The hike begins at a kiosk in the southwest corner of the parking area. Just ahead, you'll notice a triple-yellow blaze on a tree, which marks the start of the Vista Loop Trail. Follow the yellow blazes as they descend wooden steps, join a wide dirt road, and continue ahead to cross the Ramapo River on a steel truss bridge. In another 250 feet, the green-dot-on-orange-blazed River Trail begins...
The hike begins at a kiosk in the southwest corner of the parking area. Just ahead, you'll notice a triple-yellow blaze on a tree, which marks the start of the Vista Loop Trail. Follow the yellow blazes as they descend wooden steps, join a wide dirt road, and continue ahead to cross the Ramapo River on a steel truss bridge. In another 250 feet, the green-dot-on-orange-blazed River Trail begins on the left, but you should continue ahead on the wide dirt road, following the southern shore of Scarlet Oak Pond (formerly the site of a gravel quarry).
At the end of the pond, you’ll notice two sets of double yellow blazes on a tree. Turn left here and continue to follow the yellow blazes for a quarter mile along another dirt road. After passing the start of the green-dot–on-orange-blazed River Trail on the right, you’ll cross a wooden bridge over a stream.
On the other side of the bridge, the trail turns sharply right and follows the cascading stream. Soon, it begins to climb on stone steps, passing an attractive waterfall along the way. This beautiful trail section was built in 2017-18 by an AmeriCorps trail crew of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. After passing more cascades and pools in the stream on the right, the Vista Loop Trail levels off, curves to the right, and reaches a junction with the wide park road leading to the MacMillan Reservoir.
Follow the Vista Loop Trail as it turns left, joining the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail, and continues along a paved section of the park road. After crossing a bridge, the trails diverge. Bear left and continue to follow the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail. Soon, the trail passes to the left of the stone dam of the MacMillan Reservoir (rebuilt in 2009). You’ve gone a little over a mile from the start, and this is a good place to take a break.
When you’re ready to continue, proceed ahead on the wide road, still marked with blue blazes. You’ll pass the start of the pink-blazed Reservoir Loop Trail on the right and the red-blazed Marsh Loop Trail on the left, but continue ahead on the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail. The paving ends at the dam, and the route becomes rather rocky. For the next third of mile, the trail continues to climb.
Just beyond the crest of the rise, the red-blazed Marsh Loop Trail crosses. You should proceed ahead on the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail, which crosses a stream, descends a little, and levels off. In 750 feet, you’ll reach a fork in the road, where the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail leaves to the right. You should take the left fork, now following the Red-Silver Trail along a narrower path.
In another 0.2 mile, just before reaching an intermittent stream, you’ll come to another junction. Here, you should turn sharply left onto the orange-blazed Schuber Trail, which begins here. The Schuber Trail now ascends a rocky hillside and levels off along the southeastern shoulder of Rocky Mountain. After proceeding through a rocky area, it crosses a stream on rocks. It parallels a prominent rocky ridge to the right for some distance, then climbs through a cleft in the ridge and descends through woods to reach paved Bear Swamp Road, about three miles from the start.
The Schuber Trail crosses the road and continues across a wooden bridge over Bear Swamp Brook. About 150 feet beyond the bridge, the trail turns left again, leaving the paved road, and re-enters the woods. It soon approaches a particularly wild and beautiful section of the brook, featuring cascades, pools and a deep rock cut.
A short distance beyond, the brook curves to the left as the Schuber Trail continues ahead, climbing through a rocky area. After crossing a stream on rocks, the trail passes to the right of the ruins of a cabin (once part of the adjacent Camp Yaw Paw). The trail now crosses a second stream and reaches an old woods road, where it turns left onto the Yellow Trail (blazed with yellow diamonds). Follow the joint Schuber and Yellow Trails, which soon bear right and begin a steep and rocky ascent. Reaching the crest of the ridge, the trails bear right and continue along the grassy ridge, entering Camp Glen Gray (owned by Bergen County).
Soon, the Old Guard Trail, blazed with a green tulip leaf on white, leaves to the right. A short distance beyond – at the high point of the ridge (996 feet) – you’ll come to an expansive viewpoint over northern Bergen County from a rock outcrop a short distance to the left of the trail. The Manhattan skyline is visible on the horizon to the right, and on a clear day, you can even see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the distance. You’ve now gone about four miles – a little more than halfway – and this is another good place to stop and take a break.
When you’re ready to continue, return to the trail and turn left. You’ll now be following the Yellow Trail (the Schuber Trail leaves to the right here). The Yellow Trail descends along the ridge and soon reaches a woods road. Turn left onto this road, marked with the silver-on-yellow blazes of the Yellow-Silver Trail, which descends on switchbacks. At the base of the descent, it turns left and joins a woods road that comes in from the right.
After a level stretch, the Yellow-Silver Trail begins a steady descent. Towards the base of the descent, it bears left at a fork, crosses two streams on rocks, and reaches paved Bear Swamp Road. The Yellow-Silver Trail turns left onto the road and crosses Bear Swamp Brook on a wooden bridge. It then turns right, leaving the road, proceeds through the ruins of a goat farm, and climbs gradually on a woods road.
In 0.8 mile from the goat farm ruins, the Yellow-Silver Trail descends a little and ends at an intersection with the red-blazed Marsh Loop Trail. Turn right onto the Marsh Loop Trail, which levels off. After passing through an area with thick understory, the Marsh Loop Trail descends to end at an intersection with the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail, opposite the dam at the eastern end of MacMillan Reservoir.
Turn right and head downhill on the Ridge Loop Trail. Soon, the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail joins from the left, but when the two trails diverge, bear left to stay on the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail.
The Ridge Loop Trail continues to descend, following the wide park road. On the way, you’ll reach a junction where the blue blazes head both left and right. Here, you should bear right and follow the descending route of the blue-blazed Ridge Loop Trail. Near the base of the descent, the Ridge Loop Trail curves to the right, and it soon ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail. Proceed straight ahead on the Vista Loop Trail, which passes to the right of Scarlet Oak Pond, continues across the bridge over the Ramapo River, and ends at the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 12/15/2003 updated/verified on 11/14/2018
This loop hike traverses lesser-used areas of the reservation, passing MacMillan Reservoir and attractive cascades, and climbs to a panoramic viewpoint over the Manhattan skyline.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.