From the parking turnout, walk east on Warwick Turnpike, going back over the concrete road bridge. Just east of the bridge, you'll see a triple green/black blaze that marks the start of the Bearfort Ridge Spur. Follow the green/black blazes uphill through rhododendrons and hemlocks. In about 500 feet, the trail joins a woods road that comes in from the right. Just beyond, the Bearfort Ridge...
From the parking turnout, walk east on Warwick Turnpike, going back over the concrete road bridge. Just east of the bridge, you'll see a triple green/black blaze that marks the start of the Bearfort Ridge Spur. Follow the green/black blazes uphill through rhododendrons and hemlocks. In about 500 feet, the trail joins a woods road that comes in from the right. Just beyond, the Bearfort Ridge Spur ends at a junction with the green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop. To follow this trail in the clockwise direction, turn left, leaving the road. (The road ahead will be your return route.) The green-blazed trail continues to ascend on a wide footpath. After crossing a stream, it levels off through mountain laurel. A little over half a mile from the start, the trail descends briefly to cross a wider stream and continues through a rhododendron grove. At the end of the rhododendrons, the blue/green Bearfort Ridge Connector, which leads to Warwick Turnpike, goes off to the left. Continue ahead on the green-blazed trail.
The Bearfort Ridge Loop now begins a steady, rather steep climb. About a mile from the start, it passes a large, lichen-covered outcrop to the right. It continues to climb until it reaches the crest of the ridge, marked by pitch pines. Here, a large conglomerate rock outcrop on the left offers an expansive view to the south.
After taking in the view and resting from the steep climb, continue ahead, following the Bearfort Ridge Loop north along the puddingstone conglomerate ridge, through pitch pines. You'll make a brief but steep climb, and -- after crossing an open rock outcrop with several glacial erratics -- the vegetation will change to hemlocks and laurels. The trail continues at an elevation of about 1,300 feet, having climbed about 600 feet from the trailhead. After about half a mile of walking along the ridge, the Bearfort Ridge Loop reaches a junction with the pink-blazed West Ridge Trail, which begins on the left. Continue ahead on the green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop, which crosses another open rock outcrop with a row of large glacial erratics, passes more pitch pines, and descends to cross a wet area.
The trail continues to wind through a hemlock forest, passing a limited viewpoint through the trees to the right. About two miles from the start, it 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. You’ve now gone three miles from the start of the hike.
Here, the green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter Trail. Turn right and follow the joint green-and-yellow blazed trail as it heads downhill through a rocky area and soon crosses a stream. 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.
Now retrace your steps along the yellow trail, but when you come to the junction with the green trail, bear left and follow the green blazes. The green-blazed Bearfort Ridge Loop now follows a woods road that will lead you back to the start of the hike. The trail climbs gently for a short distance and then begins a steady descent. In three-quarters of a mile, you'll cross a stream on rocks. This crossing can be a little tricky if the water is high. After a short level stretch, the trail crosses another stream and then climbs briefly, soon resuming its descent.
In another mile, the trail crosses a third stream, after which the descent steepens. A third of a mile beyond, be sure to bear right, as another woods road goes off to the left. A short distance ahead, you'll reach a junction with the green/black-blazed Bearfort Ridge Spur. Continue ahead along the road and then bear right, following the green/black blazes downhill and back to the trailhead.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 01/02/2003 updated/verified on 08/02/2020
This loop hike traverses the Bearfort Ridge, with its unusual puddingstone conglomerate rock and pitch pines growing out of bedrock, passes through a rhododendron tunnel, and comes out on the shore of Surprise 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
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- 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.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- 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.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- 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.