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 two old iron mines, one of which extends 100 feet into the hillside and can be entered.
LENGTH: 2.5 miles.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate.
TIME: About two hours.
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: This hike affords you the opportunity to enter the historic Roomy Mine. Although the mine itself is high enough to permit you to stand, you’ll have to crawl a short distance to reach the entrance. Make sure to bring along a flashlight or headlamp!
The hike begins at the western end of the parking area, where a gatepost with a triple light-green blaze marks the start of the Otter Hole Trail. You’ll be following this trail for the first third of a mile (other trails, such as the “L” Trail and the “W” Trail, are co-aligned for part of the way). Continue along the driveway leading into the Weis Ecology Center, lined on both sides with Norway spruce trees. Bear right at the first fork, but at the next fork, turn left and follow the light-green blazes through a spruce grove, with Blue Mine Brook on the left.
Soon, the trail bears right to skirt the Highlands Natural Pool. Built about 70 years ago, this pool is fed by the brook and is not chlorinated. For more information on this pool, see www.highlandspool.com. The trail briefly joins a dirt road, then bears left and ascends on a footpath, passing the weir that regulates the supply of water to the pool.
After crossing a footbridge over the brook, the green-blazed Otter Hole Trail proceeds through a rocky area, bears left, and reaches a wide woods road – the continuation of Snake Den Road. Here, the Otter Hole Trail turns right and follows the road, but you should cross the road and continue ahead on the joint Mine (yellow-on-white) and Hewitt-Butler (blue) Trails. The joint trails ascend on a footpath through mountain laurel and then climb more steeply through a rocky area.
The joint trails level off and reach a junction where the trails split. The blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail continues ahead, but you should turn left and follow the yellow-on-white blazes of the Mine Trail. The trail passes some interesting jumbled boulders and rock outcrops on the left and begins a steady descent. After a while, the descent moderates, and the trail joins an old woods road.
After passing through a somewhat open area, where many of the trees have died due to a combination of drought and gypsy moth infestation, you’ll reach a T-intersection, where the red-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail comes in from the right. You should turn left and follow the joint Mine and Wyanokie Circular Trails, which descend slightly to cross an intermittent stream.
A short distance ahead, you’ll see on the left the ruins of a stone shelter, constructed by members of the Green Mountain Club in the 1930s. The trail now approaches Blue Mine Brook. Just before reaching the brook, you’ll notice a circular mine pit to the right of the trail, with a small pile of tailings (discarded waste rock) to its left. The trail crosses the brook on a wooden footbridge, built as an Eagle Scout project in 2002.
Turn right after crossing the footbridge and proceed ahead for about 100 feet. To the left is the Blue Mine, filled with muddy water. 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. A large concrete pad at the entrance to the mine, with protruding iron rods, once served as a base for steam-operated equipment.
Go back to the footbridge (do not recross it) and continue ahead on the joint Mine/Wyanokie Circular Trails, which follow a rocky woods road. Bear left at a fork and continue ahead for about a quarter of a mile until the two trails separate.
Here, you should turn right and follow the yellow-on-white blazes of the Mine Trail, which climbs on a narrow woods road, once used to access the mine.
Soon, you’ll reach an open area where the Mine Trail makes a very sharp right turn (don’t make this turn). The entrance to the Roomy Mine is just beyond, to the right. Named for Benjamin Roome, a local land surveyor, the mine was opened shortly after 1840 and worked until 1857. To enter the mine, you first have to crawl through a short passage that is only about two feet high. That leads to a large chamber, with the horizontal shaft heading into the mine directly ahead. The shaft is about six feet high and leads 60 feet into the hillside, where it dead-ends. The temperature inside the mine is a constant 52 degrees,
and the floor is usually wet.
When you’re finished exploring the mine, turn right and follow the orange blazes of the Roomy Mine Trail along another mine road. When you reach the end of this short trail, turn right onto the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail, which begins to ascend. The yellow-on-white-blazed Mine Trail will cross the red-on-white trail and then rejoin it. After going through a stand of spruce trees, the trail proceeds along a narrow corridor through private property, then climbs to its terminus on Snake Den Road. Turn left and follow the road for about 200 feet 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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