When my budget gets tight, my favorite thing to do is cry and drink my sorrows away get outdoors. Mother nature is free to enjoy! New Jersey has so many beautiful parts to it, it’s not hard to find something to do. Sure, a lot of people think NJ is a dump… and yes there are parts that smell so bad on the turnpike up north that it’s hard to think anything different; but we’re the motherfuckin’ Garden State! That’s got to count for something, right?
So… I’m not particularly outdoorsy. If I got lost in the woods my first instinct would be to, cuddle a bear because they are warm and furry without fail, go in the wrong direction. Whoops! Am I right? So I rely heavily on websites that give you a play by play on what to do. I’ve also checked in at ranger stations in the past, which I highly recommend. They’ll provide you a map and useful tips for getting the most out of your hikes!
So, if you Google “best hikes in NJ” one of the first websites that comes up is NJhiking which is a great site! They give the play-by-play that I need. On their site they suggest the “10 best NJ Hikes” and their #7 is Ramapo Mountain State Forest which includes views of the Van Slyke Castle Ruins and the Ramapo Lake.
A Good Place to Start: the beginning of the trail. Put “McEvoy Trail Parking” into your Waze app or GPS navi. It’s just off of exit 57 from route 287, just a little way down skyline drive.
From there, the entrance will be these two stone walls. I think the website mentions starting on the white trail? I didn’t see that. I started following the blue markers and it takes you through a rocky trail with a flowing creek to the left. Perfect photo ops here.
Continue along this trail. It’s super rocky and there are some elevation changes, but nothing too strenuous. This really is a good beginner trail, it exposes you to different hiking elements and it’s pretty popular. There are people around and you’re not far from civilization — which take a lot of the “dangers of the great outdoors” stress away.
Take A Risk: there are plenty of risky opportunities when hiking. Choose wisely.
Climbing a giant boulder? Hell yes! Look how dope this looks! Hitting a back flip off of it? I would advise against that. You don’t want to be that person that does some dumb shit, severely injures themselves and ruins everyone’s good time. Also, possible death? Yea. Be careful fools.
Play it Safe: take photos that don’t involve imenent death or risk of major bodily injury.
The trail gets to Ramapo Lake which is absolutely stunning.
There are a lot of places to take pictures around the lake, and I strongly recommend stopping at all of them. Because if you don’t take pictures when submerged in nature, were you even outside??
Right about this point at the north of the lake you reach a fork in the road. Continue to the right which is the white trail to castle point, or left which keeps going along with blue that merges with an orange “C” marked trail. We accidentally went left and kept going along to blue. So that was extra hiking distance, but it was also a beautiful trail!
Walk a mile in my shoes… and you’ll end up a mile in the wrong direction and in a random parking lot.
When you gotta stop and think about how your navigation skills are all wrong… so wrong.
But you don’t care because you packed some trail sodas!
Let’s Make a Statement: after doubling back to the north point of the lake, I found the correct white marked trail that leads up to castle point. This part of the trail is basically a steep set of rocky elevations. Needless to say I was huffing and puffing I’m a proud Hufflepuff and honeybadger don’t give a shit about your house and had to take a little wine water break.
The views as you ascend are amazing.
Ramapo lake and this tree about to burst into spring
The rocky ascent is worth it for these views.
The distance isn’t too much, but it does get a little steep which is very tiring. But this is the view once you get there.
There is so much to see once you get inside. It’s really amazing seeing this grand stone mansion that is slowly falling into ruin. There is graffiti on some of the walls. I normally love me some good wall art — but this was neither interesting nor well done. Made me feel old as I assumed that some punk kids just decided to ruin the beauty of this spot.
All in all, great hike! Ramapo valley has several different trails that you can intertwine to custom make the length you want and what you want to see. I hope to do this again in late spring or summer when more plantlife is in bloom! Below are more pictures of the ruins and the hike. For some history of the Van Skyle Mansion, check this website out!