Iron Mines Loop #3 (Northwest/Lemon Squeezer)
Directions to trailhead
Take N.J. Route 17 north to the New York State Thruway and take the first exit, Exit 15A (Sloatsburg). Turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto N.Y. Route 17 north, and continue through the Village of Sloatsburg. Just past the village, turn right at the traffic light, following the sign for Seven Lakes Drive/Harriman State Park. Cross an overpass over railroad tracks and continue along Seven Lakes Drive for about 10 miles to the Tiorati Circle. Go 270° around the circle and proceed west on Arden Valley Road. Almost immediately, turn left into the Tiorati parking area. A parking fee may be charged in the summer.
Towards the southern end of the parking area (near a dumpster), you’ll notice a triple blue blaze, which marks the start of the Lake Tiorati Trail. Proceed uphill on this trail to the ridge of Fingerboard Mountain, following the old route of Arden Valley Road for part of the way. At the top, turn left on the joint Appalachian Trail (A.T.) (white)/Ramapo-Dunderberg (R-D) Trail (red dot on white), which follows a woods road past metal and concrete water towers and continues to climb along the ridge of Fingerboard Mountain on a footpath. You’ll reach a few false summits, one of which features an interesting balanced boulder. When the leaves are down, Lake Tiorati may be seen through the trees on the left.
About a mile from the start, you’ll reach a junction marked by wooden signs. Here, the blue-blazed Hurst Trail begins on the left. This trail leads down a few hundred feet to the stone Fingerboard Shelter, built in 1928. You may wish to take a short detour to check out this shelter, at which overnight camping is permitted.
Continue south on the joint A.T./R-D, which soon reaches another intersection. Here, the Appalachian Trail turns right, but you should follow the red-on-white blazes of the R-D Trail, which continues ahead along the ridge. The R-D Trail passes through attractive thickets of mountain laurel and hemlock. After reaching an open area, the trail descends rather steeply. At the base of the descent, watch carefully for the crossing of the Bottle Cap Trail, with its unique blazes – white bottle caps nailed to the trees.
Turn right onto the little-used Bottle Cap Trail, which traverses interesting terrain. Soon, you’ll notice a water-filled pit to the right of the trail, with a pile of mine tailings (discarded pieces of rock) just beyond. These are remnants of the Surebridge Mine, which was active during the Civil War. A short distance beyond, you’ll notice the remains of a banked stone structure on the left. More mine pits may be found to the south. For more information on this and other mines in the area, consult Ed Lenik’s book Iron Mine Trails.
The Bottle Cap Trail descends to cross the unmarked Surebridge Mine Road and, just beyond, Surebridge Brook. This crossing can be a little tricky if the water is high, and you may have to go a short distance upstream or downstream to find a good place to cross. After climbing steeply to the ridge of Surebridge Mountain, the trail bears left and overlooks the Surebridge Swamp, with Hogencamp Mountain visible In the distance beyond.
The Bottle Cap Trail descends through a dense hemlock forest, joins a woods road and ends at a junction with the joint aqua-blazed Long Path and red-triangle-on-white-blazed Arden-Surebridge (A-SB) Trail. Continue ahead on the woods road, now following the joint route of these two trails. In 300 feet, after crossing a wet area on rocks, the White Bar Trail leaves to the left. Just beyond, both the A-SB Trail and the Long Path turn right, leaving the woods road, and diverge. Continue on the A-SB Trail (red triangle on white), which takes the left fork.
Soon, you’ll notice a dramatic cleft at the edge of a cliff and reach a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Turn right, leaving the A-SB Trail, and follow the white A.T. blazes, which lead under an overhanging rock and into a fascinating rock formation, known as the Lemon Squeezer. The trail climbs through a very narrow cleft in the rocks at the base of the cliff and then goes up a steep rock face, where you will need to use both your hands and your feet. Those who are physically able to negotiate these challenges will find them to be a highlight of the hike. But if the climb is too difficult, it is possible to bypass the Lemon Squeezer by following a path to the left.
After reaching the top of the Lemon Squeezer, the A.T. continues on a more moderate grade to the summit of Island Pond Mountain. The stone ruins just north of the summit are the remains of a cabin built by Edward Harriman over 100 years ago. This is a good place to stop and take a break.
The A.T. descends from the summit and enters an attractive hemlock grove. After winding through the hemlocks, you’ll reach a junction with the aqua-blazed Long Path, marked by a wooden signpost. Continue ahead on the A.T., which soon parallels a stream, crosses it, then turns right and again climbs over the ridge of Surebridge Mountain.
At the base of the descent, the A.T. crosses Surebridge Brook and turns left onto Surebridge Mine Road. In a few hundred feet, you’ll notice a 100-foot-long water-filled mine pit on the right side of the trail, with a huge pile of tailings on the left side. These are the remains of the Greenwood Mine, opened in 1838 and last worked in 1880. At the north end of the mine pit, you can see drill marks in the rock face, and several rusted pipes are visible just north of the pit. You’ll want to take a break here to examine these interesting historical features.
Just beyond, where the A.T. turns right, leaving Surebridge Mine Road, you should bear left, continuing ahead on the unmarked mine road. You’ll recross Surebridge Brook but hardly notice it, as the brook goes through the rocks far below the surface of the road! Continue to follow the mine road past a marsh to the right, and look carefully for a huge boulder on the left, with a large tree growing against it. This feature marks the crossing of the aqua-blazed Long Path, which can otherwise be easily missed.
Turn sharply right, leaving Surebridge Mine Road, and follow the Long Path, which once again crosses Surebridge Brook and gently ascends a rise. Continue along the Long Path for another mile, crossing several intermittent streams and boulder fields, until you reach the paved Arden Valley Road, which is closed to vehicular traffic in the winter. The Long Path bears left here, but you should turn right and follow the paved road up to the crest of Fingerboard Mountain and then down to the Tiorati parking area where the hike began.