Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017
The Ramapo Mountains are most notable for their eastern escarpment, an extremely straight line starting in Pompton Lakes and running at about 40 degrees N, reaching the NY border after 10 miles at Mahwah, and continuing for another 10 miles through New York's Rockland County, almost reaching the Hudson River.
This abrupt edge is formed by the Ramapo Fault, on the boundary between the Proterozoic bedrock of the Highlands and the Mesozoic basin of the Piedmont. The fault is considered active, but luckily no major earthquakes have been recorded in the area to date.
Steep mountainsides faces marked by exposed and cut by steep streams form the Ramapo's eastern edge, making for the most dramatic landscape in Northeastern NJ. A few roads and hiking trails ascend the river valleys escarpment, but it actually seems like a kind of under-explored area, especially given its proximity to the dense suburbs of Bergen County. I suspect that closer examination would reveal a number of unofficial trails, and I hope to engage in this examination soon.
The western slope of the Ramapos, also steep but not quite as dramatic, looks down upon the Wanaque Reservoir.
Ramapo Lake, towards the south, is picturesque and an easy walk. A hill overlooking it contains the ruins of a castle-like mansion and a stone tower. To the north, there is a lot of strange and rugged terrain, filled with old twisted bits of metal. Ilgenstein Rock is a nice lookout above a swamp. Ramapo Mountain State Park, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, and Ramapo Mountain County Reservation comprise the public landholdings on this hilly territory.
The Ramapos are home to of one of New Jersey's native peoples, the Ramapough Mountain Indians.