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 first third of a mile (other trails, such as the "L" Trail and the "W" Trail, are co-aligned for part of the way). Continue along the driveway leading into the New Weis Center, lined on both sides with Norway...
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 first third of a mile (other trails, such as the "L" Trail and the "W" Trail, are co-aligned for part of the way). Continue along the driveway leading into the New Weis Center, lined on both sides with Norway spruce trees. Bear right at the first fork, but at the next fork, turn left and follow the light-green blazes through a spruce grove, with Blue Mine Brook on the left.
Soon, the trail bears right to skirt the Highlands Natural Pool. Built about 70 years ago, 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.
The trails level off and reach a junction where they split. Here, you should bear left, following the yellow-on-white blazes of the Mine Trail. Continue along the Mine Trail for about three-quarters of a mile, passing a junction with the orange-blazed Roomy Mine Trail on the left. When you reach a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail, turn right and follow the red-on-white blazes (as well as the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail). Immediately after crossing another stream, the white-blazed Lower Trail begins on the left.
Turn left onto the Lower Trail, which climbs on an old woods road to an east-facing shoulder of the Wyanokie High Point-Carris Hill Ridge. After bearing left and crossing two streams on rocks, the trail levels off. Soon, it proceeds through a shallow valley, with a series of rock outcrops on the right. After a while, the trail begins to descend gradually and traverses a series of open rock outcrops.
After descending some more through mountain laurel thickets, the Lower Trail reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Carris Hill Trail. This is the most southerly point of the hike, and you’ve hiked about 2.5 miles to reach this point. Turn right and begin to follow the yellow blazes.
After traversing a level, rocky area, the Carris Hill Trail crosses a stream and begins a rather steep climb. The grade soon moderates, but after a third of a mile, the trail again climbs steeply over rocks, coming out at a viewpoint to the southeast from a rock outcrop just to the right of the trail. It continues to climb to another rock outcrop, with a somewhat broader view. Here, the trail bears right and ascends to the left of a 40-foot-high massive rock face. At the top of the ascent, a short detour to the right leads to a magnificent viewpoint to the east. The Wanaque Reservoir, contained by the Raymond and Green Swamp dams, is in the foreground, with a long viaduct of I-287 visible in the distance. On a clear day, the New York City skyline may be seen on the horizon. This is a good place to pause and enjoy the spectacular view.
The yellow trail now climbs more gradually, soon reaching another viewpoint, where a ten-foot-high balanced glacial erratic is silhouetted against the sky. The trail curves to the right and reaches a fifth viewpoint, this one to the south, with pitch pines and a large glacial erratic. It proceeds through laurel to end, on a rock outcrop with views to the north and west, at a junction with the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail and the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail.
Follow the blue and teal blazes, heading north (towards “Weis”). The trail descends steeply through mountain laurel thickets, climbs a little, and then levels off along the ridge. In about half a mile, you’ll reach a rock outcrop with a view ahead of Wyanokie High Point – a rocky dome with pitch pines. This location is known as “Yoo-Hoo Point” – the name apparently derived from the fact that, from here, one can see hikers standing atop High Point and call out to them!
The joint Hewitt-Butler/Highlands Trail now descends to a junction, where the red-on-white-blazed Wyanokie Circular Trail joins. Continue ahead (in the directions of the “Hi-Point” sign), now following the route of three trails. After crossing a stream, the trails begin a rather steep climb.
At the next junction, turn right, again following the sign to “Hi-Point.” You’re now following the red-on-white blazes of the Wyanokie Circular Trail and the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail, which climb steeply through mountain laurel thickets and across open rock ledges. In a short distance, you’ll reach the summit of Wyanokie High Point, marked by a bolt drilled into the rock. The summit features a panoramic 360̊ view, with the Wanaque Reservoir below, and the New York City skyline visible to the east on a clear day. To the north and west, one can see Saddle, Assiniwikam and Buck Mountains..
After spending some time savoring the views from this magnificent location, surrounded by pitch pines, retrace your steps, following the red-and-white blazes as they descend very steeply over bare rock. Extreme care is required here during wet weather, or when the trail is covered with snow and ice. When you reach the junction with the Hewitt-Butler Trail, turn right and follow the blue blazes.
After a short, gradual climb, the trail reaches a balanced boulder on a rock ledge. It then descends slightly to a mountain laurel thicket, where the white-blazed Macopin Trail leaves to the left. Continue ahead on the blue trail, which soon arrives at a rock ledge surrounded by pitch pines, with a view over Saddle Mountain to the north and Assiniwikam Mountain to the west. A short distance ahead, there is another viewpoint from a rock ledge just to the left of the trail.
The trail now begins a steep descent on a wide path. The descent eventually moderates, and the trail reaches a junction with the Mine Trail in a mountain laurel thicket. Bear left here, now following both blue and yellow-on-white blazes. In a short distance, both trails end at Snake Den Road, here a dirt road. Cross the road and continue ahead on the green-blazed Otter Hole Trail, which passes the Highlands Natural Pool, follows Blue Mine Brook, and ends at the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 03/25/2005 updated/verified on 11/22/2015
This loop hike climbs to several outstanding viewpoints 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.