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Mount Defiance/Glasmere Ponds Loop from Shepherd Lake
This loop hike climbs to the summit of Mount Defiance, with panoramic views, and passes several scenic ponds.
Allowed on leash
Views, Swimming, Fees, Historic feature
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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take Skyline Drive to its northwestern terminus at Greenwood Lake Turnpike (County Route 511). Turn right, continue for 1.5 miles, and turn right onto Sloatsburg Road. Continue for 2.1 miles and turn right onto Morris Road. In 1.3 miles, just before the entrance to the Skylands section of Ringwood State Park, turn left onto Shepherd Lake Road and proceed for 0.8 mile to Shepherd Lake. Past the entrance booth, bear left and park in the designated parking area (a parking fee is charged from Memorial Day to Labor Day). NOTE: Shepherd Lake is a popular destination on summer weekends, and the parking area can fill up early in the day.
This hike follows a combination of footpaths, carriage roads (built for the estates that once dominated this area) and a mountain bike trail. Created primarily for bicyclists, the mountain bike trail - part of which is a narrow, "single-track" route - is also open to hikers. However, hikers should be alert for bicycles and, although park rules provide that bicyclists must yield to hikers, hikers may choose to step off the trail and allow bicyclists to pass.
From the parking area, follow the paved path down to the beach on Shepherd Lake. Continue past the boat launch parking area and the boat house, with the lake to your left. Just beyond the boat house, you’ll notice a kiosk, where an orange-blazed trail begins. Continue on a gravel road along the lake, following both the orange blazes and the red-on-white blazes of the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail.
In about a third of a mile, both trails turn right, leaving the road. Continue to follow the blazed trails, which head uphill on a footpath. At an intersection with a woods road, the orange-blazed trail turns left, but you should continue ahead, now following only the red-and-white blazes of the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail.
The trail climbs to the top of a rise, then descends to cross a mountain bike trail. This will be your return route, but for now, continue ahead on the red-on-white-blazed trail, which passes an old stone foundation on the left. A short distance beyond, the trail crosses a gas pipeline (the many plastic tubes you see along the pipeline contain seedlings, part of an effort to remediate the araa). The trail now climbs the northern shoulder of Mount Defiance, first gradually, then more steeply. Just below the 1,040-foot summit, there is a limited view to the west over Ringwood Manor and the Cupsaw Lake area.
After a short but steep descent, the trail follows the crest of the ridge, paralleling impressive cliffs on the right and passing an interesting split boulder. Soon, you’ll reach a junction with the green-on-white-blazed Halifax Trail. You will be continuing ahead on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, but for now, turn right on the Halifax Trail.
In about 500 feet, as the trail bears left and begins a steady descent, you’ll notice an unmarked trail to the right. Follow this trail, which heads slightly uphill to a panoramic west-facing viewpoint. Skylands Manor may be seen directly below, surrounded by the exotic trees of the New Jersey State Botanical Garden. The Monksville Reservoir is directly ahead, and the Wanaque Reservoir is visible to the left (south) through the trees.
After taking in the view, return to the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail and turn right. In about 350 feet, there is another west-facing viewpoint from a rock outcrop to the right. The view of Skylands Manor is largely obscured by trees, but you get a better view of the Wanaque Reservoir.
Continue south on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which descends gradually on a winding footpath. Soon, it reaches a junction where the blue triangle-on-white Skylands Trail begins on the left. Bear right to continue on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which heads south along the ridge of Mount Defiance. After crossing a wide carriage road, the trail levels off and traverses open rock ledges. It passes a balanced boulder on the left, recrosses the carriage road, and descends gradually until it once again reaches the carriage road. Here, you should turn left, leaving the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, and follow the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which descends along the carriage road.
Just before reaching a wide gravel road at the base of the descent, the Crossover Trail bears right and continues on a footpath. It crosses the gravel road, descends on a switchback to rejoin the carriage road, and crosses a bridge over a stream. Just ahead, it turns left, leaving the carriage road, then switches back and heads south along the hillside. In a quarter mile, it crosses another carriage road, climbs gradually, then turns left onto yet another carriage road.
After following this road only briefly, the Crossover Trail turns right onto a footpath and reaches Gatun Pond, where it turns right, rejoining the carriage road. At a clearing on the left, stone steps lead down towards the water’s edge (a remnant of a former swimming area; the dam has been since been breached and the level of the lake lowered). This tranquil, pleasant setting is a good spot for a break.
Continue ahead on the Crossover Trail along the carriage road. Soon, the trail parallels an old cable fence on the right, with Brushwood Pond visible in the distance, beyond an open field. At the next Y-intersection, bear left, continuing to follow the white blazes. But at the following intersection, where the white-blazed trail turns sharply right, you should continue straight ahead on the unmarked carriage road.
Soon, you’ll pass small ponds on each side of the road (note the rusty fire hydrant on the left). A narrower road branches off to the left, but you should continue to follow the wider road straight ahead. A short distance beyond, a path – marked only by a brown wand on the left, with “hiker” and “bike” symbols – crosses. Here, you should turn right and follow this path, which is part of the mountain bike trail shown on Trail Conference Map #115 and is more pleasant than the road that it parallels.
The path rejoins the road just south of Weyble Pond. Turn right and follow along the east side of the pond. At the next intersection (north of the pond), turn left, but when you reach the following intersection, turn right, following the arrow on the brown wand.
In another third of a mile, the green-and-white-blazed Halifax Trail crosses. Turn left onto the Halifax Trail, which almost immediately crosses another carriage road and continues to descend on a footpath. At the base of the descent, turn right onto a road which passes between the two Glasmere Ponds.
Just beyond, you’ll reach a T-intersection. Here, the Halifax Trail turns left, but you should turn right, now once again following the mountain bike trail. The carriage road that you are following soon goes by an old frame building on the left and passes between two stone pillars, with abandoned stone buildings (originally, the gate houses for the estate) on each side of the trail. Just beyond, bear left at the fork.
A short distance ahead, at the top of a rise, the mountain bike trail leaves the road (a brown wand is visible about 25 feet into the woods). Turn left and follow this “single-track” mountain bike trail, which will take you back to Shepherd Lake. Although not marked (except with occasional brown wands at intersections), the trail is well-defined and easy to follow. It climbs on switchbacks to cross the gas pipeline and the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, then continues to climb a little more. After reaching a high point, it descends gradually, crosses a woods road, and once again approaches the gas pipeline (although it does not cross it). The mountain bike trail then heads north to end at the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail along the shore of Shepherd Lake. Turn left and follow the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail back to the parking area at the southwest corner of the lake, where the hike began.