This hike follows a combination of footpaths, carriage roads (built for the estates that once dominated this area) and a mountain bike trail. Created primarily for bicyclists, the mountain bike trail - part of which is a narrow, "single-track" route - is also open to hikers. However, hikers should be alert for bicycles and, although park rules provide that bicyclists must yield to hikers,...
This hike follows a combination of footpaths, carriage roads (built for the estates that once dominated this area) and a mountain bike trail. Created primarily for bicyclists, the mountain bike trail - part of which is a narrow, "single-track" route - is also open to hikers. However, hikers should be alert for bicycles and, although park rules provide that bicyclists must yield to hikers, hikers may choose to step off the trail and allow bicyclists to pass.
From the parking area, follow the paved path down to the beach on Shepherd Lake. Continue past the boat launch parking area and the boat house, with the lake to your left. Just beyond the boat house, you’ll notice a kiosk, where an orange-blazed trail begins. Continue on a gravel road along the lake, following both the orange blazes and the red-on-white blazes of the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail.
In about a third of a mile, both trails turn right, leaving the road. Continue to follow the blazed trails, which head uphill on a footpath. At an intersection with a woods road, the orange-blazed trail turns left, but you should continue ahead, now following only the red-and-white blazes of the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail.
The trail climbs to the top of a rise, then descends to cross a mountain bike trail. This will be your return route, but for now, continue ahead on the red-on-white-blazed trail, which passes an old stone foundation on the left. A short distance beyond, the trail crosses a gas pipeline (the many plastic tubes you see along the pipeline contain seedlings, part of an effort to remediate the araa). The trail now climbs the northern shoulder of Mount Defiance, first gradually, then more steeply. Just below the 1,040-foot summit, there is a limited view to the west over Ringwood Manor and the Cupsaw Lake area.
After a short but steep descent, the trail follows the crest of the ridge, paralleling impressive cliffs on the right and passing an interesting split boulder. Soon, you’ll reach a junction with the green-on-white-blazed Halifax Trail. You will be continuing ahead on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, but for now, turn right on the Halifax Trail.
In about 500 feet, as the trail bears left and begins a steady descent, you’ll notice an unmarked trail to the right. Follow this trail, which heads slightly uphill to a panoramic west-facing viewpoint. Skylands Manor may be seen directly below, surrounded by the exotic trees of the New Jersey State Botanical Garden. The Monksville Reservoir is directly ahead, and the Wanaque Reservoir is visible to the left (south) through the trees.
After taking in the view, return to the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail and turn right. In about 350 feet, there is another west-facing viewpoint from a rock outcrop to the right. The view of Skylands Manor is largely obscured by trees, but you get a better view of the Wanaque Reservoir.
Continue south on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which descends gradually on a winding footpath. Soon, it reaches a junction where the blue triangle-on-white Skylands Trail begins on the left. Bear right to continue on the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which heads south along the ridge of Mount Defiance. After crossing a wide carriage road, the trail levels off and traverses open rock ledges. It recrosses the carriage road, passes a balanced boulder on the left, and descends gradually until it once again reaches the carriage road. Turn left just beyond the carriage road, leaving the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, and follow the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which descends gradually on switchbacks.
Near the base of the descent, the Crossover Trail crosses a wide gravel road, descends a little more, and turns right onto another gravel road, crossing a bridge over a stream. In 100 feet, it turns left, leaving the carriage road, then switches back and heads south along the hillside.
Upon reaching the next carriage road, turn right, leaving the Crossover Trail, then immediately turn left onto an intersecting road which soon crosses a bridge over another stream. Turn left before the bridge onto an eroded carriage road and follow it uphill, along the side of the hill, unitl you reach Gatun Pond. At the pond, turn right and follow a carriage road along the western shore of the pond until you reach a clearing on the left with a concrete foundation and stone steps that lead down towards the water’s edge (a remnant of a former swimming area; the dam has been since been breached and the level of the lake lowered). This tranquil, pleasant setting is a good spot for a break.
Continue ahead along the carriage road. Two roads branch off to the right, but you should continue ahead. Soon, the trail parallels an old cable fence on the right, with Brushwood Pond visible in the distance. At the next Y-intersection, bear left, but at the following intersection, where a branch of the road turns sharply right, you should continue straight ahead on the unmarked carriage road.
Soon, you’ll pass small ponds on each side of the road (note the rusty fire hydrant on the left). A narrower road branches off to the left, but you should continue to follow the wider road straight ahead. A short distance beyond, the Crossover Trail – marked by a brown wand on the left – crosses. Turn right onto the Crossover Trail, which parallels the road on a footpath and soon rejoins the road just south of Weyble Pond. Follow the Crossover Trail around the southern end of Weyble Pond, but when the white blazes turn right, leaving the road, continue ahead along the road, now heading north along the east side of the pond. At the next intersection (north of the pond), turn left, but when you reach the following intersection, turn right, following the arrow on the brown wand.
In another third of a mile, the green-and-white-blazed Halifax Trail crosses. Turn left onto the Halifax Trail, which almost immediately crosses another carriage road and continues to descend on a footpath. At the base of the descent, turn right onto a road which passes between the two Glasmere Ponds.
Just beyond, you’ll reach a T-intersection. Here, the Halifax Trail turns left, but you should turn right, now once again following the mountain bike trail. The carriage road that you are following soon goes by the ruins of a frame building on the left and passes between two stone pillars, with abandoned stone buildings (originally, the gate houses for the estate) on each side of the trail. Just beyond, bear left at the fork.
A short distance ahead, at the top of a rise, the mountain bike trail leaves the road (a brown wand is visible about 25 feet into the woods). Turn left and follow this “single-track” mountain bike trail, which will take you back to Shepherd Lake. Although not marked (except with occasional brown wands at intersections), the trail is well-defined and easy to follow. It climbs on switchbacks to cross the gas pipeline and the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, then continues to climb a little more. After reaching a high point, it descends gradually, crosses a woods road, and once again approaches the gas pipeline (although it does not cross it). The mountain bike trail then heads north to end at the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail along the shore of Shepherd Lake. Turn left and follow the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail back to the parking area at the southwest corner of the lake, where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 05/23/2008 updated/verified on 01/09/2020
This loop hike climbs to the summit of Mount Defiance, with panoramic views, and passes several scenic ponds.
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.