Carris Hill Loop from Otter Hole
Directions to trailhead
Take I-287 to Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. In 1.3 miles (from Route 287), you will reach a fork in the road. Bear right (following the sign to West Milford), and in another 0.1 mile, turn right (uphill) onto Glenwild Avenue. Continue ahead for 3.2 miles to a parking area on the right side of the road.
From the eastern end of the parking area, at the sign "Welcome to Bloomingdale," follow the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail, which heads north and descends to Posts Brook at Otter Hole, an attractive cascade and waterfall. Here the trail crosses the brook on large boulders.
Just beyond the brook, the light-green-blazed Otter Hole Trail leaves to the left, and the Hewitt-Butler Trail is joined by the Highlands Trail, with teal diamond blazes. Continue ahead, following the blue and teal diamond blazes along a rocky woods road. The trail continues to ascend for a short distance, and then begins a steady descent.
In about half a mile, the trail turns left, leaving the woods road, and continues to descend. At one point, the yellow-blazed Wyanokie Crest Trail joins briefly, but continue ahead on the blue-blazed trail (also blazed with teal diamonds).
After leveling off and passing through a wet area, the trail approaches Posts Brook, crosses a tributary stream on a log bridge, and reaches a junction with the white-blazed Posts Brook Trail. The Hewitt-Butler and Highlands Trails leave to the left, but you should continue ahead on the white trail, which closely parallels the cascading brook.
Soon, the trail reaches the top of Chikahoki Falls and descends to the brook, with a good view of the falls. The trail closely parallels the brook for a short distance, then bears left and heads uphill, away from the brook. After a while, it again descends to the brook.
A short distance beyond, you'll come to a junction with the Lower Trail, blazed with a black "L" on white, and with the yellow-blazed Carris Hill Trail. Turn left onto the yellow-blazed Carris Hill Trail.
After traversing a level, rocky area, the Carris Hill Trail crosses a stream and begins a rather steep climb. The grade soon moderates, but after a third of a mile, it again climbs steeply over rocks, reaching a viewpoint to the southeast from a rock outcrop just to the right of the trail. The trail continues to climb to another rock outcrop, with a broader view. Here, it bears right and ascends to the left of a 40-foot-high massive rock face.
At the top of the ascent, a short detour to the right leads to a magnificent viewpoint to the east. The Wanaque Reservoir, contained by the Raymond, Wolf Den and Green Swamp dams, is in the foreground, with the Ramapo Mountains beyond, and a long viaduct of I-287 visible to the right. On a clear day, the New York City skyline may be seen on the horizon. This is a good place to pause and enjoy the spectacular view.
The yellow trail now climbs more gradually, soon reaching another viewpoint (partially blocked by trees), with a six-foot-high balanced glacial erratic silhouetted against the sky. The trail curves to the right and traverses open rock ledges with views to the south. After going through dense mountain laurel thickets, it reaches a fifth viewpoint -- this one to the southwest -- with pitch pines and a large glacial erratic. The trail continues on a level footpath through laurel and blueberry bushes and climbs slightly to end, on a rock outcrop with views to the north and west, at a junction with the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail and the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail.
Turn sharply left here, following the sign for "O-H PRKG," and head southeast on the joint Hewitt-Butler/Highlands Trail (do not follow the route of these trails, marked by a sign to "Weis," that heads north). After reaching another large rock outcrop, with a limted view to the southwest, the trail begins a steady descent through blueberries and mountain laurel, finally leveling off on a woods road. It soon reaches the junction with the white-blazed Posts Brook Trail which you encountered earlier in the hike. Turn right at this junction, and follow the blue and teal diamond blazes westward, retracing the first part of the hike. After about a mile, the teal diamond blazes leave to the right. Continue ahead on the blue-blazed trail, cross Posts Brook on boulders, and you'll soon reach the parking area on Glenwild Avenue where you started the hike.