Red Back Trail

Red Back Trail, Sterling Forest (9/16/2012)

It seems impossible to believe but it's been nearly two years since we hiked beautiful Sterling Forest. But with the release of the Fifth Edition of NYNJTC Trail Map #100 ("Sterling Forest Trails") last year, and the release of the PDF iPhone map just this past week, it renewed my interest in this area, in particular of a trail named the Red Back located in the southeastern corner of the forest. This area was merely a patchwork of unmaintained trails in earlier maps but it's a totally blazed trail on the new map. The official park map, which is nowhere near as good as the NYNJTC map, claims it's 7.2 miles in length.

We parked at parking area P16 just off South Gate Road and took the trail, which begins on the other side of the yellow gate, in a clockwise direction. This is the most wild and remote trail we've hiked in Sterling Forest. It's relatively new and yet very much overgrown in parts. And the maroon blazing is very tough to see in several places. At times you feel as if you're bushwhacking, even though you're on the trail. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You will feel as if you're in the middle of nowhere, with a solitude unbroken by car shounds or even airplane sounds. And chances are you won't meet anyone. This trail can't possibly be used much based on how unmaintained it is in places. Doing it in one shot is a bit strenuous, with climbing then descending, then climbing, then descending, repeatedly. With over 2,100 feet of climbing, it's a perfect trail for working on your aerobic capacity!

And there are surprises along the way! Just north of Spruce Swamp there is the huge water-filled Red Back Mine. It is not indicated on the map but is down below the trail. We would have missed it had Laura not seen a small cave west of the trail. The cave turned out to be another part of the mine system looking down on the main mine just below the trail. A bit further south of this are the remains of a huge cast-iron roaster! That requires a bit of bushwhacking to get to, but it's worth it.

Total distance was just under 8 miles in 4.5 hours, with lots of elevation gain!

(Click on the thumbnail to bring up a bigger image in a pop-up window)

At P16

Trail begins beyond gate

Heading west

No Hunting right here

But hunting OK right here

Mushroom (aerial view)


Partial views


The maroon blaze


Quite overgrown

Trail, in places ...

... is a nice woods road

Leaf drop


Dry creek

Downed blazed tree

Climbing Bill White Mountain

Boulder lichen

[Photo by Laura]

Southern Mckeag's Meadow

Bright mushrooms

Approaching the swamp

Beaver activity

We got off the trail here

Log balancing in swamp

By mistake, off the trail

Another dry creek

Less dry over there

More climbing



Intersectin with Mckeags Meadow trail

Two trail comingle

Bee at work

Partil views over swamp

Mckeags Meadow

Another view

Grassy path

Spider web

Interesting tree growth

Lots of blowdown damage

Gorgeous ferns

Partial views

Seasonal view

Our lunch spot

Hopping over blowdown

Path parallels boulder field

Path is nice woods road

Laura atop Red Back Mine

Inspecting cave opposite mine

Posing by cave

Water-filled Red Back Mine

Photo from above

Rusted barbed wire

Remains of ...

... cast-iron roaster

Peering through at Laura

Inspecting the structure

It's bigger than this photo shows

Dan on brick structure [photo by Laura]

Foundation ruins

Giant boulder

Opposite side


Wide woods road here

Burst of green

Looks almost like coral

Extremely rocky path here


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