A variation of this hike that follows the Appalachian Trail north is on our Bearfort Ridge – State Line page.
What an enjoyable hike- fantastic views as Ernest Walter follows a ridge overlooking Greenwood Lake, then head to Surprise Lake, then some more views. The trail is nice and interesting… rugged with a few decent scrambling sections.
It was gorgeous and the trees hadn’t even gotten green yet… we’re planning to come back again when its green or the fall.
Map: You’ll want the North Jersey Trails #116 map. You can get by with the basic park map though it’s not ideal.
Books: Detailed trail descriptions found in the The New Jersey Walk Book.
Our route ended up being 7.6 miles as we cut the AT section shorter than planned. State Line (BLUE) till it meets Ernest Walter (YEL) – AT – backtrack at the road on AT to State Line (BLUE). The AT was just “ok” and paled in comparison to the other trails… plus that section of the park gets close to neighborhoods and was noisier. When we got to the road we’d decided this portion of the AT was less than thrilling and turned back. Next time we’ll cross into NY and try the AT north.
Parking: 287N to exit 55, Rt 511 on the west side of Greenwood Lake – all the way to just before the NY border (if you hit the border, you went too far). The parking is realllly tough to spot, it’s on the left, across from the marina and there are three BLUE on WHITE blazes on the tree. Pull into the marina parking and go straight back, there is a trail kiosk there and very limited parking. Plenty of hiking sticks propped against the kiosk… but no maps… get the North Jersey Trails map set.
The trail starts out along a stream and then heads steeply uphill and in just one mile you are overlooking Greenwood Lake. To this point and back could work for a beginner – short in distance with a great view as payoff. Or continue to Surprise Lake and back for about a 2.5 mile roundtrip. It’s not a “walk in the park” because it’s steep, but it’s doable. The trail follows the ridge for a bit before ducking back into the woods, then arrives at Surprise Lake.
Keep following Ernest Walter (YEL) and (not ORANGE (Quail), go through a rhododendron tunnel and a bit of a scramble. Head up a steep rock face for some more views. Keep on Ernest Walter (YEL) and (pass by WHITE Bearfort Ridge).
Arrive at the AT (WHITE) and turn left (or skip that for a shorter loop and turn right). Take the AT to Longhouse Dr and turnaround (or go as much as you’d like). On the return, pass where you came in on Ernest Walter, and stay on AT till State Line (BLUE on WHITE) and back to the lot.