Hiking Ramapo Mountain State Forest - Van Slyke Castle ruins

Ramapo Mountain State Forest - NJ Travel Blog

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At the horizon, next to the hills, the skyline of New York City

I have made many hikes in the past four years of my expatship. The majority of these hikes were done in New York State. That is because New York State has great hiking trails and a diverse landscape. But mostly because the two trail books I use are about New York State hikes...

But, the number of unhiked trails is almost running out. Only the really long hikes and the hikes further away than the Catskills remain. So it was time to look at a new book. And that is why I ended up with a book called 50 Hikes in New Jersey.

Still not completely recovered from my Alaska experience but also longing for a nice hike I decided this was a great opportunity to inaugurate the book. I chose a hike on the Ramapo Mountain State Forest.

Foxcrest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest used to be private land owned by Clifford McEvoy. The lands contains a small pond which was later dammed up to create Ramapo Lake. The lands were sold to some private owners. Much of the land was transferred to the State of New Jersey and made into the State Forest in 1976. There are, however still some patches of privately owned land. McEvoy built a huge mansion, called "Ryecliff", on one of the hills. Another huge mansion, "Foxcrest" was constructed around 1909 on the facing hill (Fox Hill) by stock broker William Porter.

Foxcrest must have been a huge mansion with magnificent views. It had its own driveway and a swimming pool. Porter's widow, who had remarried to Mr.

Foxcrest
van Slyke, lived in the mansion until she died in 1940. The mansion was left to her family which decided to sell it. In 1950 the ownership of Foxcrest was battled in a bitter divorce and left the house empty, from that time decay started. The house was broken in often and in 1959 vandals managed to set fire to the house. Everything burnt down. The only remains are the stone walls, chimneys, the metal incinerator in the basement and the foundation. The first part of road to the mansion is still in use for another house, the rest of the road is being grown over. The swimming pool is still there, but got filled with dirt and bushes over time. And a bit higher on the mountain is still the pretty well conserved water tower of the estate.

It was a pleasantly short drive to the trailhead at the Skyline Drive. I apparently was not the only person to get the idea of going here, that was the downside of a hike close to the city.

The abandoned swimming pool of Foxcrest
.. As soon as I got to the lake I saw everybody deviated at the easy shore drives of the lake, while I was the only person to head for the narrow hiking (McEvoy) trail. So, I still had rest and tranquility after all! Although, the presence of the nearby Interstate 287 was an annoying noisy one.

After completing the loop of McEvoy I also walked a bit along the lake with great views, to the white trail that would take me to the ruins of Foxcrest. The trail started with gaining some height, and all of a sudden I found myself in front of one of the walls that surrounds the former Foxcrest site. I must have been in the garden or terrace section, a logical choice, it has great views! I had expected more of the ruins and when I decided to walk on I realized the estate was way bigger than I thought. All of sudden the real house ruins appeared.

Foxcrest as it used to be (Photo: http://www.users.nac.net/axtell)
Immense stone walls stood amidst the forest, plants and trees had partly taken over the place. It must have been an enormous house. I walked inside in what must have been the basement looking up along the huge chimneys with the remains of fireplaces, as well as the metal pipes of the central heaters. The swimming pool was also found and I ended my ruins tour at the water tower which is least decayed. I wish I could have seen the place as it used to be. On the other hand, then it would probably have been off limits.

After returning via the old driveway that once lead to Foxcrest I finished my hike by walking around Ramapo Lake thinking of the grandeur of Foxcrest that was destroyed by some stupid arsonists.

A very nice video of the ruins can be found here. And of course: more pictures below!

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At the horizon, next to the hills,…
At the horizon, next to the hills…
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
The abandoned swimming pool of Fox…
The abandoned swimming pool of Fo…
Foxcrest as it used to be (Photo: …
Foxcrest as it used to be (Photo:…
The environment seems like a dense…
The environment seems like a dens…
At the horizon, next to the hills,…
At the horizon, next to the hills…
Nice clouds
Nice clouds
Ramapo Lake
Ramapo Lake
Nice clouds
Nice clouds
Ramapo Lake
Ramapo Lake
Ramapo Lake
Ramapo Lake
Ramapo Lake. This used to be the v…
Ramapo Lake. This used to be the …
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
Foxcrest
The water tower of Foxcrest
The water tower of Foxcrest
The water tower of Foxcrest
The water tower of Foxcrest
Foxcrest as it used to be (Photo: …
Foxcrest as it used to be (Photo:…
The GPS profile of my hike
The GPS profile of my hike
Ramapo Mountain State Forest - NJ
photo by: mdalamers