September 1, 2017 – Prattsville, NY
Difficulty: Easy – moderate
Length: Approximately 1.3 miles
Max elevation: 1,541 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 385 ft. (short, but steep climb)
Route type: Semi-circuit
Map: None available
Trailhead parking: 14234 NY-23 Prattsville, NY 12468
Pratt Rock, located in Prattsville, NY, it depicts the life of Zadock Pratt. Pratt was supposed to be buried in a tomb carved into the stone, but work was stopped after only a small recessed chamber was created because water leaked through the rock overhead, and excavating the stone was providing to be too difficult. The rock was originally a monument for Pratt’s son, George W. Pratt, who was killed in the Civil War. It is considered the first memorial for the Civil War. Pratt Rock Park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Legend has it that a young sculptor, Andrew W. Pearse, was walking to his home in Rensselaer, NY when he met Zadock Pratt on the road and asked him for a meal and a night’s lodging. Pratt who believed in working for one’s keep, asked the lad what he could do in return for the accommodations. Pearse said he was a stonecutter and so Pratt charged him with carving a horse on a nearby rock. The rock, however was not on Pratt’s property and the sculptor was ordered to leave by the owner. When Pearse related this to Pratt, Pratt sent him to carve in the mountainside property that he owned. Thus began, in 1845 the first in a series of carved subjects that symbolized major events in his life.
This is one of those places that requires a visit just for its unique nature. I had read about it online and since I happened to be in the general vicinity, I decided to pay it a visit. The unmarked trails are relatively easy to follow and the short, but steep ascent to the base of the cliffs leads to the stone carvings on the rock face. Another trail leads to the top of the cliffs, just above the carvings and offers enjoyable views over the Schoharie Creek and the surrounding hills. I arrived there shortly before 2:00 pm on a Friday afternoon and parked in the small lot that has room for about 8 cars. Adjacent to the parking area is a large kiosk with several picnic tables and informational signage with the history of Pratt Rock and its namesake Zadock Pratt.
Just to the right of the kiosk is a trail that leads up the hillside.
The trail parallels the road and passes a tall tombstone that marks the common grave of six of Zadock Pratt’s favorite horses and dogs.
The trail curves away from the road and rises more steeply. It passes a large boulder that has a bench carved into it.
The bench has what looks like a spade carved into the back rest.
The trail continues its steep ascent and in a short distance arrives at a fork that has another boulder with a carved in bench. The right fork heads to the stone carvings and the left fork leads to the views. I went right to check out the carvings.
I stopped here briefly and sat on the bench to catch my breath, then continued on.
The trail now climbs on switchbacks as it approaches the base of the cliffs. The first carving that is visible is of his son George W. Pratt who was shot during the Civil War and died from his wounds about two weeks later.
The trail is right up against the base of the cliffs with a steep drop off, making it a little difficult to get a good view of all the carvings.
Just below George W. Pratt, at the base of the cliff, is a large bench that was carved out.
Continuing east along the trail, Zadock Pratt’s likeness is visible. I thought I caught him eyeballing me, but I can’t be sure.
The unfinished grotto, which must have taken a lot of hard work to just get that far.
The Pratt coat of arms.
The “arm and hammer,” his tribute to the workingman.
I continued on the narrow trail which passes underneath an overhang.
The trail then widens a little as I headed a little further east.
Looking up I could see the layers of eroded sandstone that forms Pratt Rock.
I only went east part of the way as there were faint trails that led in several different directions. I wasn’t sure if any of those trails led to the top, so I retraced my steps and then I saw something that I had missed earlier. The horse was said to be the first thing that was carved here.
I then retraced my steps back down to the boulder with the bench carved into it and turned right. I headed up the hill, crossed a stone wall and immediately turned right. The trail continues up steeply towards the top of Pratt Rock.
After another brief, but steep climb, I was rewarded with a great view of the Schoharie Creek and the surrounding valley.
The trail continues to climb to what I assume are more views, but I had driven over 2 hours from Westchester County and was a little tired. In hindsight, I probably should have gone a little further up.
I then retraced my steps back down the hill and walked down towards NY-23 and walked back towards the parking area along the top of the stone wall.
I am glad that I had the opportunity to check this place out. The history behind it is fascinating as was Zadock Pratt. A very accomplished individual with enough money to have his legacy written in stone. If you get a chance to visit, do so, it’s worth the trip.
Pros: Stone carvings, views, cliffs, interesting history.
Cons: Some of the carvings are difficult to get a good look at.