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Hike of the Week

Courtesy of the NY-NJ Trail Conference

WHERE: Ringwood State Park
MAP:  North Jersey Trails, Map #21. , Published by the NY-NJ Trail Conference.
FEATURES: This loop hike traverses remote, less-visited areas of the park, mostly along gently-graded carriage roads, passing several panoramic viewpoints and scenic Gatum Pond.
LENGTH: 8.5 miles.
TIME: About five hours.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 57 and proceed north on Skyline Drive. At the end of Skyline Drive, turn right and follow Greenwood Lake Turnpike north for 1.6 miles to Sloatsburg Road. Turn right and follow Sloatsburg Road for 2.1 miles to Morris Avenue, then turn right and follow Morris Avenue for 1.4 miles to its end at the Skylands Manor section of Ringwood State Park. Pass between two stone eagles and turn left into Parking Lot A. During the summer season, a parking fee may be charged.

DESCRIPTION: From the parking area, turn left onto a paved park road, the route of the white-blazed Crossover Trail. The trail proceeds through the grounds of Skylands Manor, which feature various exotic trees. You値l pass to the right of a greenhouse and an English Tudor guest house with a sundial clock on its chimney.

Follow the Crossover Trail as it turns left onto an unpaved carriage road which follows the western base of Mount Defiance. In about a quarter of mile, you値l cross a stream and pass between two concrete posts. Just beyond, the green-on-white-blazed Halifax Trail begins to the left. Turn left onto the Halifax Trail, which climbs Mount Defiance on gentle switchbacks, following the route of an old carriage road, which has narrowed in places to a footpath. As you reach the crest of the ridge, impressive cliffs come into view on the left. Just beyond, you値l reach a junction (marked by a cairn) with the red-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail.

Turn right onto the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which you値l be following for the next two and one-half miles. In about 350 feet, you値l notice a large rock outcrop on your right. Climb the outcrop to reach a panoramic west-facing view. Below in the foreground are the New Jersey State Botanical Gardens at Skylands Manor, with the manor house visible through the trees to the right. The Wanaque Reservoir may be seen to the left, with the Wyanokie Mountains in the distance. This is a good place to take a break.

After taking in the view, return to the red trail and turn right (south). In about a quarter of a mile, the trail turns left onto a wide gravel road. It climbs a little, then gradually descends towards the east side of the ridge. Soon, you値l reach a T-intersection. The carriage road that you cross here is the route of the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which will be your return route. For now, though, continue straight ahead along a rougher woods road, with many exposed rocks.

A short distance ahead, you値l reach a graffiti-scarred ledge, known as Warm Puppy Rock, with views to the west. Here, the trail turns left and descends on a footpath, passing another rock ledge to the left with east-facing views. At the base of the descent, the trail briefly turns right onto a carriage road, then immediately turns left and renters the woods, crossing a stream on a flat rock and passing through a stand of bamboo a non-native plant, rarely seen in the Ramapos. Just beyond, at a T-intersection, the trail turns left on a wide fire road, which it follows for 0.2 mile.

At a large brown trail marker, the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail turns right, leaving the fire road, and ascends on a footpath. After crossing a stream on a single-plank bridge, it reaches a T-intersection, turns left, and climbs along a woods road. It soon bears left, leaving the road, and continues to ascend on a footpath, with broad switchbacks. Near the crest of the ridge, it turns left, rejoining the woods road, then descends to cross a stream on a wooden bridge. Just beyond, the trail crosses a woods road and continues ahead into the woods on a footpath, which soon curves to the right.

After climbing gradually to a ridge, with views over the valley below to the left, the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail turns left and descends into the valley. Watch for three blue-on-white blazes on the left that mark the start of the Blue Trail, recently blazed by volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

Turn left, leaving the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, and follow the Blue Trail, which immediately crosses High Mountain Brook on a wooden bridge and begins to climb on a footpath. It soon turns left onto a woods road, which climbs gradually to the crest of the ridge. Near the top, you値l pass a small pond to the right, after which the grade briefly steepens, but the trail soon begins a slight descent. It crosses a stream on a wooden bridge and, a short distance beyond, reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Memorial Trail.

Turn left onto the Hoeferlin Memorial Trail, which crosses a stream and climbs a rocky footpath to reach a panoramic view from Ilgenstein Rock. Bear Swamp Lake is below, with Drag Hill and Rocky Mountain in the background. On clear days, the Manhattan skyline may be visible on the horizon to the right. Here, the white-blazed Crossover Trail joins from the right. You値l be following the Crossover Trail all the way back to the parking area.

Follow the joint yellow-and-white-blazed trails as they proceed north on a rocky footpath. In half a mile, the two trails split. Turn left, following the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which soon widens into a woods road. In another half a mile, follow the white blazes as they turn left, leaving the woods road, and descend rather steeply to reach a wide carriage road. The trail turns left and continues to descend along the road. After bearing left at a Y-intersection, then right at the next intersection, the trail runs along an old cable fence, with an open field beyond and Brushwood Pond visible in the distance. This section of the park is more heavily used, and you may encounter bicyclists along the trail.

Bear right at the next Y-intersection and descend along a winding woods road. Soon, you値l pass Gatum Pond, just to the right of the trail. Stone steps lead down to the water痴 edge, and this tranquil setting is another good spot for a break. Just beyond, follow the white blazes as they turn left and descend along a short footpath to another carriage road. The trail briefly follows the road, turns right onto a footpath, then after crossing another road on the way turns right onto a carriage road.

After crossing a wide woods road, the Crossover Trail climbs gradually to a junction with the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. You followed this red-blazed trail earlier in the hike, but now you should continue straight ahead along the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which soon curves to the right and begins to head north. Continue to follow the white blazes along the base of Mount Defiance, then turn right on the paved road at Skylands Manor and follow it back to Parking Area A, 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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