Welcome! Today we are going to hike two of the four Pompton Aquatic Parks trails. We will use the below trail map (provided by thePompton Lakes Open Space Committee) to guide us.
We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!
Blue-Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail
Starting from Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes we will head straight going west at the intersection near the trailhead of the .59 of a mile Pompton Aquatic Park Trail. The entire trail is through fresh water wetlands. Its good we picked the month of August to walk through when it is nice and dry! In fact, if we didn’t look at the vegetation growing we might not even know we were walking through wetlands. Common wetland vegetation growing along the trail as we walk include:
All of the above flora are native except for Purple Loosestrife and Japanese Knotweed which are considered invasive plants, that is, they displace and prevent native plants from growing because there are no natural predators native to the US to stop the spread of these plants.
Intersection of the Blue Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail with the Yellow Blazed Rivercrest Trail
From here we will follow the 1 mile yellow blazed Rivercrest Trail which is the longest trail found in Pompton Aquatic Park. We will head north on this out and back trail (meaning we will retrace our steps). Out and back trails are a good way to verify if you missed something as you walked.
And there is the Pompton River! The Pompton River formed just north of Aquatic Park through the confluence of the Pequannock, Wanaque and Ramapo Rivers. The river above the park is technically still called the Pequannock River. The Pompton River is classified FW2-NT (fresh water non-trout production or maintenance) by the NJ DEP. The Pompton River is a major tributary to the Passaic River.
Painted Turtles in the Pompton River
As we walk along we spot some painted turtles bobbing in the Pompton River. Don’t they have the life! Not a care in the world!
Invasive Mile-a-Minute Plant
We see jumbles of arrow shaped leaves everywhere. It’s a Mile-a-Minute Plant another invasive. It is native to Asia.
We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!
Well, we have made it to the end of the Rivercrest Trail at Joe’s Grill Field (which is part of the Pompton Lakes park system.). Time to head back the way we came to get to our cars. Glad you could make it! It is my hope that this ‘virtual tour’ of Pompton Aquatic Park inspires you to visit and check it out for yourself!
Feel free to comment with any memories, wildlife sightings or any other comments about Pompton Aquatic Park! Thank you and have fun exploring!
The trailhead discussed in this post is located off of Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes NJ.
Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!
Despite its close proximity to the Ramapo Mountains which are comprised of Highlands “basement” rocks, Campgaw Mountain comes from a different geological background. With a ridge expanding two miles Campgaw Mountain is comprised of basalt and is part of the Watchung Mountains. Elevations range from 300 feet to a maximum elevation of 751 feet atop Campgaw Mountain.
Campgaw Mountain contains several ecological communities including upland xeric (dry) deciduous forest, mesic (moist) deciduous forest and deciduous forest wetlands. Meadow habitat can be found along the power lines within the boundaries of the park.
The below are a sample of a list of birds that have been spotted within Campgaw Mountain:
Welcome! Today we are going to see eastern views near a ski lift, and explore an interesting pond! Ready? Let’s go!
Let’s start our journey by heading west on the joint .5 of a mile Yellow Blazed Indian Trail and Blue Blazed .90 of a mile Rocky Ridge trail.
Rocky Ridge Powerline Cut
Almost immediately the blue blazed rocky ridge trail splits off from the yellow blazed Indian Trail. Let’s take it! We’ll meet up again with the Indian Trail later. On the Rocky Ridge Trail we pass under power lines between two old buildings.
Old Cedar Trail 1
As we walk we go through an intersection with the 2.10 mile Red Blazed Old Cedar Trail.
The Rocky Ridge footpath has now changed to a gravel road which we are climbing. Looking to the sides of the trail we see lots of Japanese Barberry, which has become an established invasive plant in the understory of the forest of Campgaw Mountain.
Old Cedar Trail
As we near the top of our climb the Rocky Ridge Trail has left the gravel road and is now a rocky footpath traveling along the ridge of Campgaw Mountain (hence the trail’s name!) We pass through another intersection with the 2.10 mile Old Cedar trail.
Basalt Rocky Ridge
Turning north on the Rocky Ridge Trail we find the landscape has become even more rocky but pleasant and more open like the environment found among the ridges of nearby High Mountain Park Preserve with basalt appearing now and then.
Dutchman Breeches Rocky Ridge Trail
As we walk on the basalt of Campgaw Mountain, we spot some Dutchman Breeches along with some Hepatica flowers growing to the side of the trail. Dutchman Breeches are named as such because the flowers resembles old-fashioned breeches. Hepatica flowers are named as such because the leaves are said to resemble liver. Both are ephemeral flowers found only in the early spring before the leaves on the trees come back. As we admire the flowers we hear a Red-Tailed Hawk screech overhead.
Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar
Looking at some of the trees as we walk we pass by Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar. We have now arrived in an open woodland. We spot Wineberry, a common invasive plant from Asia sprouting from the forest floor. As we walk we pass several structures for Frisbee golf (aka disc golf) which is set up throughout the park.
Rocky Ridge Trail End
Arriving near the ski lefts the .50 of a mile yellow blazed Indian Trail we left when we first started reappears.
Eastern View 5 with Ski Lifts
Take a look at the view! Here we can see a clear eastern view of surrounding Bergen County.
Leaving the the Rocky Ridge Trail, we now head east on the yellow blazed Indian Trail and pass the green blazed beeches trail to our left and right.
Skunk Cabbage Wetlands
Looking to our left we spot a good amount of Skunk Cabbage as we go down the Indian Trail. Ahead of us is a swamp. Many people think that any wetland they may see is a swamp but this is not the case. A swamp contains woody vegetation whereas marshes do not.
From the Indian Trail we turn left on the orange blazed Hemlock Trail. The Hemlock Trail follows along the shore of Fyke Pond which was created from the impoundment of Fyke Brook.
As we walk along we pass several smooth bark grey trees. These are American Beech, a slow growing native deciduous tree of the eastern forest.
American Beech Hemlock Trail
Continuing on we pass to our left two massive boulders made of basalt.
Basalt Boulders Hemlock Trail
As we pass the boulders a sudden cry pierces the ear: a Blue Jay has noticed our presence and is sounding the alarm that we are in its forest.
As we walk we pass by many dead and dying trees from which this trail was named after: The Eastern Hemlock. Most of the hemlocks found in Campgaw Mountain County Reserve are dead or dying due to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Native to East Asia, the adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees. This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.
Take a look! Some turtles have spotted us from a rock in Fyke Lake. Nice!
Turtle Fyke Lake
Near the end of the Hemlock Trail we scare away a male and female Wood Duck.
Hemlock Trail End
From here it’s a short walk back on the Indian Trail to the parking lot where our car is. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Campgaw County Reservation and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!
Campgaw Mountain is located at 200 Campgaw Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions!
NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!
Today’s hike will be an estimated 4.2 miles and will take us pass a lake, the Ramapo River, ruins, scenic overview and a waterfall!
Ready to begin?
Ramapo Valley County Park Kiosk
From the parking area just past the kiosk marks the start of the Orange Blazed 6.5 mile Shuber Trail (the longest trail found in Ramapo Valley County Reservation) and the .8 mile Silver blazed trail (All trails are maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference)
Shuber (Orange) & Silver Trailhead
Heading west on the combined orange blazed Shuber and the Silver trail a bridge appears ahead crossing the Ramapo River.
Continuing west, scenic Scarlet Oak Pond (once part of a former gravel quarry) appears to our right. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people we will see on our hike will be found here walking their dogs (as this is an extremely popular park to bring your dog) around this beautiful pond.
Shuber Trail Left
Come on, let’s leave the crowds and take the path less traveled. Keeping our eyes peeled to the left we follow the Orange Blazed Shuber Trail as it leaves the Silver Trail heading south west following the Ramapo River through a floodplain forest where Red Maple is the staple tree.
We are lucky today. The trail which travels alongside the Ramapo River is relatively dry. During times of snowmelt and rainstorms this path would be inaccessible.
Shuber Trail passing Blue Trail end near bridge over MacMillan Stream
As we continue heading west on the orange blazed Shuber Trail we pass the 3.0 mile Green on White Blazed Halifax Trail trailend to our right and cross over MacMillan Brook on a wooden footbridge.
Orange Trail Bridge Crossing
At this point as you take in your surroundings you might start to question a couple of items. Is all this beauty actually in New Jersey? In Bergen County? The answer is a resounding yes!
But wait, what’s this before us? Old ruins of a stone cabin built by a church camp which once operated here appears as we turn right on the orange blazed Shuber trail. (update February 12, 2016: the ruins have been removed by the Bergen County Parks Department)
The orange blazed Shuber trail starts climbing to the northwest of the Ramapo River. But don’t get discouraged by the climb, we are in a for a treat! Scenic cascades and pools of the Macmillan Brook parallels the trail to our right.
Cascades along orange trail
The Macmillan Brook is a tributary of the Ramapo River.
Orange Trail Silver Trailend
As we continue past the cascades we meet up with the trailend of the .8 of a mile Silver Trail we had originally started with the Shuber trail. As we turn right on the orange blazed Shuber trail, our footpath turns to an asphalt road.
Yellow Silver Trailhead
Leaving the asphalt road and continuing on the orange blazed Shuber trail, the 1.6 mile Yellow Silver Trail appears to our left which traverses an area known as Matty Price Hill.
Passing the trailhead of the Yellow Silver Trail and continuing on the Shuber trail we pass a dam and outlet of Macmillan brook and see the beautiful estimated 13.11 acre MacMillan Reservoir to our right.
Red Trail Trailhead
Continuing west past the reservoir the red blazed .3 mile Marsh Loop Trailhead appears to the south. Passing this trailhead we continue on our way traveling through an area of the Ramapo Mountains known as the Middle Valley.
Ridge Trail Trailhead
A short distance ahead the 1.9 mile Blue Blazed Ridge trail appears to our right. Let’s take it!
Ridge Trail Macmillan Stream Tributary #1
Heading north and leaving the Shuber trail behind us we carefully walk on rocks over a couple of Macmillan Brook tributaries. I should probably mention here that these rocks and the Ramapo Mountains themselves are situated in a geologic area known as the Highlands Region. Dating from the pre-cambrian time period, these rocks are probably as old as the Earth itself.
Ridge Trail Stream 2
Turning right and heading southeast on the Ridge Trail the .8 Blue on White Havemeyer Trail appears to our left.
Ridge Trail & Havenmeyer (Blue on White) Trailhead
While we will be continuing on the Ridge Trail, the Havenmeyer trail explores a section of the Ramapo Mountains known as the Monroe Ridge. Though we can’t see it, an abandoned mine known as the Nickel Mine is found to the right of the Ridge Trail. The Nickel Mine is said to have been associated with the Hopkins and Dickinson Manufacturing Company which had operations producing bronze locks and iron castings in the 1870s along the Ramapo River. The Nickel Mine was created by digging two pits (both now are filled with water) in a search for nickel-bearing rock (hence the name Nickel Mine).
Ridge Trail Chestnut Oak Forest
As we continue our walk on the Ridge Trail with the Monroe Ridge to our north we have left the forest of Birch and Beech we were passing through and have entered a Chestnut Oak Forest. Chestnut Oak Forest canopies are up to 65% dominated by its namesake species. Associate plant communities of Chestnut Oak Forest include:
Continuing southeast on the Ridge Trail we come across the trailend of the 1.0 mile White Trail which traverses across the Monroe Ridge which is located north of where we are now.
Heading south on the Ridge Trail a sign for a Scenic Overlook appears. Let’s take it!
Following a brief Red Triangle on a blue background we come to outcrops. The outcrops are “basement rocks” as the younger rocks which originally had covered them eroded away over time. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss. Enough geology for now, let’s take a look at the view! Here we have a great eastern view of the surrounding Ramapo Mountains along with Campgaw Mountain. Though we cannot see it today due to hazy conditions in the distance NYC may be seen on a clear day.
Ridge Trail End Silver Trail
Heading back to the blue blazed Ridge Trail we turn south where the Ridge Trail ends at an intersection with the Silver Trail. Heading South on the Silver Trail we see a sign advertising a waterfall. Let’s check it out!
After a steep descent we come to the base where we have terrific views of the waterfall.
Whew! Believe it or not but we are almost done and it seems like we just got started! Alright, let’s head back to the Silver Trail.
Scarlet Oak Lake Return
Heading south on the the Silver Trail we pass scenic Scarlet Oak Pond where the orange blazed Shuber Trail joins us.
Silver Trail & Shuber Trail End
Well we have come to the end of the jointly blazed silver and shuber trail back at the parking lot where we began our hike. I hope you enjoyed our virtual hike and that it inspires you to check out Ramapo Valley County Reservation for yourself! Thanks for reading!
Wanna Hike Ramapo Valley County Reservation? Click Here for Directions!
From the parking area off of Skyline Drive in Oakland, let’s head past the kiosk and head to the yellow blazed Hoeferlin Trail. The 6.0 mile Hoeferlin Trail, formerly called the Suffern-Midvale Trail, is named after Bill Hoeferlin, who was a well known north Jersey trail builder and map maker. Ready? Let’s go!
As we begin our hike a small pond appears to our right which forms the start of a Ramapo River tributary we will be following (and crossing) as we head south on the Hoeferlin trail.
Witch Hazel in Bloom
Just past the pond we spot Witch Hazel in bloom off the trail. Witch Hazel is one of the last native plants to flower in the fall and is unusual because it’s conspicuous yellow flowers stay in bloom even after the leaves have fallen off.
Ramapo River Tributary
As we walk the only noise we hear besides the crunch of newly fallen leaves under our feet is the sound of the Ramapo River tributary flowing nearby.
Continuing south we find Sassafras in fall colors. Sassafras has three types of leaves: Solid, Three Prong and Mitten Shaped. Click here to view pictures and descriptions of this unique tree! All parts of Sassafras are fragrant.
Continuing south we cross over the Ramapo River tributary and find some Mile-a-Minute weed growing at our feet. Native to eastern Asia, Mile-a-Minute is an established invasive species in New Jersey and is capable of forming a monoculture excluding native plants.
Hoeferlin-McEvoy Combined Trail Blazes
Continuing south the Hoeferlin trail briefly becomes combined with the blue blazed MacEvoy trail coming from the east.
The MacEvoy trail is named for Clifford E. MacEvoy who was a wealthy contractor of large public works. MacEvoy helped conceive and construct the nearby Wanaque Reservoir. In the 1920’s, MacEvoy bought property in the Ramapo Mountains to form the Bergen County Hunting and Fishing Club. MacEvoy’s estate was sold and purchased by the State of NJ using Green Acres and federal funds in 1976 and became what is now known as Ramapo Mountain State Forest.
Heading northwest on the dual blazed Hoeferlin/MacEvoy trail we see Ramapo Lake before us. Here the Hoeferlin trail leaves to the south and we continue on the Blue Blaze MacEvoy trail which becomes a paved road. The 120 acre Ramapo Lake is the centerpiece of Ramapo Mountain State Forest. Fish such as Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Pickerel among other species are found in the lake. Ramapo Lake was originally a 25 acre pond known as Roten Pond. (“Roten” is Dutch for Muskrat). English translation corrupted “Roten” to “Rotten” Lake. The pond was later dammed to form the present Ramapo Lake.
Cannonball Trail Blaze
After passing a private residence and the Cannonball Trail to our right we come to the 1.0 mile White Blazed Castle Point Trailhead.
Castle Point Trail
Leaving the MacEvoy trail we turn right to head north on Castle Point.
Castle Point Trail Climb
Almost immediately Castle Point proves to be an uphill challenge.
Distant Wanaque Reservoir
Stopping we can see glimpses of the Wanaque Reservoir to the west. The Wanaque Reservoir was constructed in 1928 and is the second largest reservoir in NJ. Water is received from the Pompton, Ramapo and Wanaque Rivers. After enjoying the view, let’s continue our climb on Castle Point.
Castle Point Climb over Old Wall
As we walk, a wall appears with the white blaze of the castle point trail. Let’s carefully climb the wall over the rocks.
Wow! What’s this? A medieval castle in the middle of the woods? The ruins we see before us were known as Van Slyke Castle. The ruins stand 350 feet above Ramapo Lake on Fox Mountain.
Ramapo Lake View
The Castle (aka Foxcroft) was a stone mansion built by a William and Alice Porter in 1909 as their summer home. William died in 1911 and Alice died in 1940. The mansion sat empty for years until vandals broke in and torched the mansion in 1959 giving the appearance we see today.
Nature reclaims castle
Castle Point Blaze on ruins
Leaving the castle behind, we head north on the Castle Point Trail.
Ruined Swimming Pool
A short distance from the ruins of the castle we come to the ruins of the castle’s swimming pool.
Leaving the pool behind we arrive at the Ramapo Water Tower which provided water to the Van Slyke Castle. The water tower is still in great shape.
Ramapo Lake View
Stopping to catch our breath we look behind us to see the distant Ramapo Lake.
Looking east we see the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance just visible to the right of High Mountain.
Ramapo Lake View
Heading northeast on the Castle Point Trail we turn around one last time to say goodbye to Ramapo Lake which appears even further in the distance.
Castle Point Trail End
We’ve now arrived at the end of the Castle Point Trail. Ahead of us is a paved road leading to private residences nearby. Let’s turn right heading south on the paved road skirting the Cannonball Trail.
Red White Trail Head
A Red and White Trailhead (Skyline Connector Trail) appears to our left. This is our route back to our cars!
Red White Trail
The Red White Trail is a brief pleasant trail…
Red White Trail-End
…which ends too soon at the parking lot where we began. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Ramapo Mountain State Forest and that it inspires you to check it out for yourself!
Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and proceed north on Skyline Drive for about one mile to the upper parking area for Ramapo Mountain State Forest on the left side of the road, just beyond milepost 1.4, opposite the entrance to Camp Tamarack.