State Line Trail/Ernest Walter Trail/A.T. Loop from Greenwood Lake Marina

Overview

This loop hike traverses the Bearfort Ridge, with its unusual puddingstone conglomerate rock and pitch pines growing out of bedrock, reaches a panoramic viewpoint over Greenwood Lake, goes through a rhododendron tunnel, and passes Surprise Lake and West Pond.

Details
Time:
4 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate to Strenuous
Length:
4.1 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Public Transportation, Wildflowers
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Passaic
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
06/03/2005

Updated/Verified:
07/16/2015
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Along the Ernest Walter Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

Parking


View Stateline Trail Parking in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.18575, -74.33126
Driving Directions

Take I-287 to Exit 57 and continue on Skyline Drive to its western end at Greenwood Lake Turnpike (County Route 511) in Ringwood. Turn right and proceed for 8.2 miles to an intersection with Lakeside Road. Turn right and follow Lakeside Road (still designated County Route 511) for 2.4 miles to the Greenwood Lake Marina, just south of the New Jersey-New York boundary. Turn left and park on the left side of the dirt access road, west of Lakeside Road. Do not, under any circumstances, park on the private property of the Greenwood Lake Marina, on the east side of Lakeside Road.

Bus
Take the #197 NJ Transit bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.  This bus runs only about every two hours on weekends and non-rush hours, so check the schedule carefully.
Description

This is one of the most spectacular hikes in the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area. Although it begins with a fairly strenuous 600-foot climb, the rest of the hike does not involve any major elevation changes. There are, however, many short, steep ups and downs, some of which require you to use your hands as well as your feet. The estimated time of four hours will allow you plenty of time to pause and enjoy the wonderful scenery that you'll encounter along the route.

From the kiosk at the end of the parking area, bear left onto the blue-on-white-blazed State Line Trail, which follows a wide, rocky path up Bearfort Mountain. The ascent is moderate at first, and the trail soon levels off. With a private home visible directly ahead, the trail turns right and begins to climb more steeply. Take care to follow the blue-and-white blazes, as there are many side trails that branch from the main route.

In about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach an intersection with the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail (marked by a cairn). Bear left and follow the yellow-blazed trail uphill. Soon, you begin to traverse a long, glacially-smoothed outcrop of Schunemunk Conglomerate “puddingstone” rock. This unusual reddish-matrix conglomerate rock – studded with pebbles of pink sandstone and white quartz – is characteristic of the Bearfort Ridge. As you climb along the rock outcrop, views open up over Greenwood Lake to the east.

Continue to the top of the outcrop, which offers a panoramic view over the six-mile-long lake, 600 vertical feet below. The hills of Sterling Forest are in the background and, on a clear day, you can see the Sterling Forest Fire Tower in the distance. You’ll want to spend some time here, taking in the magnificent view and resting from the steep climb.

When you’re ready to resume the hike, continue along the Ernest Walter Trail, which briefly dips into the woods, but soon comes out again on another long conglomerate outcrop. After passing through an area studded with pitch pPitch pines at the junction of Ernest Walter and Bearfort Ridge Trails . Photo by Dan Chazin.ines, with more views over Greenwood Lake, the trail bears right and descends to cross the outlet of a wetland to the right of the trail. A short distance beyond, it reaches the eastern shore of pristine, spring-fed Surprise Lake. Again, you’ll want to stop here to experience the beauty of this wilderness lake. Swimming is not permitted, however.

The yellow trail heads south from the lake, immediately reaching the start of the orange-blazed Quail Trail, which continues ahead. You should bear right to continue along the Ernest Walter Trail. In a short distance, you’ll begin to pass through a dense rhododendron grove. In several places, the thick rhododendrons actually form a canopy over the trail!

After descending a little, the trail crosses Cooley Brook, the outlet of Surprise Lake, on rocks and logs. This crossing may be difficult if the water is high. The trail now climbs to reach an east-facing viewpoint from a rock outcrop studded with pitch pines at the northern terminus of the white-blazed Bearfort Ridge Trail. The hills of Sterling Forest and the Wyanokie Plateau are directly ahead, with an arm of the  Monksville Reservoir beyond. On a clear day, you can see the skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance. If there are no leaves on the trees, you might be able to see Surprise Lake through the trees to the left.

Continue along the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail, which heads west, crossing many sharp ridges of the West Pond. Photo by Daniel chazin.mountain. This section of trail is particularly rugged, with many short but steep ups and downs. At the bottom of the second steep descent, you’ll come to a T-intersection. Turn right, following a yellow arrow on a tree, and continue for about 150 feet to a rock outcrop overlooking pristine West Pond. You’ll want to spend a little time at this special spot, enjoying the view!

When you’re ready to continue, retrace your steps to the trail junction and continue ahead, heading west along the Ernest Walter Trail. You’ll soon come to a third, very steep descent, at the base of which the trail crosses Green Brook, the outlet stream of West Pond. The trail now proceeds through an attractive forest of hemlocks, pines and deciduous trees. After a while, there are seasonal views of West Pond through the trees to the right.

About half a mile from Green Brook, the trail crosses a small stream, the outlet of a wetland to the left. Just beyond, a rock outcrop to the left of the trail affords a view over the wetland. An unusual huge split boulder adds interest to this spot, which is another good place to take a break.

Soon, the trail traverses a long, narrow, smooth rock. A short distance beyond, it turns right and descends to end at a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Turn right onto the Appalachian Trail, which almost immediately climbs a steep ledge. You’re now heading east, again crossing several sharp ridges. At a limited viewpoint to the east, the trail turns left and heads north (when there are no leaves on the trees, Surprise Lake is visible below).

After about a third of a mile on the A.T., you’ll reach another limited viewpoint, with both east- and west-facing views from an open rock ledge. The A.T. now descends a long, sloped rock and reaches a junction with the blue-and-white-blazed State Line Trail (the junction is marked by paint blazes on a rock). Turn right and follow the State Line Trail, which crosses several ridges and then begins a steady descent. In about half a mile, you’ll reach the junction with the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail that you encountered earlier in the hike. Continue along the State Line Trail, which descends steadily to the parking area on Lakeside Road where the hike began.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Great hike my knees still hate me. :)

I just completed this loop on Sunday.  I did it counter clockwise with a hike out the Appalachian trail to the Prospect Rock view point in NY.  On the way back I noticed yellow blazes and took that trail for some distance before it dawned on me that I hadn't returned to the State Line intersection and continued North on the Appalachian Trail to the start of the Ernest Walker Trail, I was still in NY.  The lack of trail markers is what got me thinking since all of the trails I encountered in the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest were very excellently marked and easy to follow.  Back on track I found my legs getting a bit tired of the ups and downs from before West Pond until Suprise Lake where I finally stopped and drank my water and had a snack.  The trek back down the State Line Trail to my car was on rubber legs to say the least.  The description above is very accurate and the views made all the effort well worth it.  I was goiing to carry a 45 pound pack for training purposes, very glad I chose not to.  A walking stick was OK in parts, but cumbersome on the scramble sections around West Pond.  If you haven't tried this area its a must do!  A big thanks to the volunteers for the great work on the trails and the markings.  Does anyone have a good estimate on the total elevation gained on this loop?

Bears?

Curious:  any cause for concern about unusual levels of bear encounters in this area this Fall?  Given the recent temporary closing of trails in the Ramapo Valley area due to bear activity, and fact that the Highlands has some of the highest concentrations of bears in the region,  I was wondering if this is something one should particularly bear in mind (no pun intended) re this hike this Fall?  I'm considering this for a family outing.

Great hike! Well marked

Did the hike today solo.  Streams over the trail had a decent amount of water.  Wet feet and a few near miss slips (would not have been an issue if I'd picked up a walking stick). I agree with a previous post that next time I may do the hike in reverse and have my snack overlooking greenwood lake.  What a view!  Thanks to all who help mark and maintain these trails.  Loved the hike. The only time I had trouble keeping track of markers was on the way down the state line "blue over white" trail just after turning off the AT.  But that trouble was minimal.

Great hike! Thanks for the trail marking.

My wife and I took a Memorial Day hike today on this trail. It was a fantastic hike with beautiful vistas, pretty woods and ridges to traverse. We also found the trails to be marked very well. Thank you for the 28 hours of volunteer work repainting the yellow blazes last fall. Moderate to strenuous is definitely the correct rating. This being our first "big" hike of the season, we were quite tired when we returned to the parking lot but completely satisfied by the experience. Our only regret is that we hadn't taken the hike earlier this weekend when the views would have been crystal clear. Today was a bit hazy but still a beautiful warm day. One thing that is a bit confusing is that this hike is also listed on the site as the Surprise Lake Loop Trail. We used those instructions to find the trailhead, which turned out to be inaccurate, as they note that the parking lot is 3.6 miles from the right turn off of Rt. 511. It's actually 2.6 miles from the turn. Based on this, we had a short excursion into Warwick, NY, as we passed the turn off once, but not really a big deal. Perhaps the Surprise Lake Loop description should be removed as it duplicates this one. All in all, a perfect day and great hike. Thanks NYNJTC for maintaining these trails.

Surprise Lake Loop

Daniel,  Thanks for the comment. As a white collar worker, with "tenderfeet" hands, I was glad to have gloves for the scrambles, and happy to have a decent pair of hiking boots, too. The folks I met in their way up also seemed to be less than seasoned hikers and I thought it was worth the warning to everyone else to "Be Prepared". Relied on your description so much, that I handed my printed copy off to some youngsters on their way up. I also used your map to help some through-hikers from the Warwick Tpk find their way around West Pond to the AT. Again, kudos to the Volunteer(s) who marked the "Yellow" trail.

Is the same hike as Surprise Lake Loop ??

Took this hike on 4/25/2015.  A truly beautiful hike even when there are no overlooks or lake views.  Rhododendron tunnel is awesome. I do agree with the commenter who suggests taking it in the reverse direction, saving the view from Outlook Rock for the end of the hike. The description I used said "may require some hand scrambling". It feel it should say "requires several up and down scrambles" and "gloves recommended".  North and South movement, paralleling Greenwood Lake, is Easy hiking and East and West movements, across the ends of West Pond and Surprise Lake are somewhat Strenuous, requiring a lot of vertical scrambling.  I seem to recall four separate ridges of 10-20 feet vertical that must be scrambled up or down in each direction. (Perhaps the moderator can correct me on this.) I disagree with the commenter who said the junction of the State Line "Blue" trail with the Ernest Walter "Yellow" trail was not adequately marked.  It was very clearly marked for me on this day. The Yellow-blazed trail is very well marked throughout its length - kudos to the Volunteer who did that.  The only difficulty was where the State Line "Blue" trail leaves the AT "White" Trail and descends back to the marina parking lot.  I missed the Blue blaze at that intersection and was forced to backtrack briefly. I hope to do this hike again, maybe when the rthododendron are in bloom !

State Line Trail

As the trail supervisor for the area, I am very happy to hear that you enjoyed your hike. I missed you by one day out on the trail. Had your hike been on Sunday, you would have encountered us on the trail.  We were out planning improvements to trail conditions in the area. Blazing is on this agenda.  Thank you for all of your comments about the blazing. I really do like the look of those bright yellow blazes. Working with the maintainer, we did those last fall. It was two trips and 28 volunteer hours. When scraping off some of the yellow blazes, I found old AT, and Firehouse Trail blazes. It was like being a hiking archeologist! As you also noticed, we take the negative comments seriously as well, and I truly hope it is improved upon by your next hike. Hiking the loop counter-clockwise will give you a uniquely different experience. I also take a side trip to the AT register to sign in on my hike, and look to see if I can see the high point monument. Just a bit further will bring you to Grand View on the AT, making a really spectacular loop.     

Surprise Lake Loop Hike

First, I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this hike and want to do it again.  I can certainly understand why you say this, as it is one of my favorite hikes, too.  And, yes, it is the same hike as the "Surprise Lake Loop" hike that also appears on this website.  We usually post only a single description for each hike, but in this case, there are two descriptions -- this one, which I wrote, and a second one, written by George Petty, the author of Hiking the Jersey Highlands. As to the comment regarding the "hand-scrambling," my description states that there are "many short, steep ups and downs, some of which require you to use your hands as well as your feet."  I think that this is pretty clear.  I have done this hike many times without using gloves, so I do not think that you need to use gloves (except, of course, in the winter).  Yes, there are probably about four separate vertical ridges that need to be traversed toward the end of the hike. As for the marking of the junction of the State Line Trail with the Ernest Walter Trail, the comment to which you refer was posted over two years ago, and the blazing of this junction has been improved since then.  I am glad to hear that this junction was clearly marked, I'm a little surprised to hear that you seem to have missed the junction of the A.T. with the State Line Trail.  I thought that this junction was pretty clearly marked with paint on an open rock.  But I will bring the comment to the attention of the trail supervisor of the area so that corrective action can be taken, if necessary.   Thanks for bringing these matters to our attention!

First hike

Daniel, thank you very muh for the excellent detailed hike, this was my first hike ever and couldnt be better, i enjoy te outdoors and very active so the rocks were awesome! Felt great pacing up the rocks and the heart rate pumping, couldnt be better, thanks again.   what othe ride would you say i should do next? I mostly look into loops as i have no idea how to get back to the car if it isnt anloop lol, thanks again have a great summer all!

Beautiful area... Needs some upkeep!

I decided to strap on the fishing gear, and head to surprise lake. I started out at the marina, and headed up the state line trail. Armed with a .PDF trail map, and GPS, I headed up the mountain. The area is beautiful, and I sure wish I got to see the views of greenwood lake, and surprise lake. Now I love a good hike, but my main goal was to fish surprise lake. The first leg of the trip was strenuous as expected, but I was hoping it was worth the reward. I finally met up with the "White" trail, which I believe was the AT, and began to head south. I happened to notice that to the south was suprise lake in the distance. I had passed it! No where along my route did I see any "yellow" trail heading southwest. I doubled back almost all the way back to the area where the homes are visable, and started the ascent again. I was cross referencing my GPS with the map the entire time, and that "yellow trail was just not there! I do not know if it was over grown, or is just that subtle and easy to miss with out a marker. My eyes were fixed on the southwest side of the state line trail the entire time, and nothing! Needless to say, after almost 2 hours of that state line trail, I was exhausted, and discouraged. Probably will never go back. Wawayanda needs to clearly mark this trail if it is going to be on the map. Unless the map is completely wrong, which I doubt since I saw surprise lake to my southwest. Too bad I really didn't get to enjoy this area. One of the more tranquil places in all the NJ highlands.

  At the intersection with

  At the intersection with the State-Line Trail, the Ernest Walter has two trailhead blazes. One is on a rock, the other is on a tree. That tree has both the begin and end blaze on it.  They can be easily missed as you are walking uphill. This i believe is due to one watching ones footing on the steep grade. I investigated this today and saw many hikers miss the trail markers because of this fact. I rebuilt the rock carin that marks the intersection. Hopefully this will lead to less confustion. 

Bearfort Trail

This summer I took this trail from Warwick Trp - which also passed by Suprise Lake and overlooked Greenwood Lake. it was truly spectacular - but strenous with the many rock scrambles. A good work out! Here are images from my hike (the pictures of rock walls were part of the trail): http://www.flickr.com/photos/sph001/sets/72157627082919637/show/

State Line/Surprise Lake Circular

My only comment is that I love to do the hike in reverse direction. It is always nice to dip your feet in the refreshing lake water towards the end of the hike. Also, you save the best view of Greenwood Lake for last. You might feel ho-hum by doing the hike in the suggested direction as the last couple of miles don't offer nothing nearly as exciting as the first two miles. So go counter-clockwise and save the best for last.