The hike begins at the western end of the parking area, where a gatepost with a triple light-green blaze marks the start of the Otter Hole Trail. You'll be following this trail for the next 0.4 mile. Go around the gate and continue along the driveway leading into the New Weis Center. Bear right at the first fork, but turn left at a kiosk, following the light-green blazes and "to trails" signs...
The hike begins at the western end of the parking area, where a gatepost with a triple light-green blaze marks the start of the Otter Hole Trail. You'll be following this trail for the next 0.4 mile. Go around the gate and continue along the driveway leading into the New Weis Center. Bear right at the first fork, but turn left at a kiosk, following the light-green blazes and "to trails" signs. (If you have a dog, you need to continue on Snake Den Road, as per the signs.)
At a second kiosk, the trail turns right to skirt the Highlands Natural Pool (here, the "L" Trail joins briefly). This pool is fed by the brook and is not chlorinated. For more information on this pool, see www.highlandspool.com. The trail briefly joins a dirt road, then bears left and ascends on a footpath, passing cascades in the brook and the weir that regulates the supply of water to the pool.
After crossing a footbridge over the brook, the green-blazed Otter Hole Trail proceeds through a rocky area and reaches a wide woods road - the continuation of Snake Den Road. Here, the Otter Hole Trail turns right and follows the road, but you should cross the road at a kiosk and continue ahead on the joint Mine (yellow-on-white) and Hewitt-Butler (blue) Trails. The joint trails ascend on a footpath through mountain laurel and then climb more steeply through a rocky area, with rock steps provided for part of the way.
The trails level off and reach a junction where they split. The Mine Trail turns left, but you should continue ahead, following the blue blazes of the Hewitt-Butler Trail. After climbing over rocks, the trail briefly levels off, then bears right and begins a steady climb. At the top, a rock outcrop to the right of the trail offers a west-facing view, with Assiniwikam Mountain visible to the right (northwest). After crossing several rock ledges, the white-blazed Macopin Trail begins on the right, but you should continue ahead on the Hewitt-Butler Trail. You'll now climb to a balanced rock atop a rock ledge, with views west, east and north.
After a relatively level stretch, you'll reach a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail (also the route of the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail). Turn left and follow these trails, which make a short but steep climb to the summit of Wyanokie High Point. The last part of the climb is over bare rock, with the trail marked by blazes painted on the rock.
The summit offers panoramic views to the southeast over the Wanaque Reservoir. To the east, beyond the reservoir, you can see a long bridge carrying I-287 over a low area and, on a clear day, the New York City skyline may be seen on the horizon. To the north and west are Saddle, Assiniwikam and Buck Mountains.
After spending some time savoring the views from this magnificent location, surrounded by pitch pines, follow the red-and-white and teal diamond blazes as they descend from the summit, passing more views of the Wanaque Reservoir along the way. The trees in this area have died as a result of droughts and gypsy moth infestations (although some are startng to regenerate), so the blazes are painted on rocks. A section of the trail descending from High Point is poorly blazed, but the trail is clear and evident.
The trail eventually goes back into the woods and bears left, with the descent becoming less steep. At the base of the descent, the white-blazed Lower Trail begins on the right, but you should continue ahead on the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circlar Trail. Just beyond, the trail crosses a stream on rocks, and soon afterwards, the yellow-on-white Mine Trail joins from the left. Proceed ahead, now following three different trail blazes.
A short distance ahead, you'll notice on the left the ruins of a stone shelter, constructed by members of the Green Mountain Club in the 1930s. The trail now approaches Blue Mine Brook. Just before reaching the brook, there is a circular mine pit to the right of the trail, with a small pile of tailings (discarded waste rock) to its left. The trail crosses the brook on a wooden footbridge, built as an Eagle Scout project in 2002.
Turn right after crossing the footbridge and proceed ahead for about 100 feet. To the left is the Blue Mine, filled with muddy water. This mine, named for the dark blue color of its ore, was discovered by Peter Hasenclever about 1765 and was worked extensively in the 1800s. A large concrete pad at the entrance to the mine, with protruding iron rods, once served as a base for steam-operated equipment.
Go back to the footbridge (do not recross it). Just beyond, the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail diverges to the right, but you should continue ahead on the joint Mine/Wyanokie Circular Trails, which follow a rocky woods road. Bear left at a fork and continue ahead for about a quarter of a mile until the two trails separate. Here, you should turn right and follow the yellow-on-white blazes of the Mine Trail, which climbs on a narrow woods road, once used to access the Roomy Mine. At the top of a rather steep pitch, the Mine Trail bears right, but you should bear left to continue on the orange-blazed Roomy Mine Trail.
At the top of the rise, the entrance to the Roomy Mine is on the right. Named for Benjamin Roome, a local land surveyor, the mine was opened shortly after 1840 and worked until 1857. The mine shaft extends about 60 feet into the hillside. The mine is closed to the public in the fall and winter to protect hibernating bats, but it is open from April 15th to September 15th. To enter the mine, one first must crawl into an antechamber, but the mine shaft itself is over six feet high. Make sure to bring along a flashlight or headlamp!
Continue to follow the orange blazes of the Roomy Mine Trail along the mine road. Soon, the trail bears right onto another road (the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail ends here). After climbing a little, turn left at a huge boulder and continue to follow the Roomy Mine Trail, which climbs over a rise and passes interesting rock outcrops.
After a jog to the right, the trail crosses Blue Mine Brook above a waterfall, turns right and briefly follows the brook, then turns left, away from the brook. The trail parallels a rocky escarpment on the right and continues to a junction with the yellow-on-white-blazed Mine Trail. Here, the Roomy Mine Trail ends, and you should turn right onto the Mine Trail. The trail is level at first, then climbs steadily. Near the top, you'll pass some interesting jumbled boulders and rock outcrops on the right.
At the top of the climb, turn right, joining the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail. Now following both blue and yellow-on-white blazes, descend steeply to Snake Den Road, here a dirt road. The Hewitt-Butler and Mine Trails end here, but you should cross the road and continue ahead on the green-blazed Otter Hole Trail, retracing your steps past the Highlands Natural Pool and along Blue Mine Brook and ending at the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 09/10/2009 updated/verified on 04/26/2021
This loop hike passes by an old iron mine and climbs to an outstanding 360° viewpoint from which the New York City skyline can be seen.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.