Millstone Trail/Matapan Rock Trail Loop

Overview

This loop hike passes interesting and historic millstones, goes by two scenic lakes and climbs to a panoramic viewpoint.

Details
Time:
3.5 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Length:
5.5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Bergen, Passaic
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
07/01/2005

Updated/Verified:
11/25/2015
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin
See also
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.047479, -74.251313
Driving Directions

Take I-287 to Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and proceed north on Skyline Drive for a little over a mile to the upper parking area for Ramapo Mountain State Forest on the left side of the road at milepost 1.4, opposite the entrance to Camp Tamarack.

Description

From the northern end of the parking area, cross to the east side of Skyline Drive and find a triple white blaze, which marks the start of the Todd Trail, on a telephone pole. Follow the Todd Trail for a short distance south along Skyline Drive, then turn left and enter the woods. Continue along the 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, which almost immediately turns sharply left. A short distance beyond, you will notice three yellow diamond blazes that mark the start of the Yellow Trail.

Turn left and follow the Yellow Trail, which heads north, soon reaching Todd Lake. The trail follows along the west shore of the lake, passing a rock ledge at lake level with a view over the lake (covered in the summer with water lilies). After climbing steeply to a rock outcrop near the north end of the lake (from which a water tower for the Ramapo Reserve development is visible to the right), the Yellow Trail begins a steady, rather steep descent to a valley, crossing a stream on the way down. At the base of the descent, the trail crosses another stream (which may be dry if it hasn’t rained lately).

The Yellow Trail now begins a steady climb. On the way up, you’ll pass an old stone wall to the right, and you may be able to catch glimpses, through the trees, of Campgaw Mountain to the east. The trail eventually levels off on a shoulder of the ridge.

About two miles from the start of the hike, continue on the Yellow Trail as it bears right and joins the white-blazed Millstone Trail at a sign “HT 11.” Just beyond the junction, several abandoned millstones in various stages of completion may be seen to the right of the trail. This area was once the site of a millstone quarry, and the stones that you see were either damaged during quarrying or abandoned when the quarry operation shut down. Another millstone, in nearly perfect condition, is a short distance down the trail, just off the trail to the right (at a sign “HT 12”). This is a good spot to take a break.

Now go back uphill, briefly retracing your steps, and bear right at the fork, following the white blazes of the Millstone Trail. After climbing a little more, you’ll reach an open area at the crest of the rise, with a huge boulder balanced on several smaller rocks to the right. To the left, there are several patches of prickly pear cactus, which blooms in early July.

After a brief descent, the trail climbs to the top of Millstone Hill, where there is a viewpoint to the southwest. It then descends, passing to the right of a huge boulder known as “Sitting Hen Rock.” At the base of the descent, the trail turns right and goes through “Rocky Slide Gulch,” a shallow notch. Just beyond, the Millstone Trail crosses the orange-blazed Schuber Trail.

The Millstone Trail now bears right and goes along the edge of the Azalea Swamp. It then turns right onto a grassy woods road and begins a steady descent. After passing a wooden latrine and an interesting rock formation on the right, the trail reaches the Explorer Cabin of Camp Glen Gray. Here, the Schuber Trail briefly joins. (Camp Glen Gray is owned by Bergen County and managed by the Friends of Glen Gray. Cabins and other camp facilities may be rented by interested parties. (201)327-7234; www.glengray.org.)

Just beyond, you’ll reach the shore of Lake Vreeland. Turn left here, leaving the Millstone Trail, and follow the orange blazes of the Schuber Trail. You’ll go by the Mothers’ Pavilion along the lake shore and  head uphill, passing several camp buildings. Just beyond the Gilwell campsite (on the right side of the trail), you’ll notice three red-on-white blazes on a tree (at a sign for “Ramapo/Troop 12”). They mark the start of the Matapan Rock Trail.

Turn left onto the Matapan Rock Trail, which heads uphill. Be alert for a left turn, where the trail leaves the road, heads uphill on a footpath, then turns left to rejoin the road. When you reach a wide grassy swath – the route of a gas pipeline – turn left, then immediately bear right and cross the grassy swath diagonally. A red-on-white blaze should be visible at the opposite edge of the grassy swath.

At the crest of the rise, you’ll cross a gravel road and then another marked trail. Continue straight ahead to the end of the Matapan Rock Trail at Matapan Rock, a rock ledge which affords an expansive view to the west. You can hear the sounds of the traffic on Skyline Drive, directly below, but in the summer, the vegetation largely obscures your view of the road. After enjoying the view, retrace your steps to the crossing of the Hoeferlin Memorial/Cannonball Trail, marked with yellow and white-C-on-red blazes. Turn right and proceed south along the joint Hoeferlin Memorial/Cannonball Trail, which goes through dense mountain laurel thickets.

In another third of a mile, the trails descend on switchbacks to cross a gas pipeline adjacent to Skyline Drive. Just beyond the pipeline, they bear left and re-enter the woods, soon crossing the inlet of a wetland. About half a mile beyond, bear left onto the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Memorial Trail, as the Cannonball Trail proceeds ahead on the woods road. Be alert, as this turn is easy to miss.

Soon, the yellow trail begins a steady climb through mountain laurel to reach a rock outcrop, then descends very steeply. A short distance ahead, the trail reaches Skyline Drive, just opposite the parking area where the hike began.