Welcome to Buttermilk Falls Park! Located in West Nyack, New York, the park features a scenic waterfall and two western views where on a clear day you can see up to 16,000 acres. The 75 acre Buttermilk Falls Park was purchased by Rockland County with additional acquisitions in 1981.
Buttermilk Falls Park is location in a portion of the Palisades ridge north of the Sparkill Gap. The Palisades are located along the western shoreline of the Hudson River in southeastern New York and in north eastern New Jersey. Rocks found in the Palisades are known as diabase and were formed during the Triassic period around 200 million years ago.
Buttermilk Falls consists of a mixed-oak forest community including the following species among others:
Welcome! Today, using the above trail map (taken from the Rockland County New York Website), we are going to explore some of the 75 acres that make up Buttermilk Falls Park! Along the way, we’ll see some cascades and check out some cool western views. The total hike is an estimated 1.2 miles. Ready? Let’s go!
From the parking lot we are going to head northeast on 0.9 of a mile blue blazed trail.
Entrance to the Blue Trail
Entering the park on the blue trail, the path starts flat but we find it is deceiving as we start to climb.
But before we start any kind of climbing let’s take a quick scan of some of the flora that’s sprouting near the entrance. What’s this plant that sort of looks like little bamboo shoots sprouting up everywhere alongside the trail? It’s Japanese Knotweed, a obnoxious invasive plant which, once established, is generally there for good. Japanese Knotweed forms monocultures, excludes native plants and does not provide any benefit to wildlife.
Blue Trail Steps
Leaving the Japanese Knotweed for now the Blue Trail is taking us up some wooden steps.
Taking another look at the flora coming up, what’s this 3 leaved spiked covered plant popping up all over the place? It’s Wineberry. Wineberry is native to Asia and is an established invasive plant in the United States.
Blue Trail Climb 2
Continuing on we start hearing the sound of water, a good sign as we must be approaching Buttermilk Falls!
Taking a look around the forest floor we spot the leaves of Trout Lily, a native woodland plant which blooms in early spring. And here you thought all we would be looking at is invasive plants! The “trout” in it’s name is said to come from its mottled leaves which are said to resemble wild trout.
Heading southeast on the blue trail we come to an open area on the trail with Eastern Red Cedar and occasional trap rock.
Continuing southeast on the blue trail we pass the .21 of a mile Orange Trail trail head. If you follow the orange trail across Schuyler Avenue, you will intersect the Long Path at Sean Hunter Ryan Memorial Park.
Blue Trail Second Viewpoint 2
Shortly after we pass the orange trail trail head we arrive at the second westerly viewpoint. What a beautiful day! From an ecological perspective we are currently in a traprock glade/rock outcrop surrounded by dry grass and forb-dominated species.
Leaving the second and last viewpoint we continue on the blue trail and pass a small but interesting plant known as Dutchman Breeches. Dutchman Breeches are a native to the eastern US. The flowers (which have since wilted) are said to look like old fashioned breeches hence its name.
Blue Trail Rock Seat
Tired? Want to take a seat? There is a seat carved out of the diabase to our left. Neat!
After a series of switchbacks we have come to the end of the Blue trail at the intersection with the white trail. Turning right on the white trail we walk in a north west direction.
What’s that up ahead? Someone long ago dumped an old car off of the White Trail.
Rock Wall White Trail
Looking to our left we pass by an old rock wall which is a sure sign the land we are walking on was at one time farmland.
Boardwalk White Trail
Looking ahead we spot a boardwalk further down the White Trail.
Swamp White Trail
As we walk on it we come to a Red-Maple Swamp to our left. Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) are one of the most common maples found in the northeast and is a common tree in wetlands.
White Trail end
Just past the swamp we have reached the end of the White Trail at the parking lot where we started our hike. And that concludes our hike! I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspires you to visit Buttermilk Falls County Park for yourself!
High Mountain Park was a tree farm owned by Urban Farms, Inc., a subsidiary of McBride Enterprises of Franklin Lakes, NJ before its establishment as a preserve. On May 19, 1993 the Wayne Council majority in an 8-1 vote accepted a deal to purchase High Mountain from Urban Farms, Inc.
The State of NJ committed $2.6 million in a Green Acres Grant and agreed to a 2% loan of $4 million. $901,943 was provided in other grand funds. The Nature Conservancy obtained a $500,000 state grant to assist in the purchase of High Mountain.
Funding Provided by Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders
Ecological communities featured in High Mountain Park include:
Rocky Headwater Stream:
Rocky Headwater Stream
Rocky headwater stream habitat includes a small to moderate sized rocky stream that lacks persistent emergent vegetation. In other words, few large rooted plants are found but mosses and algae are usually present. The stream flows over bedrock near its origin and contains riffle and pool sections.
In addition to Red Maple Swamps, Shrub swamps are also found in High Mountain Park. This community consists of temporarily to permanently flooded wetlands usually populated with Skunk Cabbage, Buttonbush, Spicebush among others.
Talus Slope Community:
Talus Slope communities consist of sparse vegetation occurring on exposures of shale bedrock, ledges and talus. Little soil exists on the talus.
Trap rock Glade/Outcrop Community:
Trap Rock Glade- Outcrop Community (Winter)
The trap rock glade/outcrop community is globally rare and was the principal reason the Nature Conservancy was interested in protecting High Mountain. Trap rock Glade/Outcrop communities, a globally impaired community type, consists primarily of grasses and forbs with occasional Eastern Red Cedar.
Prickley Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus may also be present. Hickory-Ash-Red Cedar woodland is also dominated in the trap rock glade/outcrop community. Rare Rock Outcrop Plants include Torreys Mountain Mint and Dewey’s Sedge among other rare plants.
Hickory/Ash/Eastern Red Cedar Woodland:
Eastern Red Cedar
This community contains the trap rock outcrop community and consists of Pignut Hickory, Eastern Red Cedar, White Ash and Chestnut Oak with the understory consisting primarily of grasses and forbs. This community along with the trap rock glade/outcrop community harbor a total of 14 rare and endangered plants.
Frequent disturbance is required for the oak-hickory forest to maintain itself. Without disturbance, shade tolerant species such as Sugar Maple and American Beech regenerate replacing oaks over time. Maple-Beech dominated woodland do not provide sufficient quality mast (i.e. acorns, hickory nuts) required for wildlife.
The composition of the present Oak-Hickory forest found in High Mountain Park will likely change as the sapling layer is mostly populated by Sugar & Red Maple with only a few Oak saplings present. This change may be due to fire suppression.
Wooly Adelgid on Hemlock Needles
Most of the hemlocks found in High Mountain Park Preserve 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.
High Mountain Park is a part of the Passaic River watershed. All streams that originate or flow through High Mountain Park drain to the Passaic River. Streams include tributaries to the Point View Reservoir found in the western section of the preserve and tributaries of the Molly Ann Brook (the last stream to drain into the Passaic River before the Great Falls in Paterson) found in the eastern portion of the preserve. The headwaters of Preakness (Signac) Brook are located in High Mountain Park and are classified in this location as C1 by the NJ DEP. According to the NJ DEP Website “Category One (C1) designation protects waterways from any discharge that produces a measurable change in the existing quality of the water”. Numerous tributaries to the Preakness Brook are found primarily in the heart of the preserve.
2020 Update – Please note the trail system has changed since this post was written. An updated map was posted to the NY NJ Trail Conference. You can access it here.
The below trail description was as I found the trails in High Mountain when I wrote this post in 2012.
There are five blazed trails ranging from 0.2 miles to 4.9 miles waiting to be explored at High Mountain Park. All trails are maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference who have maintained the trails since the 1940’s.
2020 Update – Reminder, the above trail map is no longer accurate.
The trailhead of the 1.7 mile Red Trail is accessible from the small parking lot off of College Road.
From the kiosk in the parking area, the Red Trail heads east on a gravel trail in an open field adjacent to College Road and enters the woods heading in a north to northwest direction.
Massive Boulder on Red Trail
After entering the forest, a large boulder is visible to the west near a sign advertising High Mountain.
To High Mountain
From here, the Red Trail passes a stream & wetlands.
Wetlands near Red Trail
At half a mile, the southern trailhead of the Yellow Trail is accessible on the east. Past the trailhead of the Yellow Trail, the Red Trail passes the southern trailhead of the White Trail Trailhead to the west .6 of a mile. Once past the trailhead of the White Trail, the Red Trail crosses a stream and wetlands before continuing in a northwest direction.
Waterfall off of Red Trail
Another stream with a waterfall eventually appears to the east of the Red Trail. The Red Trail crosses the stream proceeding a short distance to its northern terminus at Reservoir Drive in Franklin Lakes.
Reservoir Drive Red Trail End
White Trail Trailhead
The southern trailhead of the 1.6 mile White Trail is accessible from the Red Trail about .6 of a mile from the Red Trail’s trailhead at College Road.
From its trailhead, the White Trail heads west through the wetlands of a Preakness Brook tributary stream. Continuing west the White Trail reaches another Preakness brook tributary and its wetlands.
North Jersey Country Club
From here, the White Trail turns north passing the North Jersey Country Club. Continuing north past the North Jersey Country Club, the White Trail passes a reservoir used for the ponds found in the country club.
North Jersey Country Club Reservoir
From here the White Trail continues north and goes through talus slopes while paralleling and eventually crossing another Preakness Brook tributary. The White Trail ends at the Yellow Trail near Beech Mountain.
White Trail End
Yellow Trail Trailhead from Red Trail
At 4.9 miles, the Yellow Trail is the longest trail present in High Mountain Park. The southern trailhead of the Yellow Trail is accessible from the Red Trail about ½ a mile from the trailhead of the Red Trail on College Road.
From the Red Trail, the Yellow Trail turns east and crosses a stream and wetlands heading in a northwest and then northeast direction. Soon the Yellow Trail passes the summit of Mount Cecchino to the east. From here the trail begins a steady climb to the summit of High Mountain. At 885 feet, High Mountain is the third tallest peak in the US within 20 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
High Mountain Grassy Summit Yellow Trail
The grassy summit is about 1 mile from the Yellow Trail trailhead and provides fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline, Garrett Mountain (1st Watchung) and the distant Ramapo Mountains.
Summit of High Mountain View of NYC with Black Cherry Tree in Bloom Yellow Trail
From the summit of High Mountain the Yellow Trail heads west going downhill and crosses a stream.
After crossing the stream, the Yellow Trail comes to an intersection with the Red Trail.
Once past the intersection with the Red Trail, the Yellow Trail heads northwest to a paved circle on Reservoir Drive in Franklin Lakes and briefly travels along Reservoir Drive before reentering the forest near Winding Hollow Drive in Franklin Lakes.
Reservoir Drive Franklin Lakes NJ
Heading south, the Yellow Trail passes the northern trailhead of the White Trail and then heads south and climbs Beech Mountain. At 875 feet, Beech Mountain is the second highest peak in High Mountain Park.
Swamp Beech Mountain Yellow Trail
The Yellow Trail then traverses past a large forested wetland to the west and crosses a Preakness Brook tributary. Turning west, the Yellow Trail reaches a beautiful view found on a basalt outcrop of Pointview Reservoir and the distant NJ Highlands.
View of Point View Reservoir with Distant NJ Highlands from Yellow Trail Beech Mountain
The Yellow Trail continues northwest past another Preakness Brook Tributary and heads south and west past the parking lot for JVC Corporation.
Back of JVC Building on Yellow Trail
From here, the Yellow Trail heads northwest and passes the northern terminus of the Horizontal White Blaze connector trail. The Yellow Trail then turns north and traverses through the Franklin Clove.
Yellow Trail Franklin Clove
The Franklin Clove was formed by glacial action in the last ice age. Continuing north, the Yellow Trail passes by the very short Orange Blazed Buttermilk Falls trail and then ends at Indian Drive in Franklin Lakes.
Buttermilk Falls Orange Trail Blaze
The 0.2 Mile Orange Blazed Buttermilk Falls trail begins from the Yellow Trail shortly after the Yellow Trail passes through the Franklin Clove. It ends at Scioto Drive in Franklin Lakes. The primary feature of this trail is Buttermilk Falls which spills over fractured basalt.
Pancake Trail Trailhead
The 2.8 mile Blue Trail (aka the Pancake Hollow Trail) trailhead is located off of Chickapee Drive in Wayne.
Blue Trail Blaze
The Blue Trail initially heads east and turns north at the intersection of the horizontally white blazed connector trail. Heading north, the trail passes the Franklin Clove and the headwaters for Preakness Brook to the east. The Blue Trail then turns northwest passing between housing developments to the north and south where a lean-to is present.
Lean-To off of Blue Trail
Once past the housing developments, the trail traverses the “pancake hollow” section of High Mountain Park.
Stream along Blue Trail
The Blue Trail continues west crossing over a brook and wetlands. As the blue trail approaches Berdan Avenue at the farthest western portion of High Mountain Park, the trail turns NW and then NE and then continues in a SE direction leaving the Pancake Hollow section returning the hiker in a loop fashion back to the portion of the Blue Trail previously traveled with housing developments to the north and south. From here, the hiker follows the blue trail back to the trailhead at Chickopee Drive.
Blue Trail End
Horizontal White Blaze Trailhead
The 0.2 mile Horizontal White Blaze Connector trail’s western trailhead is accessible from the Blue Trail near the Blue Trail trailhead at Chickapee Drive in Wayne. The Horizontal White Blaze Connector Trail initially heads southeast from the Blue Trail before turning north to connect with the Yellow Trail near the Franklin Clove where it ends.
Fauna I’ve spotted during my hikes at High Mountain Park include:
Scarlet Tanager (Female)
Black Rat Snake
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
High Mountain Park Preserve provides much needed habitat to the threatened Long-Eared Bat which has been found roosting in the forest.
Take Route 208 west to the second Goffle Road exit (towards Hawthorne/Paterson) and turn right at the end of the ramp. At the next light, just beyond the intersection with Goffle Hill Road, turn right onto North Watchung Drive. At a “stop” sign at the top of the hill, turn sharply right onto Rea Avenue, which becomes North Haledon Avenue and then Linda Vista Avenue. At a T-intersection with Terrace Avenue, turn right, then bear left to continue on Linda Vista Avenue, which leads into William Paterson University (Entry 6). At the next “stop” sign, turn right and continue for 0.4 mile to a small parking area on the right, with a sign “High Mountain Park.”
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!
Outdoor wildlife exhibits include two Barred Owls and a Red-Tailed Hawk. These raptors were previously injured prior to coming to the nature center and cannot survive on their own in the wild. Other attractions include the the John A. Redfield Building which includes the Stephen Minkoff Memorial Library and indoor animal exhibits.
John A. Redfield Building
Indoor Animal Exhibits
The nature center provides public & after school programs as well as a summer day camp. There is also a butterfly garden, backyard habitat exhibit, picnic area and an outdoor education pavilion.
Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve
The land that was to become the TNC & LBP was sold in lots by 1874. Over time, the land owners could not afford the taxes and the lots reverted back to the town. The land was purchased from Tenafly by developers in the 1950’s. In 1958, a plan to construct 225 houses was approved by Tenafly but the plan lapsed. Developer Bernard Gray proposed building a million dollar country club in 1960 but later backed out.
Diabase Boulders Tenafly Nature Center
In 1962, NY developer Norman Blankman proposed to build 300 homes and a golf course on the land. Tenafly swapped 60 acres of land with Blankman in 1963 to consolidate his land and the boroughs. The 60 acres became the Tenafly Nature Center. Soon after the consolidation, Blankman abandoned his original proposal and created a plan to develop 5 office buildings and a golf course. This development was rejected by Tenafly’s planning board. After other development ideas came and went, Blankman sold the land to Centex Developers in August of 1973 for 9 million. Centex proposed the construction of 1,780 houses, town homes and apartment complexes on the land. The land, valued at around 8.5 million dollars, was condemned by Tenafly which wanted to purchase the property for preservation purposes.
Green Acres Land & Water Conservation Fund
Tenafly completed the purchase of the land in 1976 using Green Acres funding, bonds and donations from the public. The new preserve became known as the Lost Brook Preserve. Tenafly Nature Center took over management of the Lost Brook Preserve in 2005 bringing the total acreage of TNC & LBP to 380 acres.
In 2009, the Bergen County board of chosen freeholders announced a $900,000 grant to the Borough of Tenafly to acquire once acre of land adjacent to the nature center. The nature center’s intent is to let the land revert to forest via succession. The acre is uphill of Pfister’s Pond whose streams drain into the Tenakill Brook, an important tributary of the Oradell Reservoir which is a source of drinking water for a large percentage of Bergen County.
An estimated 7 miles of blazed trails are waiting to be explored at the TNC & LBP.
All trails are directly or indirectly accessible from the estimated .5 of a mile Main Trail which can be accessed from the parking lot of the Tenafly Nature Center.
The Main Trail is the unpaved continuation of Hudson Avenue which heads from the parking lot down to Route 9W. The yellow, white (De Filiipi) and Bischoff Trail are accessible to the north of the Main Trail and the Red Trail, Allison Trail and Little-Chism Trail are accessible to the south of the Main Trail. The Main Trail passes by the historic Lambier House (private property) where Lambier Brook dead ends to the south of the trail. Beautiful viewpoints of the 3 acre Pfister’s Pond are visible to the north of the Main Trail. Wild Geranium grows along the side of the trail in springtime.
Yellow Trail Trailhead
The 1/3 of a mile interpretive Yellow Trail is the best introduction to the TNC & LBP. Numbered markers found throughout this trail match with this booklet providing excellent information on the flora & geology of the TNC & LBP including topics such as American Chestnut, New York Fern, Diabase Trap rock and much more.
Numbered Marker on interpretive yellow trail
At the end of the booklet there is a quiz to test your knowledge. The yellow trail follows the western border of Pfister’s pond and features a 50 foot watchable wildlife viewing dock that extends out on the western border of Pfister’s Pond.
Watchable Wildlife Grant Site
The trail then heads east and south to rejoin the Main Trail in a loop fashion.
De Filippi (White Trail)
The eastern side of Pfister’s Pond is accessible via the .4 of a mile white trail (aka De Filippi) trail. The white trail is accessible from the Main Trail or the western terminus of the Bischoff Trail. The trail traverses north near the eastern border of Pfister’s Pond passing the De De Filippi shelter on boardwalks before turning east and then turning south to connect either to the Bischoff Trail to the east or the Main Trail to the south.
View of Pfisters Pond from De Fillipi Shelter
De Filippi Trail Boardwalk
The 0.6 white/red blazed Bischoff trail is accessible from the White trail from the west or off the Main Trail near 9W. From the Main Trail, the Bischoff Trail heads north and passes over a stream draining a small pond.
Bischoff Trail Swamp
From here, the trail turns west and passes to the south of the pond and traverses near Montammy Country Club to the North and the historic (private) Lambier house to the south.
The Bischoff trail then terminates when it meets the white trail.
Red Trail Trailhead
The .3 of a mile Red Trail, accessible from the Main Trail, heads south before turning east and north paralleling the east brook as it empties Pfisters Pond on its way to the Tenakill Brook.
Many wildflowers such as Spring Beauty, Dwarf Ginseng, Trout Lily, Canada Mayflower and others appear on this trail in the spring. The purple trail trailhead is accessible to the east of the red trail. The red trail continues north and terminates into the Main Trail.
Purple Trail Trail Head
The .5 of a mile Purple Trail heads southeast from the Red Trail and crosses over the east brook and the Blue Spur (short .2 of a mile trail which leads to Highland Avenue).
Blue Spur Trailhead
Once past the blue spur trail, the purple trail continues southwest crossing over Lambier Brook before terminating into the Allison Trail.
The yellow blazed 1.4 mile Allison Trail is accessible from the north via the Main Trail, the east and south via the Little-Chism Trail and the west from the purple trail. Heading southwest from the Main Trail the Allison Trail passes wetlands and interesting rock formations.
Massive Rock Formation Allison Trail
These formations are made up of rock known as diabase which was formed when molten lava cooled underground. The trail then traverses southeast where it briefly follows the Little-Chism Trail.
Little-Chism Allison Trail
From here the trail crosses the Green Brook before heading southwest once more paralleling the Green Brook to the west and its wetlands before terminating into the Little-Chism trail near East Clinton Avenue.
Allison Trail End Near East Clinton Avenue
An interesting trail that is accessible from the Allison Trail is the 0.6 of a mile orange blazed Haring Rock Trail.
Haring Rock Trail Trailhead
This trail traverses the western portion of the preserve. Heading south from the Allison Trail, the Haring Rock Trail travels in a meandering fashion passing wetlands to the east. The trail terminates at the Haring Rock.
The Haring Rock is a glacial erratic named after a Dr. John J. Haring who made sick calls in the area around the turn of the century on horseback. Doctor Haring often stopped at this rock to rest. An interesting fact about this glacial erratic is that it was originally located east of its current position on top of traprock where the Jewish Community Center is located. When the Jewish Community Center was developed the rock was moved to its current location. It was discovered that the rock would not stay put in its original position and was instead cemented in place upside down. The Haring Rock Trail ends at this rock and the Seely Trail begins here.
Seely Trail Trailhead
The 0.3 yellow/orange blazed Seely Trail is accessible from the Haring Rock Trail & connects to the Little-Chism trail once it crosses Green Brook.
Green Brook Crossing Seely Trail
The short trail traverses near East Clinton Avenue in the southern boundary of the preserve.
At 2.1 miles, the red blazed Little-Chism Trail is the longest trail featured in the TNC & LBP. The Little-Chism Trail is accessible from the Seely Trail in the south of the preserve near East Clinton Avenue, the Allison Trail in the southern boundary near Route 9W or from the north off of the Main Trail. Exploring the trail starting from the Seely Trail terminus, the trail heads east near wetlands and turns north briefly leaves the preserve and traverses next to Route 9W before heading back to the forest.
Little-Chism Trail by Route 9W
Continuing north, the trail crosses over Lost Brook where a dam is visible.
Dam on Lost Brook Little-Chism Trail
The trail joins with the Allison Trail briefly after it crosses Green Brook near more wetlands.
Green Brook Little-Chism Trail
Both the Green Brook, Lost Brook are tributaries of the nearby Hudson River. The trail then passes the trail terminus for the short Sweet Gum Trail (which leads to the nearby members only Greenbrook Sanctuary to the east).
Sweet Gum Spur Trailend
The trail continues heading north crossing over two additional tributary streams before terminating at the Main Trail near Route 9W.