Closter Nature Center Longer Hike
Directions to trailhead
From Route 9W in Alpine, proceed west on Closter Dock Road for 2.7 miles to Oakland Avenue. Turn right onto Oakland Avenue, which becomes Ruckman Road, and continue for 0.5 mile to the parking lot for the Closter Nature Center, on the right. GPS address: 154 Ruckman Road, Closter, NJ 07624.
This hike loops around the Closter Nature Center. The low-lying trails are often wet, so much of the hike is on puncheons (wooden boardwalks). Along the hike, you'll pass several deer exclosures (black plastic fencing, with white ribbons attached), designed to prevent deer from munching on the vegetation.
From the Nature Center building, where parking is available, turn right and follow Ruckman Road east for about 600 feet. Just beyond the driveway to 190 Ruckman Road, you’ll notice a triple red blaze on a large tree on the north side of the road, adjacent to a sign for the Closter Nature Center. Enter the woods, following the Red Trail, with puncheons placed over wet areas.
Just beyond a huge fallen tree, turn right onto the Green Trail, which soon crosses Willow Brook on a substantial wooden bridge. The trail immediately turns sharply left and parallels the brook, following a raised berm. When the Green Trail ends, turn right and follow the Blue Trail.
Soon, you’ll reach a junction where a blue blaze indicates that the loop of the Blue Trail goes left and straight ahead. The left fork will be your return route, but for now, continue ahead to follow the loop of the Blue Trail in the counter-clockwise direction. A trail blazed with a black arrow on a white diamond begins on the right, but continue to follow the Blue Trail. A short distance beyond, be sure to turn left at a double blue blaze (do not continue ahead, as a diamond-shaped blue blaze would indicate).
With an unpaved road visible just ahead, turn left to continue on the Blue Trail, then again turn left at a double blue blaze. The trail continues on puncheons through an area with abundant skunk cabbage in the spring and summer.
After crossing a bridge over a brook, you’ll reach a junction where the Yellow Trail begins on the right. You should turn left to continue on the Blue Trail, which soon recrosses the brook and continues along a winding footpath. After passing a deer exclosure on the right, you'll reach the end of the loop. Turn right (following the blaze pointing to "CNC"), briefly retracing your steps along the Blue Trail.
Soon, you’ll come to the end of the Green Trail on the left. Continue ahead on the Blue Trail, recrossing Willow Brook on a wooden bridge. The Red Trail begins on the left, but you should continue on the Blue Trail, which immediately turns right and crosses Smith Brook on a wooden bridge. Just ahead, a triple-blue blaze marks the end of the Blue Traill. Here, you should turn left onto a wide, unmarked grassy road and head south, parallel to the brook.
In about 0.2 mile, turn right onto the Orange Trail, cross a long wooden footbridge, with rustic logs along its sides, and continue ahead through an area with many large beech trees. When you reach the junction where the loop of the Orange Trail begins, bear left to follow the loop in a clockwise direction. Towards the western end of the loop, you’ll pass the parking lot of a nearby building on the left. The trail now curves right and begins the return portion of the loop, passing an interesting tree with six trunks on the way.
When you reach the end of the loop, continue ahead, retracing your steps along the Orange Trail and recrossing the long bridge. At the end of the bridge, turn right and continue to follow the Orange Trail on a long stretch of puncheons through tall grass. Follow the Orange Trail as it turns left, recrosses Smith Brook on another bridge, and ends at a T-intersection with the White Trail. Turn right, follow the White Trail a short distance to Ruckman Road, then turn left along the road for 150 feet and cross the road to the parking area where the hike began.
To view a photo collection for this hike, click here.