Panther Mountain/Lake Wanoksink/Pine Meadow Lake Loop from Ramapo Equestrian Center
Directions to trailhead
Take N.J. Route 17 north to the New York State Thruway and take the first exit, Exit 15A (Sloatsburg). Turn right at the bottom of the ramp onto Route 59 east and follow it for 1.6 miles to the first traffic light in the village of Suffern. Turn left at the light onto U.S. Route 202 north, follow it for 5.4 miles, then turn left into the Town of Ramapo Equestrian Center. Continue over a small bridge and park on the left, just before the white, fenced-in riding area
From the parking area, continue heading towards the mountain, with a large barn on your right. You will see another barn at the base of the mountain, behind white fencing. The triple red-square-on-white-blaze that marks the start of the Pine Meadow Trail is visible on the side of that barn.
Follow the blazes uphill for 0.1 mile and turn right onto a gas line service road. In about 750 feet, before the next power line tower, a footpath leads to the left (as of this writing, this turn is not blazed). Turn left onto this footpath, turn left again when you reach a woods road, then immediately turn right onto a parallel service road, crossing Guyascutus Brook. Soon, the trail leaves the power line service road and turns left on a woods road, beginning a moderately steep climb. It recrosses the brook, turns right and climbs alongside it.
At 0.85 mile, after a rather steep climb along the brook, the Pine Meadow Trail reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Suffern-Bear Mountain (S-BM) Trail. Turn right and follow the S-BM Trail, which again crosses the brook and continues to climb rather steeply. After coming out in an open area, the trail climbs to the summit of Panther Mountain (1,124 feet), with a panoramic southeast-facing view. You’ve climbed over 700 vertical feet to reach this point, and you’ll want to rest here and take in the view.
Continue ahead on the S-BM Trail, with soon reaches a second viewpoint – this one to the northeast, with the Hudson River visible in the distance. The trail now descends through dense mountain laurel thickets, climbs to regain the ridge, and continues on a relatively level footpath through dense scrub oak. After passing a view to the west, the trail descends, climbs to cross an unmarked trail, and soon reaches a ravine, through which the outlet of Squirrel Swamp flows. The S-BM Trail crosses the outlet on huge rock slabs (the stream flows under the rocks here) and climbs slightly to reach a junction, at a stone fireplace, with the red-dash-on-white-blazed Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy (T-MI) Trail.
Turn left, leaving the S-BM Trail, and continue on the T-MI Trail, which follows a level route through beautiful stands of mountain laurel. In about half a mile, the trail reaches a T-junction with Woodtown Road, a woods road. It turns right and follows the road, crosses a stream on a wooden footbridge, then immediately leaves the road and turns sharply left onto another old woods road, still lined with mountain laurel.
The trail begins to climb and soon crosses a small stream on rocks. It then passes by a wetland known as the Green Swamp on the left. The mountain laurels are soon replaced by a hardwood forest. Watch carefully, just beyond another short climb, for the T-MI Trail to turn right, leaving the woods road it has been following. A short distance beyond, you’ll come to a junction, marked with three white blazes on a tree and the letters “BM” painted on a rock. Here, the Breakneck Mountain Trail begins on the right, but you should bear left to continue on the T-MI Trail.
Follow the T-MI Trail as it crosses Pine Meadow Road East and passes a swamp on the left. The trail now climbs a little, soon coming out on open rocks, with interesting boulders along the trail. It descends and continues through a rocky area, eventually reaching an intersection with Pine Meadow Road West.
Turn left, leaving the T-MI Trail, and begin to follow the level Pine Meadow Road West. In two-thirds of a mile, Woodtown Road West comes in on the right, but you should continue ahead on Pine Meadow Road West. In another quarter mile, the road crosses a wide stone bridge over the outlet of a swamp. To the left, you can see the dam of Lake Wanoksink. Just beyond the bridge, turn left onto another woods road and follow it as it leads to the top of the Lake Wanoksink dam in an open area. You’ll want to stop here and take a good look at this scenic lake, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1934.
Just ahead, follow the woods road as it curves to the left. It continues along the southwest shore of the lake, then heads south and eventually reaches Pine Meadow Lake. Also built by the CCC in 1933-34, this lake – like Lake Wanoksink – was intended to serve children’s camps that would be built around the lake. These camps were never built, but some of the infrastructure that would have served these camps was constructed and may still be seen today.
When you reach Pine Meadow Lake, turn left and begin to follow the red-square-on-white-blazed Pine Meadow Trail. You’ll be following this trail all the way back to the trailhead. For the next three-fourths of a mile, the trail closely parallels the shore of Pine Meadow Lake. Side trails lead to the lake if you wish to explore the area more fully.
As you continue along the trail, you’ll notice a series of empty concrete receptacles, as well as some old rusty pipes. These were constructed by the CCC workers as part of a pipeline to serve the children’s camps along the lake that were never built, and the pipeline was never used. (Unfortunately, some thoughtless hikers have deposited their garbage in these concrete receptacles.) You’ll also pass a large stone building, which was built to house pumps to carry water up to a large tank that would have supplied the never-built camps.
Near the eastern end of the lake, you’ll arrive at a junction with the white-blazed Conklins Crossing Trail. Bear left to continue on the Pine Meadow Trail. Over the next mile and half, the Pine Meadow Trail follows a relatively level route, crossing Pine Meadow Road East and several streams along the way.
At the crossing of Pittsboro Hollow Brook (marked by a sign), the yellow-blazed S-BM Trail joins from the right. Follow the red-on-white and yellow blazes downhill for the next half mile. When the S-BM Trail leaves to the left, continue ahead on the Pine Meadow Trail, now retracing your steps back to the Town of Ramapo Equestrian Center, where the hike began.