Know the New Hiking How-tos
Sterling Forest State Park
Visitors Center (driving):
- From the North: Take NY 17 south to its intersection with NY 17A. Proceed west on NY 17A for 1.4 miles to Long Meadow Road (County Route 84). Turn left onto Long Meadow Road and continue for 3.5 miles, then turn right onto Old Forge Road. Continue for one mile to the Visitor Center's parking area.
- From the South: Take NJ 17 north to New York State boundary and continue briefly on I-87 North (New York State Thruway). Take the first exit (Exit 15A), and turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto NY17 North. In 1.4 miles, take the exit on the right for Ringwood/Sterling Forest/West Milford, which crosses back over Route 17 and becomes County Route 72/Sterling Mine Road. Be mindful of the speed limit while passing briefly through a residential area. Continue for 2.9 miles to a traffic light at the base of a long hill, and turn right onto County Route 84/Long Meadow Road. In 3.6 miles, at a sign for Sterling Forest, turn left, and continue for 0.5 mile to the Visitor Center’s parking area. GPS 41.19895, -74.25708
ShortLine Bus (Coach USA) offers service from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City to trailheads along Route 17 on the eastern side of the park.
- Wildcat Mountain Trail (white): Buy a ticket to “Tuxedo,” get off at the Tuxedo Park and Ride at the junction of Routes 17 and 17A, north of the Village of Tuxedo.
- Appalachian Trail: Buy a ticket to “Southfields,” ask driver to stop at Arden Valley Road, two miles north of Southfields, where there is a “Welcome to Harriman Park” sign. Stand on the southbound side of Route 17 to flag the bus down on the return trip.
- Be aware the section of the AT heading west from this point is called “Agony Grind.”
- Sapphire Trail (blue): Buy a ticket to “Harriman,” ask driver to stop on Route 17 at the entrance to the Metro-North Railroad station (this is before reaching the Harriman bus stop on Route 17M). Stand on the southbound side of Route 17 to flag the bus down on the return trip.
Take an NJ Transit / Metro-North Railroad Port Jervis Line train to the Harriman station. Trains leave from the Hoboken Terminal, which may be accessed from Manhattan via a PATH train from 33rd Street or the World Trade Center. Alternatively, you can take an NJ Transit train from Penn Station in Manhattan to Secaucus Junction and transfer there to a Port Jervis Line train. The northern trailhead of the Sapphire Trail (blue) is on the west side of NY 17, opposite the driveway to the Harriman station.
Sterling Forest State Park comprises nearly 22,000 acres of nearly pristine natural refuge amidst one of the nation's most densely populated areas. It is a remarkable expanse of woodland, a watershed for millions of people, and an inviting outdoor recreation area.
Some of the more than 30 marked trails in Sterling Forest are briefly described below. Hikers should be aware that the Trail Conference maintains only about half of these trails and that blazes frequently have a secondary strip in a contrasting color to the blaze color indicated on the Trail Conference's Sterling Forest Trail Map. Mountain bikers and equestrians should check with the park or consult the web trail map (use Web Map link on this site) to determine which trails they can use.
- One of the oldest trails in the area, the Allis Trail (4.1 miles, blue) connects the Sterling Ridge and Appalachian Trails. The southern end of the trail is on the north side of NY 17A, opposite the parking area for the Sterling Ridge Trail.
- The newest trail in the area, the Munsee-Eagle Trail (3.5 miles, blue) that skirts Eagle Mountain, can be combined with the Red Back Trail (magenta) and Hutchinson Trail (yellow "H" on red) to form a 7-mile loop hike. The Munsee-Eagle Trail is designated for hikers and mountain bikers, while the Red Back and Hutchinson Trails additionally incorporate equestrian use. “Munsee” is the name of a vanishing language of Lenape Native Americans.
- The loop hike can be accessed from the Caretaker parking lot off Long Meadow Road (Route 84), or the South Gate parking area P16 off South Gate Road.
- Click to view an updated map with the new triple-trail loop hike highlighted in yellow.
- The Doris Duke Trail (3.5 miles, yellow “DD” logo on white blaze), loops through the Doris Duke Wildlife Sanctuary, where hunting is not permitted. A segment is co-aligned with the Allis Trail. The trailhead parking area is on Benjamin Meadow Road, just off Route 17A, near the Renaissance Festival site (GPS coordinates: 41.254037,-74.227963 )
- The Appalachian Trail (8.4 miles [in the park], white) traverses the northern section of Sterling Forest. Parking is available at the Elk Pen parking area in Harriman Park, on the south side of Arden Valley Road, 0.3 mile east of NY 17. Limited parking is also available at Lakes Road (County 5).
- The Fire Tower Trail (5.5 miles, white stripe on red) crosses Sterling Forest in the east-west direction, connecting Long Meadow Road (County Route 84) with East Shore Road. The eastern trailhead is on the west side of Long Meadow Road, where limited parking is available. The trail ends at a parking area at East Shore Road. The tower is reached at 2.1 miles from Long Meadow Road. Check with the park office to be sure the tower is open before you leave.
- The Furnace Loop Trail (1.6 miles, red) offers a short but rewarding walk. It can be accessed from the Wildcat Mountain Trail parking area along Hall Drive.
- The Highlands Trail (14.6 miles in the park, teal diamond) highlights the natural beauty of the New York and New Jersey Highlands region and draws attention to this endangered watershed region. Within Sterling Forest State Park and continuing south to County Route 511 in New Jersey, the Highlands Trail is co-aligned with the Appalachian, Allis and Sterling Ridge trails. There are no Highlands Trail blazes along the Appalachian Trail, from Lakes Road to Mombasha High Point.
- The Indian Hill Loop Trail (3.6 miles, yellow) traverses abandoned farmlands, crossing many old stone walls and climbing to several viewpoints. From NY 17 in Southfields, proceed west on Orange Turnpike (Orange County Route 19) for 1.3 miles to a sign for 'Indian Hill," then turn right and follow a dirt road to the parking area.
- Several interpretive signs are located along the easy Lakeville Ironworks Trail (0.6 mile, mining motif on yellow). This trail can be completed in an easy walk of 1.1 miles when accessed from the Visitor Center via the blue Sterling Lake Loop Trail.
- The Sapphire Trail (2.2 miles, blue) connects the Harriman station on Metro-North's Port Jervis Line with the Appalachian Trail and (via a short connecting trail) the Indian Hill Loop Trail. The trailhead is on the west side of NY 17, across from the Harriman station. As the trail proceeds southward, with gradual ascents and descents, it passes through a pine grove and traverses a shallow valley with impressive rock outcrops, ending at the Appalachian Trail.
- From the trailhead at the visitor center, the Sterling Lake Loop Trail (4.2 miles, blue) circles Sterling Lake, following woods roads for most of its route.
- The Sterling Ridge Trail (8.6 miles, blue disc on white) trail follows the scenic Sterling Ridge between Hewitt, NJ and NY 17A. Built in 1922, the 60-foot-high Sterling Forest Fire Tower is located along the trail. Parking for the southern trailhead is at the intersection of Greenwood Lake Turnpike (County Route 511) and East Shore Road. Its northern terminus is on NY 17A.
- Forming a loop south of NY 17A, the Sterling Valley Loop Trail (6.2 miles, yellow) follows woods roads for its entire length. The trailhead is at a parking area on the south side of NY 17A, 1.8 miles east of the village of Greenwood Lake.
- The northern end of the Townsend Trail (2.3 miles, green stripe on orange) is accessed from the parking area on Hall Drive. Its southern trailhead is at the Long Meadow Extension Trail. Followed to the right, this trail leads in 1.5 miles to the parking area on Hall Drive, completing a 3.9-mile loop.
- Parking for the southern trailhead of the Wildcat Mountain Trail (2.8 miles, yellow) is at the north end of a commuter parking area at the intersection of NY 17 and NY 17A. The northern terminus is at the Furnace Loop Trail, a short distance north of Hall Drive, (parking) after crossing Orange Turnpike.
Sterling Forest State Park
This unbroken deep-forest habitat is important for the survival of many resident and migratory species, including black bear, a variety of hawks and songbirds and many rare invertebrates and plants. To the east, Sterling Forest is bordered by Harriman State Park; to the south, it abuts New Jersey parklands, including Ringwood State Park, Tranquility Ridge County Park and Long Pond Ironworks State Park (which includes the former Wanaque Wildlife Management Area).
The US Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center overlooks Sterling Lake and features exhibits about the local environment as well as an auditorium for related presentations.
Seventeen buildings near Sterling Lake and the adjacent visitor center were part of the lands owned by the Sterling Forest Corporation and became park property when Sterling Forest State Park was established. These houses and the land around them continue to be leased and are marked “Private, Please Keep Out.”
Hunting is permitted in the park during hunting seasons (see map of areas closed to hunting). Non-hunters should wear bright clothing.