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Hutchinson/Munsee-Eagle/Red Back Multi-Use Trails Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York Thruway to Exit 15A. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto Route 17 and head north for 1.4 miles to the exit for Sterling Forest. Follow Sterling Mine Road (County Route 72) west for 3.0 miles, then turn right onto Long Meadow Road (County Route 84). Proceed north on Long Meadow Road for 4.8 miles and turn right into the Caretaker Parking Area, on the right side of the road.
This hike follows “single-track” multi-use trails recently constructed by the Palisades AmeriCorps trail crew of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, along with volunteers. This is the first “single-track” multi-use loop built in Sterling Forest State Park, and although open to hikers, it was designed primarily for mountain bikers, and it is heavily used by them. Although park regulations provide that bicyclists must yield to hikers, hikers should be alert for approaching bicycles (both ahead and behind) on the “single-track” trails, and riders should make hikers aware of their approach.
The trail incorporates design features, such as switchbacks, that were installed to permit mountain bikers to more easily climb relatively steep grades and to prevent the bikes from careening down steep hills. The description below follows the loop in a clockwise direction.
The hike begins at the kiosk at the end of the parking area (to which are affixed tools for mountain bike repair), with an abandoned wooden shack on the left. This is the start of the Hutchinson Trail, marked with yellow-“H”-on-red blazes. The trail goes around a cable barrier and heads east on a woods road, passing an attractive pond on the right. Be alert for a turn, where the trail bears right, leaving the road, and continues on a “single-track” path.
A short distance beyond, you’ll arrive at a junction with the Munsee-Eagle Trail, blazed with white-stripe-on-blue blazes. Turn left onto this trail, which proceeds through an attractive stand of mountain laurel and hemlock. It approaches a woods road (a section of the same road that was followed earlier in the hike by the Hutchinson Trail), then bends to the right and descends on switchbacks to cross a stream on a winding wooden bridge. The trail now climbs on switchbacks, traverses a rock outcrop, and descends on switchbacks.
A short distance beyond, the trail climbs on switchbacks to cross under power lines in an open area. It reenters the woods and soon briefly joins a woods road. After passing an interesting huge boulder on the left, covered with moss and lichen, the trail crosses a stream on rocks and begins a long descent on switchbacks. It then follows a route along the side of a hill, with a valley on the left.
After traversing a relatively level section, the trail bears right and begins to climb on switchbacks. It follows a relatively level route until it approaches a power line (this is the same power line that you crossed earlier in the hike). The trail now bends to the right and climbs to the level of the power line. It crosses under the power line, turns left and briefly follows the power line road, then turns right and reenters the woods.
The trail moves away from the power line, but it soon bends to the left and reemerges at the edge of the power line corridor, with a limited view to the southeast. A short distance beyond, the trail passes between two large boulders.
The trail begins a long descent on switchbacks, crossing a stream along the way. At the base of the descent, it briefly joins a woods road. After turning left onto a “single-track” trail, it crosses a stream on narrow puncheons. The trail now swings to the east and approaches a wide stream below in a valley. As the trail descends along the edge of the valley, it passes several rock outcrops with views over the valley below and the hills to the southeast.
After moving away from the stream in the valley, the Munsee-Eagle Trail ends at a junction with the Red Back Trail, marked with magenta blazes. Turn right onto the Red Back Trail, which climbs on a woods road. A short distance ahead, it turns right and enters the woods on a “single-track” path. The trail loops around, again approaches the road, heads back into the woods, and finally rejoins the road once more, passing a huge boulder on the left. A short distance beyond, the trail bears left, leaving the road, and descends on a “single-track” path, passing the Spruce Swamp on the left.
At the end of the swamp, the trail turns sharply right and begins to climb. Soon, you’ll notice a deep trench on the left. This is a remnant of the Red Back Mine, after which the trail is named. You’ll also notice a large heap of rusted iron – a remnant of the roaster used to process the ore from the mine. The Red Back Mine was discovered in 1780 and was last worked in 1900.
Upon reaching the end of the mine, the trail turns left, leaving the road, and continues on a footpath, which crosses an underground stream on rocks, loops to the south, and then heads north on the opposite side of the valley, climbing gradually. Near the crest of the rise, the path rejoins the road. Just ahead, you’ll reach an intersection with the Hutchinson Trail. Here the Red Back Trail turns left, but you should continue ahead on the road, now following the Hutchinson Trail (yellow-“H”-on-red blazes).
For about a mile, the Hutchinson Trail follows a nearly level woods road. It then descends on switchbacks to cross a wooden bridge over a stream. The Hutchinson Trail climbs a little, then begins a steady descent on switchbacks until it reaches a junction with the Munsee-Eagle Trail. Bear left at this junction and retrace your steps along the Hutchinson Trail back to the Caretaker Parking Area, where the hike began.