<<<Hikes in NJ - Trails Less Taken
Sterling Forest - Bare Rock, Fire Tower
Sterling Forest, NY
Summary: Sterling Forest is just over the NJ-NY border in New York, to the west of Harriman State Park. This loop takes in the Bare Rock Trail, an overlook of Greenwood Lake, 360 degree views from a fire tower, plus a few other viewpoints. You can also check out the Sterling Furnace remains.
8.1 miles, moderate. Trails are very well marked, and there are signs posted at junctions to really make things clear. A lot of Sterling is old woods roads that are quite rocky. The approach to the fire tower on the Highlands Trail is up a steep rocky section, with a little scrambling.
Shorter, 5.8 miles - Bare Rock Trail to Greenwood Lake overlook and back.
Shorter, 4.7 miles - Skip the overlook, and just go to the fire tower (loop from visitor center: BLUE - ORANGE (Bare Rock) - BLUE (Sterling Ridge) - Fire Tower - RED - WHITE)
Longer - There are several trails where you can extend your route.
Books: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City and for the history of the park... Saving Sterling Forest: The Epic Struggle to Preserve New York's Highlands
Parking: Parkway N to cross into NY, to 87N to exit 15A for 17, to 72 (Sterling Mine Road) to right onto 84 (Long Meadow Road). Follow signs to visitor center. Lot is on the right, walk across the road to the Visitor Center (which has several displays, a ranger, maps)
Takes about 1.5 -1.75 hrs from central NJ (New Brunswick-ish).
Restrooms: Regular bathrooms in the visitor center.
Hike Directions: Overview: BLUE - ORANGE (Bare Rock) - BLUE STRIPE on ORANGE (Viewpoint Spur) - WHITE STRIPE on RED (Fire Tower Trail) - BLUE (Sterling Ridge)/TEAL (Highlands) - ORANGE (Bare Rock) - BLUE
0.0 Walk from the lot across the street to the visitor center. Facing the door... turn LEFT onto BLUE. Follow it along the sidewalk and across a small grassy area into the trees. Look for the Ironworks YELLOW trail on your left, take a very short sidetrip on that to check out the old Sterling Furnace.
*Sterling Furnace Fun Facts: The original was built in 1751 and was used to produce iron ore. If you are going, "wow, this is in really good shape", it's because this is a reconstruction from the 1950s. The 'dome' structure was added at that time and not part of the original.
Get back on the BLUE trail, cross a small bridge, with Sterling Lake to your right. The trail turns LEFT, avoiding private property. Soon you come to the road, turn RIGHT and walk on the road with the lake on your right.
0.9 Turn LEFT and pick up ORANGE (Bare Rock).
1.5 Pass BLUE (Sterling Ridge)
2.2 Turn RIGHT to continue on ORANGE. Green is straight.
2.8 Turn RIGHT onto the spur trail to the Greenwood Lake overlook, blazed BLUE STRIPE on ORANGE. There is a sign... you can't miss it. This is a really nice spot for a break or lunch, with a wide view of the lake. Go back up the trail, turning RIGHT back onto ORANGE.
4.6 Junction with WHITE STRIPE on RED (Fire Tower Trail). ORANGE ends here. Turn LEFT.
4.8 Turn RIGHT to keep following WHITE STRIPE on RED (Fire Tower Trail). GREEN (West Valley) starts here, continuing straight.
*As soon as we turned, we saw the woods road the trail followed was flooded. Facing the direction you should be heading, look to your right for pink flags (little strips of plastic tied to trees). You can follow these around the wet area back to the woods road... it wasn't entirely obvious at first, and the road isn't blazed right away when you get back on it.
5.2 Junction with BLUE (Sterling Ridge)/TEAL (Highlands). Turn LEFT, now following BLUE/TEAL/WHITE STRIPE on RED (Fire Tower Trail).
5.3 Head steeply uphill over rocks, bit of a scramble, to an overlook. Continue BLUE/TEAL/WHITE STRIPE on RED (Fire Tower Trail).
5.9 Fire tower. If it's open, you can climb up for wonderful 360° views. You don't need to go all the way up to the top in order to see over the treeline either. Even if you hate heights, the view is worth giving it a try. There is a picnic table at the base of the tower.
Walk over to the wooden trail kiosk to continue following BLUE (Sterling Ridge)/TEAL (Highlands)
6.5 Pass a viewpoint where you can see Sterling Lake.
6.7 Arrive at a junction with ORANGE and turn RIGHT (you were here earlier). Retrace your route... ORANGE back to the park road (BLUE) and turn RIGHT, following BLUE back to the visitor center.