From the kiosk at the end of the parking area, bear left onto the blue-on-white-blazed State Line Trail, which follows a wide, rocky path up Bearfort Mountain. The ascent is moderate at first, and the trail soon levels off. With a private home visible ahead, the trail turns right and soon begins to climb more steeply. Take care to follow the blue-on-white blazes, as there are several side...
From the kiosk at the end of the parking area, bear left onto the blue-on-white-blazed State Line Trail, which follows a wide, rocky path up Bearfort Mountain. The ascent is moderate at first, and the trail soon levels off. With a private home visible ahead, the trail turns right and soon begins to climb more steeply. Take care to follow the blue-on-white blazes, as there are several side trails that branch from the main route. Along the way, a switchback has been constructed to ease the grade.
In about three-quarters of a mile, you'll reach an intersection with the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail, which begins on the left. Continue ahead on the blue-on-white-blazed State Line Trail, which continues across Bearfort Mountain, passing through an attractive forest of mountain laurel, hemlock and white pine. It climbs a little more, levels off, then traverses a series of ridges, with a number of climbs and descents.
About half a mile from the junction with the Ernest Walter Trail, the State Line Trail ends at a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Turn left onto the A.T. and immediately climb a rock outcrop, with views both east and west when there are no leaves on the trees. The A.T. heads south, soon reaching another seasonal viewpoint, then turns right and heads west.
In a third of a mile, after a steep descent from a ledge, the A.T. reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail. Turn left onto the Ernest Walter Trail, which climbs a little and traverses a whaleback rock. The trail continues south, crossing a series of open rock ledges.
After passing West Pond (visible through the trees below on the left), you’ll reach a junction with the pink-blazed West Ridge Trail. Here, the Ernest Walter Trail turns left, but you should continue ahead along the ridge, now following the West Ridge Trail.
The West Ridge Trail traverses more open rock ledges, then climbs gently on a moss-covered footpath through the woods. Soon, it emerges onto another open rock ledge, with limited north- and east-facing views. The trail continues to head south, with some gentle ups and downs, and passes two more limited east-facing viewpoints. The final viewpoint is at elevation 1,437 feet - the highest elevation in Abram S. Hewitt State Forest, and nearly 800 vertical feet above the trailhead.
Beyond this viewpoint, the West Ridge Trail begins to descend. Along the way, it reaches a T-intersection with a woods road, where it turns left. At the base of the descent, the West Ridge Trail turns right and parallels the Green Brook for about 750 feet. It then turns left, crosses the brook on huge rocks, and climbs (steeply in places) to a junction with the green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop.
Turn left onto the Bearfort Ridge Loop, which heads north through a forest of pitch pines and hemlocks at an elevation of about 1,300 feet. The trail traverses an open rock outcrop with a row of large glacial erratics, and it descends to cross a wet area. After about half a mile of walking along the ridge, the Bearfort Ridge Loop comes out on a rock ledge overlooking a wetland to the west. Here, a narrow wedge of the bedrock has split away from the main ledge, forming a deep crevice. This is a good place to take a break.
When you're ready to continue, proceed north along the trail, which climbs to a rock outcrop with a huge boulder. After traversing a whaleback rock, the trail descends steadily through hemlocks and laurels, crossing an intermittent stream at the base of the descent. It then climbs over jumbled rocks to a rock outcrop studded with pitch pines, which offers a limited east-facing view when there are no leaves on the trees.
The trail continues across more rock outcrops, with limited views both to the west and to the east. It then descends gently and levels off. Finally, it climbs to another outcrop -- marked by several cedar trees -- with a panoramic view. Sterling Forest and the Wyanokies can be seen to the east, and if there are no leaves on the trees, you may be able to see Surprise Lake to the north. An arm of the Monksville Reservoir is visible ahead, and on a clear day you can see the tops of New York City skyscrapers in the distance.
Here, the green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail. Bear right and follow the joint green-and-yellow blazed trail as it heads downhill through a rocky area, steeply in places, and soon crosses Cooley Brook, the outlet of Surprise Lake, on rocks. The trail continues through a dense rhododendron grove, with the thick rhododendrons forming a canopy over the trail in places. In half a mile, the green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop turns sharply right. Continue ahead on the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail for about 100 feet to an open area which overlooks Surprise Lake - a pristine, spring-fed pond. This is another good spot to take a break.
When you’re ready to continue, follow the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail, which heads east. After crossing the outlet of a wetland, the trail climbs to a series of rock outcrops studded with pitch pines, with limited views over Greenwood Lake to the east. Continue ahead until, after traversing a wooded area, you reach the highest outcrop. From here, there is a panoramic view over the six-mile-long lake, 650 vertical feet below, with the hills of Sterling Forest in the background.
The Ernest Walter Trail now descends steadily, with more views over the lake, until it ends at a junction with the blue-on-white-blazed State Line Trail. Turn right onto the State Line Trail, now retracing your steps, and follow the trail as it descends steadily to the parking area on Lakeside Road where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 09/25/2020
This loop hike traverses the Bearfort Ridge, with its unusual puddingstone conglomerate rock, goes through a rhododendron tunnel, passes Surprise Lake, and reaches a panoramic viewpoint over Greenwood Lake
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.