Hawk Watch at Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area
Directions to trailhead
Take Interstate Route 80 to Exit 37 (Hibernia/Rockaway) and bear left at the end of the ramp. Continue north on Green Pond Road (County Route 513) for 6.5 miles and turn right onto Upper Hibernia Road. (If coming from the north, you can take Route 23 to Green Pond Road, head south for 3.7 miles, and turn left onto Upper Hibernia Road.) In 2.5 miles, the paving ends. Continue ahead on the gravel road to its end at a parking area, with a kiosk for the Wildcat Ridge WMA on the left.
From the kiosk, head east on the orange-blazed Flyway Spur Trail, which initially goes along a woods road. In about 100 feet, at a locked gate, follow the orange-blazed trail as it turns right, leaving the road, and proceeds through a deciduous forest with an understory of blueberry bushes. After a level stretch, the trail climbs to reach an exposed bedrock slab with glacial striations, and then descends. On the way down, it passes a rail with a pointed tip embedded in the ground to the left of the trail. This unusual feature once served as a boundary marker.
After passing through a valley, the trail climbs rather steeply, crosses a woods road, and levels off. It then climbs a little to reach a junction (marked by a signs and a collapsed kiosk) with the white-blazed Four Birds Trail. You’ll be heading north on this trail, but for now, continue ahead on the orange trail for another 500 feet to the Hawk Watch – an open rock ledge that provides a panoramic view over the Rockaway Valley below. During the fall and spring migratory seasons, volunteers continually record the numbers of migratory birds observed here. On a clear day, portions of the New York City skyline can be seen on the horizon to the left.
Even if you’re not a hawk-watcher, you’ll want to spend some time at this beautiful location. When you’re ready to continue, retrace your steps to the white-blazed Four Birds Trail and turn right, now heading north. The trail crosses a gravel road (which, to the right, leads to a television transmission tower) and begins a long, steady descent. In half a mile, at the base of the descent, the trail crosses a stream on rocks and begins to climb.
In another quarter of a mile, you’ll reach a junction with the red-blazed Beaver Pond Trail. The junction is marked by a red arrow, a single red-on-white blaze, and a small cairn. Turn left onto the Beaver Pond Trail, which climbs to reach a south-facing viewpoint on the left from a split rock covered with sassafras sprouts (the view is partially obscured by vegetation). The tower you see on the ridge ahead is the television transmission tower just north of the Hawk Watch.
The trail now descends slightly to reach the large Beaver Pond (which may be covered with water lilies during the summer). A beaver lodge is directly ahead, with two abandoned telephone poles incongruously sticking out of the water. Here, the trail turns left and joins a gravel road, which it follows along the southern shore of the pond. Beyond the pond, continue straight ahead on the gravel road. After passing an abandoned stone building on the right– a remnant of the Marcella Mine that was once active here – you’ll come to a locked gate, where the red-blazed trail ends.
Continue ahead to Upper Hibernia Road, turn left, and follow the road for about 0.2 mile to the parking area where the hike began.