The Mountain Biker’s Guide to Sterling Forest State Park

Explore some of the state’s best singletrack just 45 minutes from New York City.

There aren’t many truly “hidden” gems left in southern New York, but for mountain bikers, Sterling Forest definitely qualifies. One of New York’s bigger state parks, Sterling encompasses nearly 22,000 acres of rolling woodland just north of the New York/New Jersey border. Here, you’ll find everything from wide, cruiser trails to technical singletrack and tricky rock gardens. Thanks to the work of local volunteer groups, the trails are well-maintained, and parking is free in most lots. That makes this one of the easiest places to escape the city for a day of riding bliss. 

New to the park? Have no fear. The following guidance will cover everything you need to know to get started. That includes:

  • Sterling Forest history
  • Recommended rides
  • Getting there
  • Where to refuel

Sterling Forest History

The land now known as Sterling Forest was once inhabited by the Munsee Lenape people. Later, part of the forest became the home of Greenwood Forest Farms, one of the country’s first vacation resorts established by and for Black families. Up until about the 1960s, Greenwood remained one of the most fashionable summer getaways in New York. 

In 1998, the State of New York purchased Sterling Forest from its handful of private owners and designated it a state park—making it one of the Empire State’s largest conservation purchases in recent history. Today, the forest is home to dozens of miles of multi-use trails. It also provides an important refuge for black bears, hawks, and other migratory bird species. While the land is managed by New York State Parks and Rec, much of the credit for trail-building, advocacy, and maintenance work goes to Palisades MTB and a handful of other local volunteer groups.

Recommended Rides

Sterling Forest is home to miles of world-class singletrack. Here are a few local-favorite rides.

Sterling Valley Loop (5.9 miles)

This slightly easier loop makes a great introduction to the area’s trails. Start at the Sterling Ridge Trailhead near the forest’s northern edge, and follow the Sterling Valley Loop (marked in yellow on this map). The riding is about the same in both directions—you’ll start with a fun descent and end with a climb either way. In between, the route weaves through ponds and wetlands and skirts Sterling Lake’s northern shore.

Hutchinson-Palisades Loop (7.5 miles)

This is Sterling’s most classic loop, and a great intermediate-level ride through the southern part of the forest. To do it, park at the Sterling Forest Southern Trailhead (there are restrooms and a mechanical station here), and pick up the northernmost leg of the Redback Trail, which heads west from the parking area. Go straight at your first intersection to stay on Redback, which gradually heads north. Then, connect the Hutchinson, Palisades, and Floworks trails to loop back to your car.  

Redback Loop (6.3 miles)

Technical, rocky terrain makes this loop ideal for more advanced riders. Start at the Sterling Forest Southern Trailhead, then pick up the Redback Trail going south, following pink blazes. This will take you to the shoulder of Bill White Mountain, where you’ll tackle a 350-foot climb, followed by a fun descent that drops you into the flowy terrain skirting McKeag’s Meadow. At the next junction, pick up S17/S13 going northeast, then take your next right to head back to the parking area.

Getting There

Sterling Forest is located in the Hudson Valley, about 45 minutes from New York City. To get there from Long Island, take Interstate 295 north and I-95 south to cross the George Washington Bridge. Then take Exit 72A to hop on New Jersey Route 4 west. This will take you to NJ-17 north. From here, take Exit 15A near Ramapo. Keep heading northwest, taking I-87/NY-17 north toward Sloatsburg, N.Y. 

Just before you reach Sloatsburg, veer west on Sterling Mine Road. After 2.2 miles, take a right onto Eagle Valley Road, then another right onto South Gate Road. This will take you to the Sterling Forest Southern Trailhead, a great starting point for some of the loops detailed. 

Refresh & Refuel

If you park at the Sterling Ridge Trailhead, head to nearby Village Buzz Cafe after your ride for fluffy pancakes, grilled sandwiches, and artisan French toast. If you’re starting and ending your day at the Southern Trailhead, head to Sloatsburg instead. Seven Lakes Station serves up craft beer, hot pretzels, and other pub fare; and Dottie Audrey’s Bakery Kitchen (a little farther north) throws down a killer brunch. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.