April 18, 2021 – Ringwood, New Jersey
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Length: Approximately 3.2 miles
Max elevation: 1040 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 759 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Trailhead parking: Stonetown Recreation Complex – Mary Roth Drive, Ringwood, NJ 07456
Windbeam Mountain is part of the easternmost section of the New Jersey Highlands. It is located north of Wanaque in Ringwood. To the east, it is bounded by the Wanaque Reservoir, separating it from the Ramapo Mountains. To the north, is the 920-ft. Bear Mountain and Little Windbeam (720-ft.) to the south. The Stonetown Recreation Complex lies at its western base.
At an elevation of 1040 feet above sea level, Windbeam Mountain rises in a long steep, wooded and rocky slope 800 feet above the valley below. Since it is taller than the neighboring hills, the mostly flat twin summits, provide wide ranging views in all directions.
The mountain is part of almost 3,000 acres of land that adjoins the Wanaque Reservoir that is owned by the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission (NJDWSC).
The original occupants of this area were the Lenape Indians, who were attracted to the land for its diverse natural resources and abundance of freshwater sources, which they utilized for fishing, hunting, and navigation. In fact, Wanaque is the name given to the valley by the Lenape and has been translated as “valley of sassafras.”
There have been at least fourteen different spellings of Windbeam throughout the years. Winbeam, Windbeamus, Wimbeamus, Wiembemis, Weembemus, Weembeamus, Winbeamus, Weambemus, Weambeames, Wenbeamus, Winbbeam are some of them.
In some of the old deeds it is spelled “Wimbemus.” Some say that Wimbemus means “chestnut tree.” Windbeam and the other mountains nearby, were covered with tall healthy chestnut trees. Some would suggest a derivation from wimb, heart of a tree; -bi, tree; moschiwi, bare, open: a solitary tree on a bleak mountain top.
The Stonetown Circular Trail and the Highlands Trail are coaligned as they traverse the rocky summit. These are the only official trails that summit the mountain. The trail is well marked, but there are a lot of turns and switchbacks, so keeping an eye on the blazes is essential.
Following the Stonetown Circular Trail from the Stonetown Recreation Complex, it passes through a low lying wet area and it is a steep rocky climb over Little Windbeam and up to Windbeam summit, gaining almost 800 feet in elevation in about a mile and a half.
Please note: The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission (NJDWSC), which owns the property that is traversed by these trails, allows access to their property for hiking and the maintenance of the trails. Please help to keep these trails open by staying on the trails and respecting private property. Carry out what you carry in.
This hike begins and ends at the Stonetown Recreation Complex on Mary Roth Drive. There shouldn’t be any issues finding a spot in the large parking lot.
Across the street from the parking lot is Windbeam Mountain. If you look up towards the summit, you may spot the American Flag flying. That is your destination.
This out and back hike follows the red-triangle-on-white blazed Stonetown Circular Trail for its entirety. First summiting Little Windbeam (720-ft.) then Windbeam (1,040-ft.), and summiting Little Windbeam from the north on the way back. The entire ascent is steep and quite rocky, as is the descent. Hiking poles are a plus. The beginning and end of this hike passes through a wet area with several small stream crossings. A good pair of waterproof hiking boots and bug spray is recommended.
According to the New Jersey 1K Club, At only 1040-ft., Windbeam is the fifth lowest mountain on our NJ1K list, but Windbeam actually takes more vertical climbing to summit than nearly any other mountain in New Jersey. The trail’s ascent up Windbeam from the south is one of the longest sustained steeps in New Jersey.
Although this is an out and back, the return route gives hikers a different look.
Walk back out of the entrance road of the Stonetown Recreation Complex. Diagonally to the right and across the road you will see two offset red-triangle-on-white blazes on a pole. This is the Stonetown Circular Trail which you will be following for the entire hike. The trail heads east into the woods, through wetlands and immediately rock hops a small stream. The trail curves to the right (south) as it skirts the base of Windbeam Mountain. This area could be wet and muddy after rainfall.
The Stonetown Circular Trail comes to a junction with an unmarked trail and turns right, rock hops another stream and soon comes close to Stonetown Road before veering away from it. The trail descends a little and crosses another stream before ascending steeply the southwest slope of Little Windbeam. The trail soon descends again before resuming its climb.
After about 0.7 mile, the trail reaches a junction with the Highlands Trail, which comes in from the right. Turn left at the junction (northeast) and follow the two coaligned trails as they climb Little Windbeam very steeply.
As the trail climbs, you may want to stop to catch your breath and look behind you as the views start to open up. As you continue the steep ascent of Little Windbeam, more views will appear. On the way back they will be more obvious.
The trail levels off at the summit of Little Windbeam, which makes a good spot to rest before you make your way to Windbeam Mountain.
The trail descends into a col, with Windbeam Mountain summit looming just ahead.
The trail begins its steep ascent of Windbeam Mountain. As you climb higher, better views begin to appear.
As you climb, there are several rock outcrops, to the left of the trail with open views. Across the valley, the hills of Norvin Green State Forest are visible to the west.
As the trail continues to climb, stop to take a breather and turn around for some southwest-facing views.
As the trail nears the summit, there is a large rock outcrop just off the trail to the left with far reaching views south over the Wanaque Reservoir and beyond. In my opinion this is the best view on this hike. This makes a great place to take a break and rest up from the climb.
When you are ready to continue, follow the blazes a short distance to the summit of Windbeam Mountain, marked with an American Flag.
If the summit is crowded, continue to the 2nd summit. The trail descends steeply a short distance then climbs. It’s a slight scramble to the 2nd summit, but doable by most.
At the top of the 2nd summit, to the right is a rock outcrop with panoramic views northeast to southeast.
On a clear day, the Manhattan skyline is visible in the distance.
Continue north a short distance to another rock outcrop with west-facing views.
This is the turn around spot for the hike described here. If you would like to extend the hike, the Stonetown Circular Trail (the same route as the Highlands Trail) continues north to Bear and Board Mountains.
When you are ready to continue, retrace your steps on the Stonetown Circular Trail, back to the first summit.
Old Glory flies proudly at the summit.
Looking west from the flagpole at the summit.
A zoomed in view of the ballfields at the Stonetown Recreation Complex.
On the opposite side from the flag, there is another rock outcrop with sweeping views, northeast to southeast. We missed this on the way up.
Descending the summit, you may want to make another stop at the south-facing viewpoint.
From there, continue to retrace your steps on the Stonetown Circular Trail, descending steeply and back to the parking area, where the hike began.
This is high up on my list of favorite hikes. The views are some of the best around and there are plenty of them. The trail is very steep and rocky, but the payoff makes it worth it. There are numerous rock outcrops with expansive views that make for great picnic spots. The abundance of blazes makes the trail easy to follow. We began this hike on a Sunday morning at about 8:30am and only ran into a handful of people the entire hike. The trail and summit were free of any trash, let’s keep it that way.
Well marked trails, outstanding views, not highly trafficked area, large parking lot.
Take a hike!
- Windbeam Mountain – New Jersey 1K Club
- Historical Overview of Ringwood and Wanaque
- Wanaque Reservoir
- Settlement in the Wanaque Valley