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MacMillan Reservoir Loop
This figure-eight loop hike circles the scenic MacMillan Reservoir.
Easy to Moderate
Allowed on leash
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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take N.J. Route 17 to U.S. Route 202 in Mahwah. Proceed south on Route 202 for two miles, then turn right into the Ramapo Valley County Reservation parking area
This hike traverses the Reservoir Loop Trail in Ramapo Valley County Reservation, which loops around the popular MacMillan Reservoir. The trail was blazed in 2015 by volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, including students at the nearby Ramapo College and members of the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization (MEVO).
The hike begins at a kiosk in the southwest corner of the parking area. Just ahead, you'll notice a triple-yellow blaze on a tree, which marks the start of the Vista Loop Trail. Follow the yellow blazes as they descend wooden steps, join a wide dirt road, and continue ahead to cross the Ramapo River on a steel truss bridge.
In another 200 feet, the green-dot-on-orange-blazed River Trail begins on the left, Turn left, leaving the wide gravel road, and follow the River Trail along a narrower footpath.
Soon, the River Trail begins to run along the shore of the Ramapo River. Since the footpath is in the floodplain of the river, it may be muddy or even flooded in places when the water is high. After passing a small cascade, the trail bears right, away from the river. and soon ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail. Turn left onto the Vista Loop Trail and cross a stream on a wooden footbridge.
On the other side of the stream, you’ll notice a large pile of rubble. This is all that remains of a stone cabin, built by a camp that once operated on this property (the stone walls of the cabin were demolished in 2015). Here, the Vista Loop Trail turns right and begins a rocky climb along the stream. The trail briefly levels off, passing attractive cascades and pools in the stream on the right. After curving to the right, the Vista Loop Trail reaches a junction with the wide park road leading to the MacMillan Reservoir.
Follow the Vista Loop Trail as it turns left, joining the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail, and continues along a paved section of the park road. A short distance ahead, the two trails diverge. The Ridge Loop Trail bears left, but you should proceed ahead on the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail, which climbs to the dam of the reservoir and heads north along the eastern side of the reservoir.
In another 750 feet, you'll reach a large expanse of open rock. Here, the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail turns right, but you should bear left onto the pink-blazed Reservoir Loop Trail, which goes around the reservoir. As you approach the northern end of the reservoir, the trail closely parallels the shore. Be sure to bear right onto a newly-built trail section which crosses a seasonal stream on large rocks and then bears left.
At the northern tip of the reservoir, a massive boulder on the left marks a spot where a flat rock that juts into the reservoir affords a panoramic view. A short distance beyond, the trail crosses a wooden footbridge over the inlet of the reservoir. The bridge was built as an Eagle Scout project in the summer of 2015. Just beyond, another rock along the shore provides an expansive view of the reservoir. Soon, the red-blazed Marsh Loop Trail begins on the right, but you should continue to follow the pink-blazed Reservoir Loop Trail, which proceeds along the southwestern side of the reservoir.
After running for some distance close to the shore, the Reservoir Loop Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail, just south of the dam (the triple-red blaze marking the start of the Marsh Loop Trail is visible on the right). Proceed ahead (downhill) on the Ridge Loop Trail, which follows the wide park road. Soon, the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail joins from the left, but when the two trails diverge, bear left to stay on the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail. A short distance ahead, you’ll reach a junction where the blue blazes head both left and right. Here, you should bear right and follow the descending route of the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail.
Near the base of the descent, the Ridge Loop Trail curves to the right, and it soon ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail. Proceed straight ahead on the Vista Loop Trail, which passes to the right of Scarlet Oak Pond, continues across the bridge over the Ramapo River, and ends at the parking area where the hike began.