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Suffern to Sloatsburg via S-BM, Kakiat and Pine Meadow Trails
Directions to trailhead
This is a one-way hike, but you can return to the trailhead by Transit of Rockland’s #93 bus, which runs hourly on both weekdays and weekends.
To reach the trailhead in Suffern, take N.J. 17 North to U.S. 202 North in Mahwah. Proceed north on Route 202 (Ramapo Valley Road) for 0.9 mile to a T-intersection just beyond a railroad overpass, and turn left to continue on Route 202 (now following Orange Avenue and entering New York State). In 0.7 mile, just before the New York State Thruway overpass, Route 202 turns right, but you should continue ahead on Orange Avenue. Just ahead, on the left, under the Thruway overpass, is Parking Lot D of the Suffern Parking Authority. Parking is free on weekends. On weekdays, a daily parking permit ($6.03) must be obtained from the Parking Authority’s office at 74 Lafayette Avenue. The GPS address of the parking lot is 75 Orange Avenue, Suffern, NY 10901.
Take NJ Transit’s Main Line/Bergen County Line from Hoboken or Penn Station in New York to Suffern. Trains run approximately hourly on both weekdays and weekends (for a schedule, go to www.njtransit.com). From the station, take the stairway down to Chestnut Street, proceed east and cross under the railroad, and take the first sharp left, which leads up to Orange Avenue. Turn right and follow Orange Avenue for 0.2 mile to the Thruway underpass and continue to the trailhead, on the right.
From the parking lot, proceed north on Orange Avenue a short distance to the trailhead on the right (just north of a large sign for the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail). Turn right and proceed rather steeply uphill, following the yellow blazes of the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail. After climbing about 200 vertical feet in 0.2 mile, you’ll reach a south-facing viewpoint from open rocks. The intersection of I-287, N.J. 17 and the New York State Thruway is directly below, Mahwah and Suffern are in the foreground, and on a clear day, the New York City skyline can be seen in the distance.
After taking in the view, continue uphill along the trail. In another 750 feet, there is another viewpoint from open rocks just to the right of the trail. You’re now about 100 feet higher in elevation, and the view from this point is broader and more panoramic than that from the first viewpoint.
The S-BM Trail continues ahead on a relatively level woods road. In a quarter mile, the trail crosses the route of a gas pipeline and continues on a footpath. It climbs gently to the summit of a hill, marked by several huge boulders, and descends to cross under a power line.
North of the power line, the descent steepens. Soon, the trail reaches the base of the descent and begins a gradual climb to the “Kitchen Stairs” – a broken rock fault, named by Frank Place in 1925. The trail bears right to climb this fault, then continues on a level route until it crosses another gas pipeline, 1.9 miles from the trailhead in Suffern.
Soon, the trail begins to descend. At the base of the descent, It passes a small cattail swamp on the left. The trail now begins to climb. After leveling off, the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail crosses under another power line, with a good view of the Ramapo Torne on the left. As you enter the woods beyond the power line, be sure to bear left and follow the yellow blazes along a footpath (the woods road that descends to the right is not the route of the trail).
After crossing a woods road, the trail passes just to the right of a high point (elevation 1,096 feet) and begins a steady descent to a rocky hollow. Frank Place named this location the “Valley of Dry Bones” because he thought that some of the rocks resembled animals. The trail now begins a steady climb. At the highest point, marked by large boulder and a cairn, the trail turns sharply right. Soon, it proceeds through the site of the former Sky Sail Farm. The farm was abandoned many years ago, and only some stone walls remain.
About a mile past the “Valley of Dry Bones,” you’ll encounter a very rocky trail section and cross another gas line – the fifth crossing of a utility line in this trail section. This gas line was rebuilt recently, and the gas transmission company was required to remediate the line, with the result that it has been attractively planted with grass.
After passing through another rocky section (named MacIlvain’s Rocks, to honor a volunteer who helped construct this trail), you’ll reach Grandma and Grandpa Rocks – two huge pointed boulders adjacent to the trail. Just beyond, you’ll come to an intersection with the white-blazed Kakiat Trail. This is the first junction with a marked hiking trail that you’ve encountered in the 4.5 miles that you’ve hiked from Suffern.
Turn left, leaving the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail, and follow the white blazes of the Kakiat Trail. The Kakiat Trail climbs a little, then begins a rather steep descent into a valley, where it crosses an intermittent stream. The trail then climbs steeply to the opposite rim, where it bears left and reaches a panoramic viewpoint over the Ramapo Rampart. This is the ridge that you just traversed on your hike from Suffern along the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail. You’ll want to take a break here to rest from the steep climb and admire the view.
Continue ahead on the Kakiat Trail, which passes an interesting balanced boulder, then bears right and soon descends to a rocky area. After traversing a level section, the trail begins to descend parallel to the route of a gas pipeline (the same grassy pipeline route that you crossed on the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail just before reaching the Kakiat Trail). The Kakiat Trail then descends to cross Torne Brook in a magnificent rocky ravine – a particularly picturesque location. A short distance beyond, it passes a split, slanted boulder on the right.
Soon, the trail crosses Torne Valley Road (a woods road) and climbs to reach a junction with the black-dot-on-white Raccoon Brook Hills Trail, which joins from the right and almost immediately leaves to the left. Continue ahead on the Kakiat Trail, which traverses an area with an understory of blueberries, then turns sharply right and descends through a cleft in the rock. It continues to descend along a valley, paralleling a stream on the right. Along the way, it passes on the right the eastern terminus of the Raccoon Brook Hills Trail.
A third of a mile from the terminus of the Raccoon Brook Hills Trail, you’ll come to an intersection with the blue-on-white-blazed Seven Hills Trail and the red-on-white-blazed Pine Meadow Trail. Here, the white-blazed Kakiat Trail turns right to cross Pine Meadow Brook on a wooden footbridge, but you should continue ahead (do not cross the bridge), following the blue-on-white and red-on-white blazes. When the blue-on-white-blazed Seven Hills Trail leaves to the left just beyond, proceed ahead on the red-on-white-blazed Pine Meadow Trail, which you will follow for the remainder of the hike.
The Pine Meadow Trail follows a wide path along the side of the hill, with Pine Meadow Brook below on the right. In a third of a mile, the orange-blazed Hillburn-Torne-Sebago Trail joins from the left and soon leaves to the right. Just beyond, you’ll come to a section where the woods road has eroded, and the trail has been relocated onto a footpath to the left. You can hear the roar of Pine Meadow Brook down below in the valley. A short distance beyond, an unmarked trail with wooden steps leaves to the right, but continue ahead on the red-on-white-blazed Pine Meadow Trail.
After crossing Quartz Brook on a wooden bridge, the Pine Meadow Trail reaches a junction where the yellow-blazed Stony Brook Trail begins to the right. Here, the Pine Meadow Trail bears left and begins to run close to Stony Brook, with its attractive cascades (and, in winter, interesting ice formations). To bypass a wet spot at the crossing of a tributary stream, the trail has been relocated to the hillside on the left, where it crosses another wooden bridge. Just beyond, you’ll come to the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center and a parking lot.
Cross the parking lot and find the continuation of the Pine Meadow Trail (marked by a wand on the southwest side of the parking area). Soon, you’ll pass a deer exclosure on the left and come to a junction with the blue-on-white-blazed Seven Hills Trail. Bear right here to continue on the Pine Meadow Trail. In about half a mile, after crossing the route of a gas line, the trail turns sharply right and descends to Stony Brook. It turns left and parallels the brook until it ends at Seven Lakes Drive, at the highway bridge across the brook.
To return to the start of the hike, turn left and head southwest along Seven Lakes Drive for 0.3 mile. Just beyond the Thruway overpass, turn right onto Washington Avenue, where there is a bus stop. Buses to Suffern depart hourly, at 30 minutes past the hour, with the last bus on Sundays departing at 5:30 p.m. (on weekdays and Saturdays, the last bus departs at 6:30 p.m.).