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From the Field — East — March 2013

Our trail scouts' top local hikes, including fire tower views in New Jersey, a New York waterfall, and more.
South Mtn. Loop, South Mountain Reservation, NJ
Just a 45-minute train ride from NYC, this six-mile loop undulates through the thick forests and rocky gorges of a 2,047-acre urban oasis. Watch for deer, turkey, and coyote as you follow the sedate Rahway River en route to 50-foot Hemlock Falls at mile 3.5. Some years, it remains frozen into March. Near mile 5.5, score views from Washington Rock, named for its role as a patriot lookout point during the Revolutionary War. Trip ID 411649
 
“From Washington Rock, you can see Staten Island.” 
Trail scout: Andrew Joyce, West Orange, NJ

Tremper Mountain via Willow Trail, Catskill Park, NY

Score secluded, 360-degree views into three states on this 8.8-mile out-and-back. Peakbaggers often bypass this 2,740-footer in favor of higher neighbors, so you could have it to yourself. Watch for porcupine tracks in the snow (they look like undulating furrows) as you ascend through hardwood forest and a hemlock ravine. The payoff: Views from Tremper’s fire tower (built 1917). Climb the 47-foot steel structure to peer just above tree level at the 4,000-foot Burroughs Range looming to the southwest. Trip ID1376947
 
“A half-mile past the Warner Creek Trail junction, bushwhack .3 mile south to another, unnamed summit.” 
Trail scout: Aaron Bennett, Shandaken, NY

Buttermilk/North Bank Loop, James River Park System, VA

Trace both banks of the powerful James River on this seven-mile loop through a wildlife-rich city park, where spring breaks into a haze of red maple flowers and yellow spicebush. Follow the south shore to reach Belle Isle at mile 3.3, then circumnavigate the island on a one-mile spur loop. On the north shore, detour a mile east to see nesting herons performing courtship displays near the railroad bridge. Return past 160-year-old Hollywood Cemetery, resting place of Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. Trip ID 767082
 
“In March, spawning threadfin shad attract fish-eating birds like double-breasted cormorants and great blue herons.”

Trail scout: Ralph White, Richmond, VA

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