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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 climbs to several expansive viewpoints on Buck Mountain and returns along a pleasant woods road.
LENGTH: 4.1 miles
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate.
TIME: About three hours
HOW TO GET THERE: Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. In 1.3 miles (from Route 287), you will reach a fork in the road. Bear right (following the sign to West Milford), and in another 0.1 mile, turn right (uphill) onto Glenwild Avenue. Continue ahead for 3.2 miles to a parking area on the right side of the road just past the "Welcome to West Milford" sign.

DESCRIPTION: From the eastern end of the parking area, at the sign "Welcome to Bloomingdale," follow the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail, which heads north and descends to Posts Brook at Otter Hole, an attractive cascade and waterfall. Here the trail crosses the brook on large boulders. Just beyond the brook, you'll reach a junction where the light-green-blazed Otter Hole Trail leaves to the left. Turn left, and follow the Otter Hole Trail, which is co-aligned with the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail. The trail climbs rather steeply through mountain laurel, then continues ahead on a woods road.

About half a mile from the start, you'll come to another junction, where the yellow-blazed Wyanokie Crest Trail crosses. Turn left and follow the yellow blazes (and the Highlands Trail's teal-diamond blazes), which descend to cross a stream on rocks. The trail now begins a very steep climb, gaining 200 vertical feet in only 0.1 mile. At the top of the climb, it reaches a viewpoint from the ledges of Buck Mountain. This east-facing viewpoint offers a broad panorama, with I-287 visible in the distance. Just past the viewpoint, the trail turns left onto a woods road and crosses over to the western side of the mountain. It soon reaches a second viewpoint, marked by a single pine tree wedged into the bedrock. This expansive viewpoint overlooks the south and west, with Torne Mountain visible directly ahead.

From the viewpoint, follow the Wyanokie Crest Trail as it heads north through laurel, passing several huge boulders on either side of the trail. Soon, the Highlands Trail departs to the left, and then the Wyanokie Crest Trail joins a woods road that comes in from the right. The trail turns right at a T intersection, then immediately bears left at a Y intersection and climbs gently to level off along the ridge of Buck Mountain. This section of the trail has been abused by ATV's, and you should take care to follow the yellow trail blazes, which often depart from the ATV tracks. Along the ridge, the trail reaches the highest elevation in the Wyanokies (1,290 feet), but there are no views from this wooded spot.

In half a mile, the Wyanokie Crest Trail comes out at another east-facing viewpoint over Assiniwikam Mountain, with the view partially obscured by vegetation. It now begins a gradual descent into a broad valley, where it parallels a brook, crossing it several times. The last crossing of the brook is marked by an unusual split boulder. After climbing through a mountain laurel thicket and then leveling off, the trail continues along undulating terrain, crossing three old woods roads. Just beyond the third woods road, the Wyanokie Crest Trail climbs a rocky slope to end at a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail on a shoulder of Assiniwikam Mountain.

Turn right, following the red-on-white blazes, and descend. The trail soon passes through an open area, with views to the right over Buck Mountain, along whose ridge you just hiked. It continues to descend through deep woods, then climbs a little to cross a rocky woods road. Just beyond, it passes to the left of a huge split glacial erratic and continues to climb past more erratics. After a short descent, you'll reach a woods road - the route of the light-green-blazed Otter Hole Trail.

Turn right and follow the Otter Hole Trail, which goes through a valley and continues past dense mountain laurel thickets. After about three-quarters of a mile on the Otter Hole Trail, you'll reach a rock outcrop just to the right of the trail that offers views across a valley towards Buck Mountain. A short distance beyond, you'll reach the junction with the yellow-blazed Wyanokie Crest Trail. Continue ahead, now retracing your steps. When the Otter Hole Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail, turn right, cross Posts Brook, and follow the blue-blazed trail back to the parking area where you began the hike.

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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