Northern Loop around Butler Reservoir


This hike follows woods roads and footpaths through the preserve, looping around the scenic Butler Reservoir.

3.5 hours
4.5 miles
Route Type:
Allowed on leash
Buy Trail Map:

Web Map:


Apshawa Preserve map available at kiosk at trailhead.

First Published:
Daniel Chazin
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Driving Directions

Take I-287 to Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. When you reach a fork in 1.3 miles (from Route 287), bear right, but at the next fork (in another 0.1 mile), bear left to continue on Hamburg Turnpike. Follow Hamburg Turnpike for another 1.3 miles, then turn right onto Macopin Road. In 1.9 miles, turn left onto Northwood Drive. Proceed for 500 feet and turn right into the parking area for the Apshawa Preserve.


The Apshawa Preserve is a rugged 576-acre tract owned by Passaic County and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. About seven miles of trails traverse this preserve, and this hike features the trails in the southern section of the preserve. The trails are marked with paint blazes and with colored plastic diamond blazes that incorporate the logo of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

At the northern end of the parking area, go through a gate in a deer fence and follow the Blue Trail, which first proceeds along a woods road, but continues on a footpath. After crossing a wet area on puncheons, the Blue Trail bears left and descends to cross a stream. It then climbs a hill on a woods road, passing on the left the start of the Purple Trail. Continue ahead on the Blue Trail, which bears right at a high point and passes interesting rock formations on the left. Just beyond, the trail turns left, leaving the woods road, climbs over a rise and descends steeply into a ravine, where it turns left onto another woods road.

A short distance ahead, you’ll notice a triple white blaze on the right. Turn right, leaving the Green Trail, and follow the White Trail, which begins to climb. At the top of the hill, you’ll pass through an area studded with cedars and soon reach a west-facing viewpoint, with the Butler Reservoir visible below. You’ll be hiking along the shoreline of this reservoir later on in the hike.

The trail now descends rather steeply to the southeast corner of the reservoir. Here, the White Trail ends at a junction with the Red Trail. Turn right onto the Red Trail, which heads north parallel to the eastern shore of the reservoir, with several views over the reservoir.

At the northern end of the reservoir, the Red Trail bears right, briefly follows a stream, and reaches a junction with the Yellow Trail. Continue ahead on the Yellow Trail, which circles a small pond, with several viewpoints over the pond. At the eastern end of the pond, the trail traverses a rocky area and comes close to Macopin Road, so you may hear the sounds of traffic.

After completing its circuit around the pond, the Yellow Trail ends at a second junction with the Red Trail. Continue ahead on the Red Trail, which follows a woods road. Soon, you’ll reach an open area to the left of the trail that affords a broad south-facing view over the Butler Reservoir.

After paralleling the wide inlet stream of the reservoir, the Red Trail turns left and crosses the stream on rocks. This crossing may be tricky if the water is high. The trail now heads east and soon reaches the shore of the reservoir, where a rock ledge affords a nice view. Just beyond, the trail climbs briefly to avoid a steep rock face, but for most of the next half mile, the trail closely parallels the shore of the scenic reservoir.

After several private homes come into view (on the right) near the southwest corner of the reservoir, the trail joins a woods road and soon reaches a north-facing viewpoint over the reservoir. A short distance beyond, you’ll come to a gravel road that leads to the reservoir dam. Continuing to follow the red blazes, turn right onto the road and then bear left. The Green Trail soon joins from the right, and you should follow both red and green blazes along the road.

Be alert for a right turn, where the Red and Green Trail turn right and descend. Soon, the trails cross Apshawa Brook on a metal bridge just below the dam of the reservoir (again, this stream crossing can be difficult in times of high water). Due to safety concerns, the historic stone dam has been breached and a concrete spillway constructed to lower the water level of the reservoir.

On the other side of the bridge, follow the Green Trail as it turns right and goes through a gate. The Green Trail loops around and soon reaches a junction with the Blue Trail, which begins on the left. Turn left onto the Blue Trail and follow it all the way back to the parking area, where the hike began. 

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Did this hike on 10/12/15 and had a couple of minor issues.. The 1st is in regards to the yellow trail. At the northern end of the pond the trail markers disappear. There are a few foootpaths fanning out but lead nowhere. After trial and error, I found the trail continues strait ahead into a marshy strip that is accesable by  balancing along a  5 inch wide downed tree then carefully sloshing along for a few more feet. You will see a yellow blaze but  I lost the trail again and had to bushwack my way keeping the shoreline within sight to my left before picking up the yellow blazes again. It's obvious that this section of the trail hasn't been getting much use lately.   The 2nd problem came when I reached the gravel road along the red trail after passing the private houses. You must turn left and follow the road, marked with red blazes  passing the first deer gate on the right. The markings then become red and green and  there will be a 2nd deer gate which you  will take.( I mistakenly went through the 1st gate and hiked about 20 minutes before realizing there was no blue trail connection.)

Scared away!

Looking forward to a nice hike this morning, we were greeted by news trucks and radio stations (we were interviewed and got on NBC news) in the parking lot. They told us a hiker was killed by a black bear yesterday. Making a wise decision, we decided not to do this hike even though they had caught and killed the bear. Hope to do this one at a later date.

August 2013 Hike

My husband and I did this hike last weekend.  Overall we had a wonderful time, saw some white tailed deer in the fenced-in area on the white trail. The yellow trail is out due to beavers flooding the pond, the white trail connector between the resevoir and the pond is very narrow and wet, still traversable, but very odd feeling to have the pond inches away to the right and you are walking below the water level! Once you join the red trail, much of the trail is impassable with fallen trees.  Some looked old, others new.  Probably the bulk was from Sandy(?) The resevoir is really beautiful, looking forward to doing this hike again in the future. Apshawa Preserve Virtual Tour!

Check out a virtual tour of the Apshawa Preserve! Plenty of Pictures of views, flora and fauna!