Overview: This hike packs a real punch. Walk a ridge with a few scrambles and nice views of Sterling Forest and the Wyanokie Mountains, walk through a rhododendron tunnel, visit a spring-fed glacial pond, and take in a view of Greenwood Lake from a ridge – one of the best views in the state. This loop follows the white-blazed Bearfort Ridge Trail to the yellow Ernest Walker Trail to the orange-blazed Quail Trail/Jeremy Glick Trail.
Hike Length: 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 800 feet
Location: Abram S. Hewitt State Forest, West Milford, Passaic County, NJ
About Abram S. Hewitt State Forest: A section of Bearfort Ridge reaches into Hewitt State Forest. Marshes and wetlands are scattered throughout the forest with several brooks and streams crisscrossing the lower areas. Hemlock and oak are the dominant species of this relatively undisturbed forest.
Parking: Park in the small pullout just a few feet in front of the trailhead. The pullout only fits a few cars, so arrive early. Google maps link (Quail Trailhead). Nearby address: 97 Warwick Turnpike, West Milford, NJ.
From the trailhead, follow the white blazes. You’ll get more of the elevation gain during the first mile – about 700 feet. After that, you’ll follow the puddingstone conglomerate Bearfort Ridge for a few miles. You’ll be treated to a nice view from an outcrop after about a half mile.
If’s a clear day, you might be able to see the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
Continue on the trail, following the ridge and using your hands to help you up and down a few small scrambles. Eventually, you’ll reach a rhododendron tunnel. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a tunnel of rhododendron.
After a total of about 2 miles on the white trail, you’ll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Earnest Walker trail. Stay right. In about a quarter mile, you’ll reach Surprise Lake, a pristine, spring-fed pond carved by glaciers.
From here, you could turn around and follow the orange-blazed Quail Trail (a woods road known locally as the Jeremy Glick Trail, after a local man who was one of the heroic passengers who attempted to retake United Flight 93 during the September 11th terrorist attacks). BUT DON’T!
Instead, continue to follow the yellow blazes north another 0.3 miles until you reach an exposed ridge with sweeping views over Greenwood Lake. This is a great spot to sit down, relax, and have a snack before turning around.
Now, retrace your steps back to Surprise Lake. SURPRISE AGAIN! When you reach the junction of the yellow and orange trails, stay left this time and follow the orange blazes. Along the way, you’ll see some small cascades.
The trail will probably be wet, so watch your step. Follow the orange-blazed Quail Trail/Jeremy Glick Trail until it rejoins the white trail. Follow the white blazes back to the trailhead. Be careful walking down the narrow shoulder and head back to your car.