Ryker Lake

Ryker Lake, Sparta Mountain WMA (12/26/2011)

This is hike #9 ("Ryker Lake Circle") in the chapter "Starter Hikes" of the book Hiking the Jersey Highlands, but instead of circling the lake clockwise, we hiked it counterclockwise. We did this for a reason. Back on Independence Day of 2007 we attempted this hike but could not, despite backtracking over and over, find the path that connects the trail on the western bank to the trail on the eastern bank. So we ended up doing an out-and-back to the Edison Bog and back. Today we decided to do it in the opposite direction to see if we could find the connecting trail coming from the east. And this time it was much easier to find, but once the short stretch of woods road got to the swamp, the path disappeared into the water, making it impossible to continue. So we headed south just a bit and bushwhacked west through the swamp, stepping on little mounds of vegetation and rocks (some spaced quite a bit apart) before making it to the other side.

This is an unusually rugged area, something I didn't remember it being four years ago. It is an WMA, so the main uses here are hunting and fishing. So although the trail on the western bank is blazed, it's pretty much unmaintained, with lots of blow-downs from years worth of storms. The trail on the eastern bank, however, is the nicely blazed and maintained Highlands Trail.

Total distance hiked today was 2.7 miles in some very rugged terrain, and with an interesting swamp crossing, in just under 2 hours.

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

Ryker Lake ...

... from the ...

... parking area

Fish limits

Abandoned chimney and fireplace

Heading toward the dam

Lady of the Lake



Path to the dam

Bridge over dam

Lake from dam


Storm clouds

Icy surface



Fireplace ruins

Highland trail blazes


[Photo by Laura]

Views from ...

... jutting rock

[Photo by Laura]

More climbing

What the heck?

Lots of blow-downs

Leaf carpet

Blaze pollution!

Creek crossing

[Photo by Laura]

The only You-Are-Here sign

Connecting road

Swamp on connecting road

Swamp whacking

Lovely swamp

We crossed through here

Laura mound hopping


Swamp from above

Beautiful moss

House outside of WMA

Trail on western bank

Blaze close-up

[Photo by Laura]

Rugge path

Creek to lake

Lake from NW tip

View south

Beaver activity

Western bank

Road back to car

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