Walk back towards the entrance booth but turn right, just before reaching the booth, at a sign that designates the red-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. This trail is marked with both red-on-white metal blazes and solid red blazes on brown plastic wands. You’ll also notice many grey blazes on trees along the trail; these were used to obliterate the solid red paint blazes that formerly marked the...
Walk back towards the entrance booth but turn right, just before reaching the booth, at a sign that designates the red-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. This trail is marked with both red-on-white metal blazes and solid red blazes on brown plastic wands. You’ll also notice many grey blazes on trees along the trail; these were used to obliterate the solid red paint blazes that formerly marked the trail. For the most part, the grey blazes do indicate the correct trail route.
The trail enters the woods on a wide woods road, immediately crossing a seasonal stream. You may hear gunshot sounds in the distance. These come from the Thunder Mountain Shooting Range, located less than half a mile south of the Shepherd Lake parking area (you’ll be heading west and north, away from the range). Unfortunately, though, the sounds of gunfire can often be heard for much of the hike.
In a short distance, follow the red-on-white blazed trail as it bears right, leaving the road, and descends on a rocky footpath towards Cupsaw Brook, the outlet of Shepherd Lake. As you reach the base of the descent, you’ll notice an interesting cascade to the right, just off the trail. The trail bears left, parallels the brook, then crosses it on a sturdy wooden bridge (built in 2006 as an Eagle Scout project).
Just beyond the bridge, the blue-blazed Cupsaw Brook Trail joins from the right. Continue ahead, now following both red-on-white and blue blazes on a relatively level footpath. Soon, you’ll cross a seasonal stream on rocks adjacent to a large blowdown (the crossing might be difficult during periods of high water).
In another quarter of a mile, you’ll come to a T-intersection with a woods road. Turn right and immediately cross another tributary stream on rocks. Just beyond, you’ll reach another junction, where the two trails separate. The Cupsaw Brook Trail continues ahead on the woods road, but you should turn right, now once again following only the red-on-white blazes of the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail.
After crossing yet another tributary stream, you’ll pass an interesting cracked boulder to the left of the trail. The trail continues along a rocky footpath and soon begins to climb steadily. After passing some interesting boulders to the right, the trail briefly dips into a hollow, then continues to climb rather steeply to the top of the ridge of Cupsaw Mountain.
Atop the ridge is a wooden shelter, built by the “Hiking, Eating, Arguing and Puzzle-Solving Club of the Cooper Union.” The land on which the shelter is located, purchased by the State of New Jersey in 1978, was formerly part of the Green Engineering Camp of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, of New York City. Although camping is no longer permitted at the shelter, and it is not well maintained, it is still the site of an annual gathering of the Cooper Union Alumni Association.
After resting from the climb, continue ahead on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. In about 200 feet, you’ll reach a junction where the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail turns left, but you should continue ahead on a woods road, now following the yellow blazes of the Cooper Union Trail, which comes in from the left. The trail climbs briefly and then descends steadily along the road, with views of the mountains to the west through the trees when the leaves are down. Soon, the sounds of traffic on nearby Sloatsburg Road may be heard.
Just before reaching the base of the descent, be alert for a triple-blue blaze on a tree to the left, which marks the start of the Cupsaw Brook Trail. Turn right and follow this blue-blazed trail, which climbs back up the ridge of Cupsaw Mountain, then descends rather steeply to a T-intersection with a woods road. Turn right onto the road, which levels off. Soon, you’ll reach another junction, where you again turn right.
The trail briefly approaches Cupsaw Brook, then moves away from it. After some more level walking, you’ll return to the junction where the Cupsaw Brook Trail intersects the red-on-white-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. Turn left onto the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail and retrace your steps, crossing the wooden bridge over Cupsaw Brook and following the red-on-white blazes back to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 05/11/2007
This lollipop-loop hike parallels Cupsaw Brook, passing an attractive cascade, and climbs to a shelter on the ridge of Cupsaw Mountain.
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.