May 15, 2016 – Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY
Length: approximately 6.5 miles
Route type: lollipop loop
Storm King Mountain rises 1340 feet high above the Hudson River with fantastic views north, east and south. It offers over 11 miles of challenging trails, which are steep, narrow and rocky. To put it bluntly there is nothing easy about Storm King Mountain, but the payoff is worth it. I have wanted to hike Storm King ever since I climbed Breakneck Ridge which is directly across the river. On this day I felt as though I climbed it twice.
I had read about some ruins that existed up there from an upcoming hiking Meetup. Supposedly there were extensive remains of a mansion that were not widely known to most that hike in that area. With the exception of the Spy House ruins, which consists of three columns that are located not too far from one of the trailheads on 9w, I couldn’t find the existence of any online. I consulted my West Hudson Trails Map and I saw that on one unmarked trail there were 2 sets of ruins. I figured that one of these were the ruins mentioned in the Meetup post. Not one for crowds, I decided to check out what these mansion ruins were all about.
This hike started at the Esty & Hellie Stowell Trailhead located on Route 218 right by Camp Olmsted. The parking lot has room for about 20 cars and from my understanding is one of the least used trailheads by hikers. Maybe the fact that it is located at the base of Storm King and other trailheads are located further up the mountain. I wanted to do it right, so we started from here. After applying some bug spray and gearing up, we were on our way.
Our hike began on the teal blazed Highlands Trail, which started out crossing an open field with Storm King looming large just across the field. It was a pleasant level walk, but that didn’t last for long. In no time we entered the forest and our hike up the mountain began.
Almost immediately the trail steepened. At first we walked along a cascade that descended from high atop the mountain.
Then we crossed the brook and left the cascade in our tracks. We advanced up the Highlands Trail which continued to rise. We came to a junction where the yellow blazed Stillman Trail came in from the right and joined the Highlands Trail, so we turned left and were greeted with our first view of the day.
After taking a well deserved breather we were off again, now following the teal and yellow blazes of the Stillman/Highlands Trail.
We were searching for the blue and red blazed Bluebird Trail which is a right turn off the teal and yellow blazed Stillman/Highlands Trail. We came upon another junction where there was an unmarked woods road and the yellow Stillman trail on the right as the Stillman/Highlands Trail went left. I consulted my map and determined that this was the right we had to make. I was wrong, the Bluebird Trail is actually off the Stillman/Highlands Trail. I didn’t figure that out until we hiked about 3/4 of a mile in the wrong direction adding another 1.5 miles to this hike. It wasn’t all in vain though as we saw an interesting curved stone wall to photograph.
Not too far from the stone wall was a strange looking tree that seemed to have faces trying to escape from within.
After heading back in the right direction we continued up the Stillman/Highlands Trail which was quite steep in places.
After a short while of climbing up the Stillman/Highlands Trail we saw the Bluebird Trail and also saw some ruins that were just off in the woods. I’m not sure what the first structure was, but I am assuming that it was a well of some sort as it was filled with water and had a pipe protruding from it at the base. There was also a foundation of a building not too far away.
We continued up the Bluebird Trail which was also steep and rocky. I knew that the unmarked trail where the ruins was supposed to be was off to the right. For most of the trail there was a steep drop off on the right so when we came to a section where there was a hill to our right, I bushwacked to the top of the hill to take a look and there it was. I walked over to the unmarked trail which was barely discernible and in a moment we were at the mansion ruins. They were quite extensive and by the looks of it, must have been quite an estate. I have done numerous searches online and could not find any information whatsoever on this set of ruins. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.
We sat on the steps pictured above for a rest before we continued on. All of a sudden it started to hail. Ice pellets bouncing off my head in May? It was time to move. The Bluebird Trail continued to rise and the only hikers we saw were coming down. I asked one of them if it is mainly hiked downhill and he told me yes. Due to the steepness of the trail I now see why.
We stopped along the Bluebird Trail for a break and sat across from this interesting rock formation that had a cave like appearance.
For a trail that is supposed to be only .6 miles long, the Bluebird Trail felt much longer. Alas, we finally made it to the blue blazed Howell Trail. It was a welcome sight and from appearances it seemed like we were in for a pleasant walk through the woods. That would be short lived however.
The Howell Trail was scenic and had some obstructed views of the Hudson Valley.
After the partially obstructed view, the Howell Trail became a cliff walk and started to descend somewhat steeply. Now we were looking for the white blazed By-Pass Trail, that would require us to regain the elevation we lost descending the Howell Trail. The By-Pass Trail was only .4 miles long, but rugged and steep. I didn’t photograph on the way up as I was focused on the task at hand. I did take one at a scenic view when we stopped to rest.
When we finally made it to the end of the By-Pass Trail, we met up with the Stillman/Highlands Trail once again. Now we were in for some real views.
After taking in some views we went to the highest point, which offered up a fantastic view north up the Hudson.
We were now at 1340 feet and the sky was overcast with winds between 30-40 mph. Not idea conditions for taking photographs, but we made due. Below are some images taken from this vantage point.
It was a shame that after such a strenuous trek to get to this point we couldn’t enjoy it more. I was dressed for a May hike and the wind was cutting right through my windbreaker. So after a snack and a drink we began our descent. I didn’t bother to take any photographs the rest of the way as I was all pictured out by this point. The way down was no cake walk either. We hiked down the eastern side of the mountain on the Stillman/Highlands Trail. It was steep, rocky, narrow and in some spots wet and muddy. All these factors made the descent worthy of our full attention. We stopped several times along the way and then back to the vehicle. It was now time for some grilling.
Until next time, happy trails.
I did this hike today but took the shorter more direct route up the fire trails (the flat wide path you took by mistake). There is actually another set of ruins just a few minutes north of these with many separate foundations. I believe both of these ruins to be part of the Pagenstecher estate that burned down in 1955. Which was the house and which was the stable/care takers areas i’m not sure of. I’m going to post some of these photos on my fb page today so you are welcome to look at them. Great easy hike with some really cool history!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I checked out your pics, very nice. I knew that I had missed some ruins because the map shows 2 sets and I only saw one. Any more info that you can share would be appreciated.
My aunt is one of the town historians and my friend Kim and I are doing extensive research to try and determine exactly what structures these were. Go and check out the second set of ruins, just off the blue and red bypass trail. At one point they turn left uphill but if you look to the right you’ll see a path. Follow that to the second, more hidden ruins.
Once we have more historical info to share I’ll reach out! If you happen to stumble across any interesting facts please let me know as well!
these ruins were left by the family that lived here back in the 1800’s. The head of the family was “Albrecht Pagenstecher” who started one of the very first paper mills in this area of Cornwall, N.Y..
The Pagenstecher family owned quite a bit of land in Cornwall-on-Hudson (on and below Storm King and on Deer Hill) but no paper mill anywhere near there. Albrecht introduced German technology into the United States that made it possible to use wood to make paper. He built the country’s first wood‐pulp mill in Massachusetts in 1867 and the first wood-pulp mill in New York, at Corinth, in 1869, but no mill in Cornwall, which was a summer resort for people from the City. With riches from paper making, the Pagenstechers vacationed in Cornwall-on-Hudson — the Social Register of 1919 lists three summer phone numbers for ten Pagenstechers. Albrecht, his wife Helene, daughters Friede and Bertha, and son Rudolph are listed at one. Son Albrecht Jr and his family are listed at a second number with the estate name, “Upyonda.” Albrecht Jr’s brother Gustav and his wife are listed at a third with the estate name, “Tavinia.” There is a gate house on Deer Hill built by the Pagenstechers for a planned mansion on Deer Hill, but the mansion was never built (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatehouse_on_Deerhill_Road). According to Warren Mumford (http://cornwall-on-hudson.com/article.cfm?page=712), the ruins on Storm King are those of a house built by Albrecht Sr in 1905 and it is that estate that was called “Upyonda.” I believe Rudolph inheritied the house when his father died. From the Mountain Road trailhead, the trail (shown as the Howell Trail on Google maps and the Stillman Trail on NYNJTC maps) initially follows the carriage road that served the house.