the Otter Hole Trail along the road, which soon becomes paved, back to the parking area where the hike began.

Hike of the Week is provided by Daniel Chazin of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (NYNJTC). The trail conference is a volunteer organization that builds and maintains 1,600 miles of hiking trails and publishes a library of hiking maps and books, including a two-map set for North Jersey Trails ($8.95) and the New Jersey Walk Book ($19.95).

The office is at 156 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah. Phone: (201) 512-9348, Website: nynjtc.org.

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