Sterling Ridge Trail/Fire Tower/Sterling Lake Trail Loop from Route 17A

Overview

This loop hike traverses Sterling Ridge, includes a fire tower, offers great views and a walk along scenic Sterling Lake.

Details
Time:
4 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Length:
7 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Orange
State:
NY
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Web Map:

Map:

Sterling Forest State Park Trail Map (available at visitor center)


Buy Book:
Publication
First Published:
09/19/2002

Updated/Verified:
06/04/2013
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Sterling Lake from the Sterling Ridge Trail - Photo by Daniel Chazin

Parking


View Sterling Ridge Trail in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.230616,-74.260762
Driving Directions

Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 15A. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto N.Y. Route 17 and head north, through Sloatsburg and Tuxedo. Continue for about 2.5 miles beyond the village of Tuxedo to a traffic light at the intersection of N.Y. Route 17A. Bear left at the traffic light and continue up the ramp, then turn left at the top of the ramp onto Route 17A. Follow Route 17A west for 5.5 miles to the parking area for the Sterling Ridge Trail, on the left side of the road, just beyond a green-and-white sign indicating a hiker crossing. Follow the dirt road past the gate (which is normally left open) to a large parking area in a grassy field.

Description

From the rear of the parking area, go around the gate and follow the woods road which leads south. This road is marked with the blue-on-white blazes of the Sterling Ridge Trail, the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail and the yellow blazes of the Sterling Valley Trail. Follow the road for only about 100 feet, then leave the road and turn right onto a footpath, following the blue-and-white and teal diamond blazes (the yellow blazes continue ahead on the road). The trail climbs over a small rise and then levels off. Soon, the trail begins to run along the edge of a ravine, gradually descending, with limited views to the left through the trees. The trail crosses a seasonal stream and then begins to ascend. About a mile from the trailhead, you will cross under a power line, with good views on both sides of the trail.

Stunted red cedar tree growing out of a crack in the rock along the Sterling Ridge Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.Stunted red cedar tree growing out of a crack in the rock along the Sterling Ridge Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.After a short but steady ascent, the trail crosses a large rock outcrop. The trail continues along the ridge, now following a relatively level route. In about half a mile, you’ll come out on another large rock outcrop, with a limited east-facing view. After another level stretch, the trail continues on undulating terrain and then emerges onto a third rock outcrop, with an interesting stunted evergreen tree growing out of a crack in the rock. There are only very limited views from the outcrop, but after a brief descent, you’ll reach a panoramic viewpoint over Sterling Lake to the east, with a log supported by stones serving as a bench.

The trail continues along the ridge. After descending a little, it crosses a woods road – the route of the orange-blazed Bare Rock Trail. The trail then climbs to another, more limited viewpoint over Sterling Lake from open rocks. It continues over undulating terrain, and after traversing an area dominated by hemlock and mountain laurel, reaches a ranger cabin and the Sterling Forest Fire Tower, about 3.5 miles from the start of the hike.

The view from the top of the fire tower, built in 1922, is well worth the climb. When open to the public, the Sterling Forest Fire Tower. Photo by Daniel Chazin.tower provides an expansive view over the entire Sterling Forest. Sterling Lake is visible to the northeast, and a portion of the much-larger Greenwood Lake can be seen to the west. A picnic table at the base of the tower makes it a good place to stop for lunch.

When you're ready to continue, find the white-stripe-on-red-blazed Fire Tower Trail and follow it as it descends from the ridge on a pleasant gravel road, with many grassy sections (do not follow the joint Fire Tower/Sterling Ridge Trail, which heads south on a footpath). After about half a mile, as the road levels off, you’ll come to a junction. The Fire Tower Trail turns off to the right on a branch road, but you should bear left and continue ahead on the main road, now marked with red-triangle-on-white blazes as the Fire Tower Connector Trail. The trail continues to descend, and after passing a private residence and going around a locked gate, it ends at a paved road, near the shore of Sterling Lake.

Turn left and then go straight ahead on the road -- marked with the blue blazes of the Sterling Lake Loop -- as the paving ends and the road is blocked by a cable barrier. Soon, the road begins to follow the scenic shoreline of Sterling Lake. In about three-fourths of a mile, you’ll come to a Y-intersection. Bear left here and follow the yellow-blazed Sterling Valley Trail, another woods road that leads slightly uphill, away from the lake. After a level stretch, the road begins to climb. It passes under the same power line that you crossed earlier in the hike, and then continues to ascend steadily. In about a mile and a half, it ends at the parking area where you began the hike.


To view a photo collection for this hike, click here.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Please check the GPS coordinates

We went on this hike today for the first time. We couldn't follow the driving directions because we were coming from the opposite direction on 17A, so we tried to use the GPS coordinates but we found that the coordinates posted (41.226772,-74.269649) are actually for the West Valley trailhead, which is about 1/2 mile down the road. If you want to update the coordinates, these are much closer to being correct: 41.230616,-74.260762. As for the hike, it was very enjoyable, and the rest of the description is very accurate. This does not seem to be a very highly used trail, as we did not see encounter any other hikers during the 7-mile journey. The views from the top of the fire tower were well worth the climb. The low point of the trail was the last segment (Sterling Valley Trail) because it was very swampy and buggy. Thanks again for the always-helpful trail description!

We checked

You are right and we fixed the push pin on the map.

Sterling Lake Loop Virtual Tour!

Take a virtual tour of Sterling Forest State Park Sterling Lake on NJUrbanForest.com! http://njurbanforest.com/2013/08/31/hiking-sterling-lake/ Plenty of Pictures!!!!