Ringwood-Ramapo/Blue/Crossover Trails Loop from Skylands Manor
Directions to trailhead
Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 57 and proceed north on Skyline Drive. At the end of Skyline Drive, turn right and follow Greenwood Lake Turnpike north for 1.5 miles to Sloatsburg Road. Turn right and follow Sloatsburg Road for 2.1 miles to Morris Avenue, then turn right and follow Morris Avenue for 1.4 miles to its end at the Skylands Manor section of Ringwood State Park. Pass between two stone eagles and turn left into Parking Lot A. During the summer season, a parking fee may be charged.
From the parking area, turn left onto a paved park road, the route of the white-blazed Crossover Trail. The trail proceeds through the grounds of Skylands Manor, which feature various exotic trees. You'll pass to the right of a greenhouse and an English Tudor guest house with a sundial clock on its chimney.
A short distance beyond, follow the Crossover Trail as it turns left onto an unpaved carriage road which follows the western base of Mount Defiance. In about a quarter mile, you’ll cross a stream and pass between two concrete posts. Just beyond, you'll come to a junction with the pink-blazed Five Ponds Loop. Turn left onto the Five Ponds Loop, which climbs Mount Defiance on gentle switchbacks, following the route of an old carriage road, which has narrowed in places to a footpath. As you reach the crest of the ridge, you’ll notice an unmarked trail on the left. 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 Five Ponds Loop and turn left. In about 500 feet, you’ll reach a junction (marked by a cairn) with the red-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail. Turn right onto the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which you’ll be following for the next two and one-half miles. In about 350 feet, you’ll notice a large rock outcrop on your right, studded with cedar trees. Climb the outcrop to reach another panoramic west-facing view. 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, the route of the pink-blazed Five Ponds Loop. Continue straight ahead along the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which follows a rougher woods road, with many exposed rocks.
A short distance ahead, you’ll reach a open rock ledge, with glacial striations, known as Warm Puppy Rock, which offers limited west-facing views. Here, the trail turns left and descends on a footpath, passing another rock ledge on the left with east-facing views. Near the base of the descent, the trail crosses a carriage road and descends to cross a stream on a flat rock. It then passes through a stand of bamboo – a non-native plant, rarely seen in the Ramapos. Just beyond, at a T-intersection, the trail turns left on a wide fire road, which it follows for 0.2 mile.
At a large brown trail marker, the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail turns right, leaving the fire road, and ascends on a footpath. After crossing a stream on a wooden plank bridge, it reaches a T-intersection, turns left, and climbs along a woods road. It soon bears left at a second T-intersection. A short distance beyond, it turns left, leaving the road, and continues to ascend on a footpath, with broad switchbacks. Near the crest of the ridge, it turns left, rejoining the woods road, then descends to cross a stream on a wooden bridge. Just beyond, the trail crosses a woods road and continues ahead into the woods on a footpath, which soon curves to the right.
After following along a ridge, with views over the valley below to the left, the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail descends into the valley. Near the base of the descent, three blue-on-white blazes on the left mark the start of the Blue Trail.
Turn left, leaving the Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, and follow the Blue Trail, which descends to cross High Mountain Brook on a wooden bridge and begins to climb on a footpath. It soon turns left onto a woods road, which climbs gradually to the crest of the ridge. Near the top, you’ll pass a small pond on the right, after which the grade briefly steepens, but the trail soon begins a slight descent. It crosses a stream on a wooden bridge and, a short distance beyond, reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Hoeferlin Memorial Trail.
Turn left onto the Hoeferlin Memorial Trail. After a relatively level stretch, the trail crosses a stream on rocks and climbs a rocky footpath to reach a panoramic view from Ilgenstein Rock. Bear Swamp Lake is below, with Drag Hill and Rocky Mountain in the background. On clear days, the New York City skyline may be visible on the horizon to the right, and you can even see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on the extreme right. Here, the white-blazed Crossover Trail joins from the right. You’ll be following the Crossover Trail all the way back to the parking area.
Follow the joint yellow-and-white-blazed trails as they proceed north on a rocky footpath. In half a mile, the two trails split. Turn left, following the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which soon widens into a woods road. In another half mile, you’ll reach a junction where the blue-blazed Pierson Ridge Trail begins. Follow the white blazes as they turn left, leaving the woods road, and begin to descend.
After crossing a carriage road, the Crossover Trail bears right and begins to follow a well-constructed footpath along the side of the hill. The next mile of the trail was built by the Jersey Off-Road Bicycle Association and was designed primarily for mountain bikes. It features very gentle grades and switchbacks that may seem excessively long to hikers (but are more pleasant to hike than the woods roads that they replaced).
The trail heads north for a third of a mile, then switches back to the left and begins a gradual descent toward Weyble Pond. When it reaches the pond, it turns left onto a carriage road that goes around the south side of the pond. The trail then bears left, leaving the road, and heads south on a path, with a stream below on the left. A short distance ahead, the trail crosses the road and begins to climb, continuing along the side of a hill, with Gatun Pond visible below through the trees. After a while, it switches back to the left and begins to descend. Along the way, it crosses a stream on rocks (as well as a woods road) and passes a balanced rock on the right.
At the base of the descent, the Crossover Trail briefly turns right onto a woods road. It follows the road over a stream, then turns left, reenters the woods on a path, and begins to climb. In a short distance, it crosses a wide gravel road and continues to climb on switchbacks.
At the crest of the rise, the Crossover Trail reaches a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which you followed earlier in the hike. This marks the end of the trail section constructed by JORBA. Follow the white-blazed Crossover Trail, which bears left onto a wide woods road. It soon curves to the right and begins to head north. Continue to follow the white blazes along the base of Mount Defiance, then turn right onto a paved road at Skylands Manor and follow it back to Parking Area A, where the hike began.