This hike follows the yellow-blazed Rifle Camp Trail in a counter-clockwise direction. From the circle, proceed uphill on a paved path, following both yellow and red blazes, and pass the park’s Nature Center on the right. Just beyond, the trail bears left and reaches an expansive overlook to the east and south, with Clifton and Bergen County visible directly below, and the New York City...
This hike follows the yellow-blazed Rifle Camp Trail in a counter-clockwise direction. From the circle, proceed uphill on a paved path, following both yellow and red blazes, and pass the park’s Nature Center on the right. Just beyond, the trail bears left and reaches an expansive overlook to the east and south, with Clifton and Bergen County visible directly below, and the New York City skyline in the distance. In another 400 feet, follow the yellow blazes as they bear right, leaving the paved path, and continue parallel to the fence that runs along the cliff line. After bearing left, away from the cliff line, the trail crosses a seasonal stream and joins a woods road.
Soon, the yellow trail begins to run along a black metal fence, with a large red-roofed building beyond the fence. In about 500 feet, it bears left, away from the fence, and heads through the woods. The yellow trail turns right onto a gravel road, crosses a stone culvert over a stream, and joins another gravel road that comes in from the left. Just ahead, it curves left, with a large apartment building visible beyond a black metal fence on the right. A short distance beyond, the yellow trail turns right, leaving the gravel road, and continues on a footpath.
Almost a mile from the start, the yellow trail crosses the paved park entrance road and reenters the woods on a footpath, paralleling a valley below on the right. After passing a grassy amphitheater and a small building on the left, the yellow trail descends on a gravel road into the valley, where it begins to climb. Near the top, the trail bears right, leaving the eroded gravel road, and continues on a footpath.
After passing picnic tables and a playground on the left, the yellow trail turns right and descends on a paved path, rejoining the red-blazed trail. It curves right at the base of the descent, passing a fenced-in dog park on the left, and soon continues on a gravel path. With the Great Notch Reservoir visible ahead, the trail bends left and crosses a stone culvert over a stream. After making several turns, it bears right at a fork (leaving the red-blazed trail) and continues on a wide footpath. Just ahead, the trail follows a woods road along a berm, with a ditch on the left. Soon, the trail passes between interesting basalt rock formations, bears right, and passes above a steep cliff.
The trail now descends, passing below a massive rock formation on the right, and follows another berm. Soon, it begins to parallel a high chain-link fence on the right, with the Great Notch Reservoir visible beyond. It follows the chain-link fence for about half a mile, with views of the reservoir through the fence on the left. At the end of the reservoir, the trail bears right, passing a spillway, then descends a little and parallels the reservoir’s outlet stream. The trail now climbs a little and curves left, then bears right and continues on a footpath through the woods.
Just ahead, the yellow trail comes out at a black metal fence, with a cliff ahead on the left and a housing development (built on the site of a former quarry) below. The trail continues to follow along the fence line for the next half mile. At first, you mostly see the housing development below, but after turning right and climbing a little, you reach some good views of the New York City skyline. Benches have been placed along this section of the trail, permitting hikers to pause and admire the views. Finally, the trail turns left, away from the fence, and descends on a gravel path to a T-intersection with a gravel road. It turns right onto the road, which curves around a pond and becomes a wide paved path. About 200 feet beyond the end of the pond, the yellow trail turns right, leaving the paved path, and climbs to reach a low chain-link fence, with an unobstructed panoramic view of the New York City skyline. The yellow trail continues along the fence, then descends on a gravel path to come out at the paved circle where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 04/24/2003 updated/verified on 01/23/2022
This loop hike encircles Rifle Camp Park, passing panoramic viewpoints over Paterson, Bergen County and the New York City skyline.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.