Rugged trail to Surprise Lake with plenty of views, mountain laurel, a rhododendron tunnel, and some scrambling.
5.9 miles. While this trail is not long, it is challenging due to the rapid up and down of the ridge trail and some rock scramble sections throughout. The return is easier on a woods road.
- Longer: 6.5 miles – Continue past Surprise Lake to an expansive view over Greenwood Lake; noted in the description below.
- Longer: 7 miles – Continue past West Pond by using the Ernest Walter, AT, and State line trails. Route described in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.
- Nearby: Terrace Pond North or State Line and Ernest Walter Trails.
Our two cents:
This route is consistently awesome. While even some of the nicest trails can have sections that are a little bit of drudge or are kinda ‘meh’ – there just isn’t a dull or sub-par section of this route.
Beautiful hemlock forest, interesting trail, a bit of scrambling, views, and a pretty destination to work towards – all packed into less than 6 miles. The downside is the popularity of Surprise Lake.
Updated: 8/2020 – Description adjusted to reflect recent trail changes, but was not re-hiked. Thanks to Nicole T. for letting us know the directions remain the same, just the name/colors are changed.
7/2020 – Page refreshed, not re-hiked. 8/2017: Updated main photo; minor tweaks. 6/2014 – Re-hiked, description updated, new photos and GPX.
Note 8/2020: The description below has been updated to reflect major changes to trail names and blazes – but we have not hiked it since the changes. See Trail Improvements at Abram S. Hewitt for info and maps.
North Jersey Trails is best once it’s updated and there is a basic one on the park site that is now outdated. The route remains the same, just the colors have changed:
Changes: GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) was WHITE (Bearfort Ridge). ORANGE (Quail) is gone and now part of GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop). Bearfort Ridge Spur (BLACK on GREEN) was WHITE (Bearfort Ridge). Bearfort Ridge Connector (BLUE on GREEN) was BLUE.
Parking: N41.15572° W74.36273°
Rt 287 N to exit 55, follow 511 North through Wanaque. Bear left at the Y-intersection with Skyline Drive.
Keep straight past the intersection with Lakeside Road, following Rt 513. Stay straight at the fork, becoming Warwick Turnpike.
Look for a pullout on the right side, just after the trail head and a concrete bridge/guardrail – but before White Road. Easy to miss, with space for a handful of cars.
Walk back down the road over the concrete bridge to the trail head – be very careful as there isn’t much shoulder. There is trail sign for the “Jeremy Glick” trail and “Bearfort Ridge Trail”.
N41.15647° W74.36358° – Another pullout on the right, just up the road from the 1st.
N41.15486° W74.36042° – On the left before these two is a dirt pullout that seems to get used as parking, though it is not marked as such on the trail map.
N41.15757° W74.36742° – Pullout for Terrace North Trail further down, on the right. From this, take the Bearfort Ridge Connector (BLUE GREEN) from the pullout which will meet up with this description as noted below.
None. Best bet are gas stations along 511, there is one nearest the trail head at the intersection of Lakeside Rd.
Also: Porta-john at the Monksville reservoir on Rt 511. Look for the “Long Pond Ironworks” park sign on the left and follow the driveway down.
Restrooms are at the visitor center for Long Pond Ironworks but usually open very limited hours (Usually 1-4).
Overview: GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop)
Note: Photos show the old trail blazes of WHITE and ORANGE.
0.0 – Start following GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop).
The trail is immediately very pretty, but there is some road noise for a little bit (the downside of being in Jersey – never that far from a road).
0.1 – Soon, follow GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) as it turns left, and then left again where it meets the return route of GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop).
The trail starts to climb up to the ridge.
0.7 – Continue following GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop), heading uphill.
[Bearfort Ridge Connector (BLUE on GREEN) comes in from the left but we didn’t even notice it this time (if you parked at the 2nd pullout, this is where you join this route)]
0.9 – Scramble up a large rock on the left, to a viewpoint looking to the west and south.
Clamber back down and continue on GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) – watch for the blazes as the trail turns and heads up a small scramble across from the rock.
1.7 – Follow GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) is it makes a sharp right downhill, noted by a cairn (pile-o-rocks). right and down a steep scramble.
2.0 – Arrive at a huge rock cleft – a large slab of rock has vertically sheered away from the larger rock face. It overlooks an overgrown swampy area.
2.8 – An open area with views to the east.
2.9 – Another viewpoint. Turn RIGHT. Continue on GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) which is now co-joined with YELLOW (Ernest Walker).
[YELLOW (Ernest Walker) also goes left, which can be used to make a longer hike.]
GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) drops steeply down a little rock scramble, then goes through a wet area crossed by rock-hopping.
On the approach to Surprise Lake, the trail goes through a long “tunnel” of rhododendron which is really nice.
3.3 – Almost to the lake, GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) meets up with the return leg of the loop.
Follow YELLOW (Ernest Walker) to the left and arrive at…
3.3 – Surprise Lake. There are some rocks to sit on in a few areas. This is a popular spot, so there’s a good chance that people will be here.
Optional .6 mile add-on to a terrific view: With your back to the lake, turn LEFT and continue on YELLOW (Ernest Walker).
Soon, arrive at a rocky outcrop with a view… but wait! keep going – it gets better… keep following YELLOW (Ernest Walker) for an expansive view over Greenwood Lake and into NY.
Retrace back to the lake.
From the lake, head back how you came on the YELLOW (Ernest Walker) trail. Veer LEFT and now follow GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop).
/// Variation: Instead of taking GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) to the left, veer right onto GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) to return via the same route you came in on. It’s a little longer plus it’s more challenging. ///
This section of GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) is a wide woods road but is eroded and can be quite wet, requiring some rock hopping.
The trail this way is easier and just as pretty, although it is lower so there aren’t any views.
The trail starts a gradual descent.
5.1 – Pass a small water cascade on the right.
Follow GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) as it turns RIGHT when an unmarked woods road is to the left.
5.8 – GREEN (Bearfort Ridge Loop) ends.
Follow Bearfort Ridge Spur (BLACK on GREEN) straight and then as it veers to the RIGHT, downhill to the trail head.
Turn right on the road and walk to the car pullout.
Hiked: 6/14/14.Trail Blog: “Bearfort Ridge to Surprise Lake – Hemlock Forest and Ridge Views”
Hiked: 6/28/09. Trail Blog: “Bearfort Ridge to Surprise Lake in Summer”