June 3, 2017 – Southfields, NY
Difficulty: easy – moderate
Length: approximately 6.6 miles
Max elevation: 1,179 ft.– total elevation gain 706 ft.
Route type: circuit
Trailhead parking: Lake Skannatati Parking – Southfields, NY 10975
The previous week we hiked in the same area (Pine Swamp Loop), but missed a scenic view due to the Arden-Surebridge Trail and the Red Cross Trail being rerouted. I decided to come back and explore some of the lesser traveled trails in the park and then bushwack at the end of the hike and find that elusive view. We hiked this loop counterclockwise from the Lake Skannatati Parking area, beginning on the Long Path and ending with the Arden-Surebridge Trail.
Below is a Google Earth image of the trails and points of interests on this hike.
We arrived at the parking area at about 9:45 am on a beautiful Saturday in June. The lot was beginning to fill up as it always does on the weekends. We gathered up our gear and headed out. We walked to the southern end of the parking area and picked up the Long Path.
We would be following the aqua blazes of the Long Path for approximately the first 1.3 miles of the hike. The trail ducks into the woods briefly then curves to the left and crosses Seven Lakes Drive. The Long Path continues just to the right of the crossing, on a gravel road.
A few feet in, the Long Path turns right, leaves the gravel road and continues on a footpath.
The trail then crosses a powerline cut and reenters the woods.
In a brief distance, the Long Path crosses County Road 106.
After crossing the road, we turned right and walked along the side of CR 106 for a short distance then turned left into the the woods.
The Long Path now becomes a narrow footpath. Having walked this section before, I knew to wear long pants because we were constantly brushing up against the foliage as we walked the trail.
After crossing a small stream and a short climb, We arrived at a junction with the blue-blazed Beech Trail. This turn can be easily missed if not for a cairn sitting in the middle of the trail.
Making a left on the Beech Trail, we were now heading northeast as we followed the blue blazes.
The Beech Trail starts out narrow and at times widens to a woods road then narrows again. The blazes also vary in shades of blue. Sometimes dark blue, light blue or just faded blue. Nevertheless, they are blue and it wasn’t confusing. This is one of the newer trails, blazed in 1972. It was during the construction of this trail that the method of using offset double blazes to show the direction in which the trail turns was invented.
There are some interesting rock formations along the way and except for the birds, it was quiet.
We then crossed CR 106 again, entered the woods and then in a short distance, the Beech Trail turns right onto a grassy woods road and runs along the shoulder of Rockhouse Mountain.
The mainly level woods road was a pleasure to walk. Being able to look around without the fear of tripping over a rock was a big plus. The trail once again narrows to a footpath as we pass a series of stone walls, the site of an old farm.
Not too long after passing the stone walls, we came to an old cemetery. The first grave is that of Timothy Youmans, who died on April 7, 1865 while serving in Company K of the 56th New York regiment. The Civil War ended two days later.
This cemetery was restored by the Eagle Scouts as indicated by the plaque below and the graves in this cemetery date back to the mid-1800’s.
We spent a few moments here to pay our respects.
We continued along on the Beech Trail until we came to a woods road. Here the Beech Trail turns right, but we turned left onto Hasenclever Road.
Hasenclever Road was also a pleasure to walk on. The grassy surface was a nice change from the normally rocky trails of Harriman and the road had several long straightaways. Hasenclever Road, built in 1760 from Stony Point to Central Valley, is one of the oldest roads in the Park. Its significance is apparent from the many woods roads (most of which are overgrown) that branch off of it. Hasenclever Road was mapped by General Robert Erskine in 1778 for General Washington.
Myles, William J.. Harriman Trails: A Guide and History (Kindle Locations 3730-3731). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Kindle Edition.
This was once the main road to an old settlement.
Sandyfield was settled in 1760 on Hasenclever Road. Originally a settlement of about 30 houses, in the early 1940’s Sandyfield was intentionally flooded to create Lake Welch in Harriman State Park, despite protests from the residents, who were ultimately forced to leave in 1939. The road crosses a little concrete bridge, a reminder that until 1910 this was a county road.
Walking along the trail something caught my eye. About 15 feet from the road, on the right, is a Rockland County highway monument mounted on a rock.
A short distance beyond the highway monument marker, we arrived at a junction with the red-cross-on-white blazed Red Cross Trail. On the right side of the junction is the Hasenclever Mine. The mine, which is said to be 100 feet deep, is now filled with water.
The Hasenclever iron ore deposit was discovered and initially developed in 1765 by Peter Hasenclever, who purchased 1,000 acres of land, including the site, for the purpose of establishing an ironworks on the nearby Cedar Ponds (now Tiorati) Brook. Peter Hasenclever was an iron entrepreneur who headed a group of British investors known as the London Company.
Lenik, Edward J.. Iron Mine Trails (Kindle Locations 1704-1706). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Kindle Edition.
Once we were done checking out the mine, we proceeded west on the Red Cross Trail. We had now hiked about 3.75 miles. The Red Cross Trail was first blazed in April 1944, but it has been relocated several times since then.
The trail passes through thick mountain laurel, a powerline cut and past some rock formations before it descends a little to a northwest facing viewpoint. Fingerboard Mountain can be seen from the trail from a rock outcrop.
The Red Cross Trail now begins a steady descent and Lake Askoti can be seen through the trees. At the base of the descent, the Red Cross Trail passes by a rock outcrop along the shore of Lake Askoti, a man-made lake, approximately 41-acres in size. Askoti which means “this side,” was filled with water in 1937. A short spur trail leads to the edge of the lake.
Up to this point we hadn’t seen a single person on our hike. We had this view to ourselves for a short while, then a couple of ladies and their two children came to relax here. After taking in the view, we continued on our way. I lost sight of the trail, but Seven Lakes Drive was just feet away, so we bushwacked up towards the road where the markers became visible again.
The Red Cross Trail crosses Seven Lakes Drive and begins a steady climb up Pine Swamp Mountain.
After a short but steep climb, we arrived at the terminus of the Red Cross Trail. The inverted-red-triangle-on-white blazes that mark the Arden-Surebridge (A-SB) Trail forms a T-intersection. I sat on a rock as I waited for my hiking partners to catch up.
The Arden-Surebridge Trail was first blazed during the summer of 1921 by J. Ashton Allis. In December of 2014 the trail was relocated to alleviate erosion and ongoing impacts to sensitive habitats. That explains why on two previous hikes I did not see a fantastic view that the old trail provides. I had viewed images of the scenic view online and was determined to find it. I bushwacked up to the summit and hit a few deadends, but found a well beaten path and knew I was on the right track. I headed south and then came to the rock outcrop that I was looking for. Lake Skannatati and Lake Kanawauke from the summit of Pine Swamp Mountain.
I would have liked to have spent more time here, but since I did this part on my own, I didn’t want to keep my hiking partners waiting too long. I followed the route of the old Arden-Surebridge Trail south until it connected with the new re-route and descended towards the parking lot.
We made it to the parking area, which was pretty full at this point and after a short rest, got in the vehicle to find a spot to grill some food. Another great hike in the books that had a little bit of everything. I hope that you enjoyed reading and please don’t forget to follow my blog. Now get out there and take a hike!
Pros: Secluded trails, historic mining operation, scenic woods roads, rock formations, scenic views, lake views.
Cons: Narrow footpaths at times that make it hard to avoid brushing up against the foliage (Ticks).