Explore the ruins of Van Slyke Castle on a rugged hike with multiple viewpoints.
3.1 miles round trip. Varies between rugged trail flat woods roads. Steep uphill to the ruins.
- Longer variation, 5.6 miles: Instead, do the Grand Castle Loop from this lot; adds multiple viewpoints along a rugged trail.
- Nearby, this park: Wanaque Ridge Trail.
- Nearby: Ramapo Valley County Reservation; Pyramid Mountain; Apshawa Preserve; Torne Mountain/Osio Rock; Norvin Green – Wyanokie High Point; High Mountain; Paterson Great Falls.
Our two cents:
Scenic lake, interesting stone ruins, and multiple viewpoints packed into just over 3 rugged miles.
Fun Facts: Van Slyke Castle, originally known as Foxcroft, is stone ruins of a mansion, water tower, and pool built in 1910 by William Porter. Ramapo Lake was formerly called Lake LeGrande.
The physical trails are the same but many names/colors of the trails across Ramapo Mountain have changed; this hike guide uses the new names/colors. Use the map on the park’s site linked above.
North Jersey Trails is recommended to navigate the network of trails in this park but the most recent version (2017) is out of date due these changes.
Parking: N41.04738° W74.25127°
Ramapo Mountain State Forest (Upper Lot). 265 Skyline Dr, Oakland, NJ 07436.
From points south: Rt 287N to Exit 57 to Skyline Drive. Pass the Lower lot on the left and continue on Skyline Drive to the Upper lot, also on the left. Medium sized dirt lot.
Alert! Cars have been broken into at this lot – take all valuables with you.
None at this or the nearby Lower lot on Skyline Drive (9/2021), and nothing passed on Skyline. Various stores in Oakland, Wayne etc.
Overview: Castle Loop (WHITE)
0.0 – From the trail sign in the lot, start following Castle Loop (WHITE). Depending on what sign you’ve started at in the lot, it’s STRAIGHT or LEFT.
[Castle Loop (WHITE) also goes right and is the return route]
Soon pass a trail kiosk as the trail briefly parallels a gravel road. Continue heading downhill on a rocky, eroded path.
1.1 – Continue on Castle Loop (WHITE) as it turns RIGHT. The trail is also blazed with Ramapo Lake Spur (BLUE-BLACK) for a short bit.
Continue ahead on Castle Loop (WHITE) when Ramapo Lake Spur (BLUE-BLACK) leaves to the left.
Continue on Castle Loop (WHITE) as it hugs Ramapo Lake with several spots to view the lake. The trail is also blazed with Ramapo Lake Loop (BLUE).
1.6 – Veer RIGHT at a wide intersection with signs for the castle and lake. [Ramapo Lake Loop (BLUE) continues ahead].
Pass two cement posts that flank the driveway of the old mansion.
Cannonball (White C on Red Circle) briefly joins in from the left as Castle Loop (WHITE) curves to the RIGHT. Follow Castle Loop (WHITE) to the LEFT. [Cannonball (White C on Red Circle) continues ahead but was unclear.]
Castle Loop (WHITE) becomes very rocky and heads steeply uphill.
1.9 – A viewpoint off to the left is the reward for that steep push uphill. Ramapo Lake is seen below.
Continue on Castle Loop (WHITE) and climb a short wooden stile over a stone wall.
Another viewpoint – similar to the previous, but from higher up. On a clear day the NYC skyline may be visible. It was too hazy to see anything the last time we hiked, this is from 2013:
Soon the ruins of Van Slyke Castle come into view.
Van Slyke Castle was first known as Foxcroft (named for Fox Mountain) but after William Porter died his widow Ruth remarried Warren Van Slyke and they changed the name.
After the Van Slykes died, the castle was sold a few times, abandoned, and later burned in 1959. [Source: Trail Conference guidebooks and summarized from various website sources.]
The trail runs along the outside wall of the building but you can (carefully) explore all through the inside of the ruins.
There are lots of interesting angles, textures, and colors so it’s a fun place to photograph. It was hard narrowing down which shots to show.
Vegetation is overtaking the stones and trees have sprouted up in the middle of the mansion.
Of note, the graffiti on the castle and water tower ruins is now very excessive compared to years past.
The path splits after walking around the side of the ruins.
Head to the right where stone pillars and wall flank the path. Behind a small stone building is another viewpoint.
The back of the mansion has steps and a large section of intact wall.
Head back to the split and continue on Castle Loop (WHITE).
2.0 – Soon come to the remains of the cement pool for Van Slyke Castle. There were two large frogs chillin’ in it.
In just a bit is another fine view on the left. This looks west, past Wanaque Reservoir towards Norvin Green State Forest.
2.2 – Approach a large stone tower that once held a cistern that supplied water to Van Slyke Castle. A pipe is along the trail.
The front of the stone water tower has an entrance.
The stone foundation that held the cistern can be seen inside the tower.
Just past the water tower ruins is yet another view of Wanaque Reservoir.
Continue on Castle Loop (WHITE) as the route makes several turns. The trail briefly turns right onto a wide sandy road for a pipeline. Cross a stream.
2.6 – One last short push uphill on a rock slab. Come to an intersection with Cannonball (White C on Red Circle) near Skyline Drive.
Continue on Castle Loop (WHITE) by turning RIGHT then soon turn LEFT. Follow Castle Loop (WHITE) back to the parking lot.
Hiked: 8/30/21. As part of the longer Grand Castle Loop version.