Know the New Hiking How-tos
Marsh Loop Trail
Directions to trailhead
Take N.J. Route 17 to U.S. Route 202 in Mahwah. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp, proceed south on Route 202 for two miles, and turn right into the Ramapo Valley County Reservation parking area.
The hike begins at a kiosk in the southwest corner of the parking area. Just ahead, you'll notice a triple-yellow blaze on a tree, which marks the start of the Vista Loop Trail. Follow the yellow blazes as they descend wooden steps, join a wide dirt road, and continue ahead to cross the Ramapo River on a steel truss bridge.
In another 200 feet, the green-dot-on-orange-blazed River Trail begins on the left. Turn left, leaving the wide gravel road, and follow the River Trail along a narrower footpath.
Soon, the River Trail begins to run along the shore of the Ramapo River. Since the footpath is in the floodplain of the river, it may be muddy or even flooded in places when the water is high. After passing a small cascade, the trail bears right, away from the river, and soon ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail. Turn left onto the Vista Loop Trail and cross a stream on a wooden footbridge.
On the other side of the bridge, the trail turns sharply right and follows the cascading stream. Soon, it begins to climb on stone steps, passing an attractive waterfall along the way. This beautiful trail section was built in 2017-18 by an AmeriCorps trail crew of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. After passing more cascades and pools in the stream on the right, the Vista Loop Trail levels off, curves to the right, and reaches a junction with the wide park road leading to the MacMillan Reservoir.
Follow the Vista Loop Trail as it turns left, joining the blue-blazed Ridge Trail, and continues along a paved section of the park road. A short distance ahead, the two trails diverge. The Vista Loop Trail continues ahead, but you should bear left to stay on the Ridge Loop Trail. Soon, the trail passes to the left of the stone dam of the MacMillan Reservoir. You’ve gone a little over a mile from the start, and this is a good place to take a break.
When you’re ready to continue, you’ll notice a triple red blaze on a rock, opposite the dam. This marks the start of the Marsh Loop Trail. Follow this trail, which heads uphill on switchbacks, levels off, then resumes its climb.
After a short descent, you’ll reach a fork. The Yellow-Silver Trail begins on the left, but you should bear right and continue along the red-blazed Marsh Loop Trail. After passing a phragmites marsh on the right, the Marsh Loop Trail parallels the stone-lined walls of an old mill race channel and reaches a junction with a wide woods road – the route of the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail.
Cross the road and continue ahead on the red-blazed Marsh Loop Trail, which descends steadily on a footpath through attractive woods, passing to the right of a deep ravine. It curves to the right and ends at a junction with the pink-blazed Reservoir Loop Trail near the shore of the MacMillan Reservoir.
Turn right and follow the Reservoir Loop Trail along the southwestern side of the reservoir. After running for some distance close to the shore, the Reservoir Loop Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail, just south of the dam (the triple-red blaze marking the start of the Marsh Loop Trail is visible on the right).
Proceed ahead (downhill) on the Ridge Loop Trail, which follows the wide park road. Soon, the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail joins from the left, but when the two trails diverge, bear left to stay on the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail. A short distance ahead, you’ll reach a junction where the blue blazes head both left and right. Here, you should bear right and follow the descending route of the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail.
Near the base of the descent, the Ridge Loop Trail curves to the right, and it soon ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail. Proceed straight ahead on the Vista Loop Trail, which passes to the right of Scarlet Oak Pond, continues across the bridge over the Ramapo River, and ends at the parking area where the hike began.