Castle Point Trail - Longer Loop

Overview

This loop hike runs along the shore of Ramapo Lake and climbs to the ruins of an old stone castle and tower.

Details
Time:
3 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Length:
4 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Bergen, Passaic
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
03/21/2002

Updated/Verified:
12/07/2012
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.047479, -74.251313
Driving Directions

Take I-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.

Description

Cross to the east side of Skyline Drive, where a triple-white blaze on a telephone pole opposite the parking area marks the start of the Todd Trail. Follow this white-blazed trail as it winds downhill on a rocky footpath and then ascends from a shallow ravine. In half a mile, the trail turns right onto a woods road. Follow the white blazes as they bear left onto another woods road, soon passing the trailhead for the Yellow Trail on the left, and then turn right into the woods. The Todd Trail ascends to a grassy knoll, which affords a panoramic view over Oakland (on the left), with Crystal Lake in the foreground.

From the viewpoint, the trail turns sharply right, makes a short, steep descent and follows along the side of a hill. After descending and crossing an old paved road, the trail turns left onto a woods road. Continue to follow the white blazes as the trail passes several intersecting woods roads, then turns left, leaving the road, and climbs to cross Skyline Drive, a mile and a half from the start of the hike.

On the other side of Skyline Drive, the Todd Trail crosses a wooden footbridge and ascends a knoll, then descends through a mountain-laurel thicket. After a level stretch, the Todd Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed MacEvoy Trail. Turn right, cross a stream, and follow the blue blazes along a wide woods road towards Ramapo Lake. Soon, the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Memorial Trail joins from the right. Continue ahead, now following both blue and yellow blazes.

Turn left along the road, and head down to Ramapo Lake. At the lakeshore, the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Memorial Trail continues ahead, crossing the dam, but you should turn right onto North Shore Drive, the route of the blue-blazed MacEvoy Trail. The MacEvoy Trail follows this gravel road along the northeast shore of the lake, passing a private home on the right and crossing a small stream on a stone-arch bridge, with an attractive cascade to the right.

A short distance beyond, you’ll come to a rock ledge on the left that overlooks the lake. This is a good place to take a break. Once known as Rotten Pond, and later as Lake LeGrande, Ramapo Lake is the centerpiece of Ramapo Mountain State Forest. It was formerly surrounded by private property, but most of the land around the lake was acquired by the state in the 1970s.

Just beyond, the trail reaches the northern tip of Ramapo Lake. Bear right at the fork in the road and pass between two concrete pillars. A short distance ahead, the blue-blazed MacEvoy Trail leaves to the left, and a triple-white blaze indicates the start of the Castle Point Trail. You should continue ahead on the road, now following the white blazes of the Castle Point Trail. Just beyond, as the road curves sharply to the right, turn left, leaving the road, and follow the white-blazed trail as it climbs steadily and rather steeply.

As you approach the top of the climb, bear left onto a rock ledge that offers a spectacular view. Directly below you is Ramapo Lake, with the Wanaque Reservoir to the right (west). On a clear day, you can see the New York City skyline on the horizon to the left. You’ll want to pause here to rest from the steep climb and enjoy the view.

When you’re ready to continue, follow the white trail uphill. After climbing over a stone wall, you’ll reach the ruins of a mansion. Known as Foxcroft, it was built around 1910 by William Porter, a stockbroker. His widow occupied it until her death in 1940, and it fell into ruin in the late 1950s. Use caution if you wish to explore the remains of this once-elegant stone structure.

The trail continues to the north, passing the remains of a concrete swimming pool. A short distance beyond, an unmarked side trail to the left leads to an unobstructed west-facing viewpoint over the Wanaque Reservoir and the Wyanokie Mountains. Continue on the white trail, which soon climbs to reach a stone tower. Contrary to what one might think at first glance, this was not a lookout tower; rather, it held a cistern that supplied water to the mansion (note the rusted pipes adjacent to the tower). Just beyond, there is another view from an open rock ledge to the left of the trail over the Wanaque Reservoir to the west. The trail now begins to descend.

Watch carefully as the Castle Point Trail turns right, just before reaching the route of a gas pipeline. It briefly joins a woods road, turns left onto a footpath before reaching a wide gravel road, then again turns left onto the woods road. It turns right and follows the gas pipeline for 350 feet, then turns right again, leaving the pipeline, and crosses a stream. The trail now climbs, first gradually, then rather steeply through mountain laurel, to a rock ledge, which provides a view of the stone tower you passed about half a mile back.

A short distance beyond, the Castle Point Trail ends at a paved road, the route of the Cannonball Trail. Turn left and follow the road for 125 feet to Skyline Drive, then cross Skyline Drive and enter the woods, following the white-"C"-on-red blazes. Soon, you will reach an intersection with the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Memorial Trail. Turn sharply right and follow the yellow trail as it ascends through mountain laurel. After descending steeply from a rock outcrop, a sign points the way to an Indian shelter, believed to have been used by the Native Americans during their hunting season. From here, it is only a short distance ahead to Skyline Drive and the parking area where the hike began.

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November 10, 2013

We really enjoyed this hike. It was a nice mix of woodland, lovely lakeside (although there were a lot of people there for a Sunday stroll) and a good climb up to some very interesting ruins. 

Columbine flowers

Visited Castle Point today. Hundreds of Wild Columbine flowers (Aquilegia canadensis) are in bloom around the ruins of the water cistern. Quite a nice site to see.

Castle Ruins

Did this hike today, and was very impressed.  Its a perfect afternoon, moderate hike with great rewards of the castle ruins at the end.  I highly recommend.