This hike, for the most part, follows woods roads in a loop around the southeastern section of Sterling Forest State Park, with considerable ups and downs. It traverses a remote and little-used section of the park, and portions of the trail may be very wet, especially after heavy rains. Along the way, the trail passes remnants of the historic Red Back Mine and runs along the interesting...
This hike, for the most part, follows woods roads in a loop around the southeastern section of Sterling Forest State Park, with considerable ups and downs. It traverses a remote and little-used section of the park, and portions of the trail may be very wet, especially after heavy rains. Along the way, the trail passes remnants of the historic Red Back Mine and runs along the interesting McKeags Meadow.
From the trailhead parking area, head west, past a locked gate. You immediately notice a signpost indicating that the Red Back Trail goes both left and straight ahead. Continue straight ahead to follow the trail in the counter-clockwise direction. For the entire hike, you will be following the Red Back Trail, blazed magenta (purplish-red). In places, the trail is not well blazed, but blazes and/or signs are evident at all important turns and junctions.
Follow the Red Back Trail as it climbs on a wide woods road. Be alert for a cairn on the left, and follow the trail as it departs from the road and continues on a winding footpath, passing attractive cascades in the stream below to the left. After a while, the footpath ends and the trail turns left onto the woods road.
After a brief descent, the Red Back Trail again bears right and follows a footpath that bypasses a section of the road. It then rejoins the road, passing a huge boulder on the left. A short distance ahead, you’ll come to a T-intersection, where the trail turns left and descends on a narrower woods road.
At the base of the descent, the trail turns sharply right and begins to climb. Soon, you’ll notice a deep trench on the left. This is a remnant of the Red Back Mine, after which the trail is named. You’ll also notice a large heap of rusted iron – a remnant of the roaster used to process the ore from the mine. The Red Back Mine was discovered in 1780 and was last worked in 1900.
At the end of the mine, the trail turns left, leaving the road, and continues on a footpath, which crosses an underground stream on rocks, loops to the south, and then heads north on the opposite side of the valley, climbing gradually. Near the crest of the rise, the footpath rejoins the road. Just ahead, you’ll reach an intersection with the Hutchinson Trail (which continues ahead on the road). Follow the Red Back Trail, which turns sharply left, leaving the road, and descends on a footpath through mountain laurel thickets.
After crossing a stream at the base of the descent (the crossing may be difficult, especially when the water is high), you’ll come to a T-intersection. Here, the Red Back Trail turns left onto a woods road, joining the route of the McKeags Meadow Trail (green stripe on yellow). A short distance ahead, the blazes turn right and follow a footpath that bypasses an eroded section of the road.
Soon after rejoining the road, the Red Back/McKeags Meadow Trail begins to parallel McKeags Meadow, visible through the trees on the left. After a while, the Red Back Trail turns left, leaving the McKeags Meadow Trail. A short distance ahead, it bears right at a fork. Upon reaching a T-intersection, the Red Back Trail turns left. Just beyond, it bears left and crosses a stream on stepping stones.
The Red Back Trail now climbs a little and soon begins to head northeast, parallel to McKeags Meadow (visible below on the left). The trail then turns right, away from the meadow, and begins a steady climb of Bill White Mountain. The trail passes just below the summit and begins to descend.
After crossing a stream at the base of the descent, the trail turns left onto a woods road and climbs some more. It descends steadily until it reaches another road that joins from the left. Here, the trail bears right and continues ahead along undulating terrain.
With white “restricted area” signs visible ahead, the trail bears left and descends steadily, parallel to South Gate Road. It crosses several streams at the base of the descent, then turns right and returns to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 04/03/2017
This hike loops around the southeastern corner of the park, following woods roads for most of the way and passing the historic Red Back Mine.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.