As dog-friendly and wonderful as Jersey City living is, sometimes our furry friends need to get out, see the world and stretch their legs a little. Lucky for us, there are plenty of destinations under an hour away that make perfect mini-getaways for canines. First on the list, dog-tested by yours truly, is Ramapo Mountain State Forest.
Located just shy of an hour northwest of Jersey City, this state park spans 4,200 acres and a whopping two counties, Bergen and Passaic. There are a few entrances, but for this latest visit—our first with Benny—we parked in the lot on Skyline Drive just off of Route 287 that is nearest to the Ramapo Lake Natural Area. The park allows leashed dogs on all of its trails.
The park has 11 trails that run at varying levels of difficulty, many of which will eventually land you at a body of water in some form or another. We were hiking, but saw many mountain-goers using the trails for biking as well. Even though the day was near 90 degrees, most of the adventuring was done under tree cover and Benny was able to keep going the whole time we were there, which was a huge relief.
Depending on how quiet you can convince your pup to be, you may be able to take advantage of the famed birdwatching that the area offers or catch sight of a deer or two. I can’t speak to this, as Benny makes an astonishing amount of noise for a dog with short legs and he scared off everything within a 5-mile radius.
We were a little worried that he would pick up ticks in the woods, but most of the trails are clear of any tall grass and we managed to all come out clean. We took the MacEvoy trail to head up to Ramapo Lake, which is labeled as one of the more difficult paths in the park but didn’t present a problem for us. Along the way we encountered some crazy-cool rock formations, wildflowers, fallen logs to hurdle, and even some real live Jersey cactuses. We also came across a number of other dogs, and found that most visitors follow the leash rule diligently. However, the handful that had their pups roaming free, were good about checking with us before they approached.
My favorite part of the trip by far was when we finally got to the 120-acre lake. We walked around it for what felt like miles, but I still don’t even think that we saw half of all there was to see. Along the shoreline we saw a number of people fishing and lots of little lizards running in and out of the rocks—not to mention some great sticks to chase!
My new favorite spot—outside of JC, of course—is one of the rock ledges just beyond the intersection of MacEvoy and Hoeferlin Memorial trails. The view from the boulder there is absolutely phenomenal, and there’s a perfect clearing to wade into the lake. (PSA: I found out after we got home that there is no swimming permitted in Ramapo Lake. However, my falling in was a complete accident, and Benny had to jump in to save me. The Labrador retriever was dutifully retrieving the two of us, as we seemed to be drowning, and he cannot be faulted in his breaking of the rules.)
We spent about four hours in the park, but I honestly could have stayed there all day. I’ll definitely be back to visit once the leaves start to change color to check out the ruins of an old stone castle and tower that are a little deeper in past the lake. Having that to look forward to will ease the pain of summer coming to an end!
Have you ever been to Ramapo Mountain State Forest, or do you have a recommendation of another equally awesome place for people and pups? Let us know in the comments!
For more information: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/ramapo.html