This hike follows the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail, blazed in the summer of 2016 by volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Incorporating portions of existing trails, as well as several newly blazed sections, this trail has been designed to enable the hiker to visit three panoramic viewpoints, as well as other scenic features of the Ramapo Reservation. You’ll be following the...
This hike follows the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail, blazed in the summer of 2016 by volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Incorporating portions of existing trails, as well as several newly blazed sections, this trail has been designed to enable the hiker to visit three panoramic viewpoints, as well as other scenic features of the Ramapo Reservation. You’ll be following the yellow blazes for the entire hike.
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 yellow blazes along the southern shore of Scarlet Oak Pond (formerly the site of a gravel quarry).
At the end of the pond, you’ll notice a sign for the “Yellow Vista Loop,” with arrows pointing in both directions. Here, a triple-blue blaze marks the start of the Ridge Trail. Continue ahead on the wide dirt road to follow the Vista Loop Trail in the counter-clockwise direction. In another 125 feet, turn right, continuing to follow the yellow blazes of the Vista Loop Trail. Just ahead, a triple silver-on-white blaze marks the start of the Pond Loop Trail. Continue ahead, parallel to the western shore of the pond, now following both yellow and silver-on-white blazes.
In 500 feet, follow the Vista Loop Trail as it turns sharply left, leaving the wide dirt road and the Pond Loop Trail, and crosses a wooden footbridge. The Vista Loop Trail now begins to climb on a moderately steep grade. After a short level stretch, followed by a brief climb over a rock outcrop, it arrives at Hawk Rock. This east-facing ledge offers an expansive view over much of Bergen County, with Ramapo College in the foreground on the left. Lake Henry is directly ahead, with Scarlet Oak Pond to the south (right).
The Vista Loop Trail now bends to the left and continues to ascend, bearing left at a fork just ahead. After a steep, rocky climb, the trail levels off and soon emerges on an open rock ledge, with a panoramic east-facing view. The view from this Cactus Ledge is even broader than that from Hawk Rock, with the New York City skyline visible on the horizon on a clear day. You’ll notice several clumps of prickly pear cactus – the only native American cactus that grows east of the Rocky Mountains. You’ve climbed about 400 vertical feet to reach this spectacular viewpoint, so you’ll want to take a break here.
When you’re ready to continue, follow the yellow blazes as they turn right and reenter the woods at the southern end of the viewpoint. Soon, the Vista Loop Trail joins another footpath that comes in from the right. A short distance ahead, you'll reach a junction. Here, a triple-green-on-white blaze marks the start of the Halifax Trail, which leaves to the right, but you should bear left to continue on the Vista Loop Trail.
The Vista Loop Trail continues to climb gradually. Near the crest of the rise, the trail briefly joins an old woods road. It bears right, climbs a little more, then levels off, with some minor ups and downs.
In half a mile, after crossing a low stone wall, the Vista Loop Trail reaches a T-intersection with a woods road. Here, the White Trail begins on the right, but you should turn left to continue on the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail. In 500 feet, the blue-blazed Ridge Trail joins from the right. Follow the co-aligned yellow and blue trails for another 500 feet, then turn right to continue on the yellow-blazed Vista Loop Trail.
In 200 feet, the Vista Loop Trail turns right, but you should bear left and continue on a wide path, marked with green-dot-on-yellow blazes, that leads a short distance to a panoramic southeast-facing viewpoint from a rock ledge. Campgaw Mountain may be seen in the foreground to the right, and the New York City skyline is visible in the distance on a clear day.
After taking in the view, retrace your steps to the yellow-blazed trail and turn left, following the trail as it descends steadily. Just before reaching a large pile of boulders, the trail turns right and climbs to a rocky outcrop, from which Matty Price Hill is visible ahead. The trail now descends towards the MacMillan Reservoir, passing another rocky outcrop (with a view of Matty Price Hill) along the way.
Soon, you’ll emerge on a large expanse of open rock that overlooks the reservoir. Here, the pink-blazed Reservoir Loop Trail joins from the right,. You should turn left and head southeast, following both yellow and pink blazes parallel to the shore of the reservoir. You’ll pass the concrete-and-stone dam at the southeast corner of the reservoir and continue downhill to reach a junction with the main park road, where the pink-blazed Reservoir Trail ends and the blue-blazed Ridge Trail joins from the right.
Continue ahead and proceed downhill along the road, now following both blue and yellow blazes. Just before reaching a wide bridge over a stream (the outlet of the reservoir), at a sign for the "waterfall," follow the Vista Loop Trail as it turns right, leaving the road (the blue-blazed Ridge Trail continues ahead on the road).
The yellow-blazed trail now begins to parallel the stream, with its attractive cascades and pools. Soon, it begins to descend 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. At the base of the descent, the Vista Loop Trail turns left and crosses the stream on a wooden footbridge.
Just ahead, the Vista Loop Trail bears left, as the green-dot-on-orange-blazed River Trail begins on the right. Follow the yellow-blazed trail for another quarter mile to a wide dirt road, where the loop ends. Turn right and continue along the wide dirt road parallel to the southern shore of Scarlet Oak Pond, then proceed across the bridge over the Ramapo River and climb steps to reach the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 08/24/2016 updated/verified on 01/04/2021
This loop hike climbs to three panoramic viewpoints over Bergen County and the Manhattan skyline and passes the scenic MacMillan Reservoir.
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.