Sunday, July 31, 2022

Ramapo Lake and Castle Point Loop

Ramapo Mountain State Forest
Bergen/Passaic Co.,
New Jersey

Hiking Trails:
Ramapo Lake Spur Trail: Blue blaze
Matapan Rock Trail: Red blaze
Ramapo Lake Loop Trail: Blue blaze
Castle Loop Trail: White blaze
Cannonball Trail: Red blaze

Total Time: 2:25 hour
Estimated Distance: 4.2 Miles

Pros: Scenic Lake, nice climb, castle ruins
Cons: Busy area
Hike Type: Lollipop Loop
Level of Difficulty: Slightly Difficult

Google Maps of Parking:

This is one of my favorite hikes in New Jersey. It includes a good climb, lake view, and historical castle. The flipside is that it is a busy area and parking can be limited on busy weekends. I parked at the lower parking on Skyline Drive, right after Interstate 287. There was still some parking spaces available but it was filling up.

All the trails in the area had been renamed in 2020, so I am including the new trail names here. I took the Ramapo Lake Spur Trail up, and took a short bushwack across the brook, which was mostly dry, to the Matapan Rock Trail. I took this trail up to the dam at Ramapo Lake, and crossed the dam. I then took the Ramapo Lake Loop Trail along the east shore of the lake, and encountered a large black bear on the trail ahead of me at this point. I gave him his space and distance, and after he walked into the woods and more people came, I continued along the trail. 

I then took the Castle Loop Trail, up the steep climb, to the view above Ramapo Lake, and then to the old castle ruins of the Van Slyke estate. I then continued to the next view and then past the tower, which I then took took to the Cannonball Trail. I then continued back down the mountain on the Castle Loop Trail to the Ramapo Lake Spur Trail which I took back to my car.

Map of Route

Trailhead Sign

Ramapo Lake Brook Dried Up with Cairns

LeGrande Hill Loop Trailhead

Ramapo Lake Dam

Ramapo Lake

Sign for American Chestnut Restoration

Ramapo Lake Lily Pad Area

Large Black Bear on the Trail

Bear Heading up the Mountain Off the Trail

Ramapo Lake

Castle Loop Trailhead

View from Castle Loop

Ramapo Lake from Castle Loop

Van Slyke Castle Ruins

Van Slyle Castle Pool

Bullfrog in the Pool

View to the Wyanokies from Near the Van Slyke Castle Ruins

Windbeam Mountain in the Distance

Water Tower Ruins

Trailhead Kiosk at the top of the Castle Loop Trail

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Dover Stone Church Cave

Dover Plains
Dutchess Co.,
New York

Hiking Trails:
Dover Stone Church Trail: White blaze
Blue Trail: Blue blaze
Yellow Trail: Yellow blaze

Total Time: 2:15 hour
Estimated Distance: 3.1 Miles

Pros: Amazing natural cave structure, Scenic view
Cons: None
Hike Type: Up and out
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Google Maps of Parking:

Hiking Partner:
Elisha Friedman

Stone Church Cave is a natural cave-like structure in Dover Plains, New York. Its in an obscure, remote part of the state and not really near anything. It is not well known except among locals and caving hikers. It's not a true cave, as the rock isn't limestone but rather metamorphic rock, and it's more like a narrow crevice in the rock with a cave-like opening. 

The property was recently purchased as a preserve, and was closed recently due to falling rocks. It was recently reopened and I was excited to finally make it hear (it's an hour and a half drive from my home.) Several new trails were recently opened in the area in the surrounding hills.

As the weather was very hot, with a heat advisory in the area, we decided to hike some of the surrounding trails first, and then hike to the cave and enjoy the water afterwards. I actually hiked in my bathing suit for this purpose.

Parking is a bit challenging, as there isn't a parking lot for the hike. There are several designated areas to park, and I parked in the school parking lot nearby which is one of the designated spots on weekends when school is out of session. After parking, we walked a short distance on Route 22, and then took the trail across the field down the steps, crossing the brook on the the bridge, and then taking the Blue Trail.

We took the Blue Trail up to the view, which looks into the Taconics and across the valley into Connecticut. We then headed back down along the same route, but then took the Yellow Trail as an alternate route back down. At the intersection at the brook, we took the Dover Stone Church Trail along the brook, approaching the cave. Upon entering the cave, where the trail ends, we took our hiking shoes and backpacks off and entered the cave, enjoying the cool water in the pool below the waterfalls.

We tried finding a route above the falls to continue along through the cave, but there was no way to get there. Supposedly there was a ladder up the rock in past time, but it looks like it was removed. (If anyone has any additional information about this to explore the area above the entrance further upstream, please do share in the comments.) After enjoying the cool water in the hot weather, we changed back and headed back down the route back to the road and back to the town.

Map of the Route

Sign on the Road at the Driveway of the Hike

Map at the Tree on the Trailhead

Start of the Hike

Path at the Beginning of the Hike

Dover Stone Church Trail Information

Trail Crossing the Brook

Trailhead Signage

View of Dover Plains from the View at the Blue Trail

Small Rock Cave on the Yellow Trail

Another View of the Small Rock Cave

View from the Yellow Trail

Approaching the Dover Stone Church Cave

Inside the Cave