September 4, 2017 – Harriman, NY
Difficulty: Moderate (Some bushwacking)
Length: Approximately 5 miles
Max elevation: 1,083 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 709 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Trailhead parking: 627-633 Long Mountain Pkwy, Harriman, NY 10926
Harriman State Park is home to thirty-six lakes and ponds. Fourteen of these are natural water bodies, some of which have been enlarged by the construction of dams. The others are entirely man-made. NY state run summer camps were built around some of these lakes and some continue to operate to this day. Some camps were never completed or shut down and abandoned due to fiscal constraints. There are remnants of these long forgotten camps throughout the park.
The lakes, which are quite scenic, make a great focal point to map a hike around. I tend to prefer the unbeaten path and seek less traveled areas when I hike. Looking on the map, I found these two bodies of water, Barnes Lake and Lake Massawippa sitting side by side at the intersection of NY 293 and US 6 (Long Mountain Parkway). Known as the “Quiet Corner,” it doesn’t get much foot traffic except for maybe the occasional fisherman. With the exception of the Long Path, which runs just to the north of these two lakes, there are no marked trails in this area.
Not being familiar with this section of the park and the lack of trails, I decided to adapt and improvise on the fly instead of mapping out a designated hike. I had no way of knowing the kind of shape the woods roads that travel through this area are in or even if they are passable. With that in mind, I was fully prepared to bushwack as necessary and just explore the area with no set mileage or route to follow.
We did this hike on Labor Day, which turned out to be another gorgeous day for hiking. We parked in the Lake Massawippa parking area which is easy to miss, even if you’re looking for it, in fact, I did. There is a small sign at the edge of the entrance to the parking area. I saw it as I drove by and quickly made a U-Turn and entered the parking area.
The parking area was empty when we arrived at approximately 9:00 am and we began by walking east on the paved road which promptly curved to the north. We walked past the cable strung across the road that prevents cars from driving down it.
Almost immediately we came across some remnants of structures along the road. What looks like a brick fireplace and/or chimney lays toppled just a few feet from the road.
The pavement ends and the road turns into a relatively level and and easy walking woods road that runs the entire length of the eastern shore of Barnes Lake.
We encountered some moss lined concrete steps that lead to what probably used to be a small beach. We bypassed the slick steps and instead walked down the hill.
Looking north from the “beach,” we got our first close up look of Barnes Lake.
Once known as Lake Miltana, the Park acquired it in 1921 from J. Milton Barnes for $15,000. (Also included were 86 acres which extended to the top of the ridge to the east.) During that year, the lake was used for bathing and boating by children from the Central Jewish Institute of New York City.
Myles, William J.. Harriman Trails: A Guide and History (Kindle Locations 5391-5393). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Kindle Edition.
Looking southwest, the lake is just as picturesque.
Continuing on the woods road, we saw the roof of another structure laying on the ground.
At the northern end of the lake, we walked onto the dam to get another view of Barnes Lake before we headed into the woods.
Barnes Lake is fed by Popolopen Creek, which runs north from Summit Lake. It is a natural lake which was somewhat enlarged in 1913, during J. Milton Barnes’ time, by a dam at the north end.
The woods road narrows and becomes more of a footpath as it heads northeast, away from the lake. On the map, it shows that the woods road ends by the dam.
The footpath climbs gently and then fizzles out. We began to bushwack east towards Lake Massawippa, hoping to find a trail near the shore.
Ideally, I wanted to head north, but that looked to be a difficult bushwack, so we headed south, towards Long Mountain Parkway (US 6), expecting that there would be a better chance of finding some kind of trail leading from the road. After spotting some empty beer bottles strewn about near the water, I knew we were getting close. There it was, a woods road that parallels the western shore of Lake Massawippa.
The woods road leads out to Long Mountain Parkway (US 6) where there is an orange barrier strung across it.
Turning left onto US 6, we began heading east along the wide shoulder.
In 1918, the land for 0.8 mile east of the Barnes property—which included the site of present-day Lake Massawippa—was given to the Park by W. Averell Harriman. In the fall of 1934, Civilian Conservation Corps Camp SP-23 was set up in Brooks Hollow, and work began on Dam #15, now known as Lake Massawippa (meaning “heroine”).
Myles, William J.. Harriman Trails: A Guide and History (Kindle Locations 5538-5540). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Kindle Edition.
A view of Lake Massawippa from US 6.
Just past the lake, we came to an entrance to a paved road. It is known as the Brooks Hollow Trail. One of the many unmarked roads and trails in Harriman State Park.
Almost immediately, we came to a fork in the road. Initially we went left which after climbing over a huge fallen tree, leads to a footpath along the edge of the lake. This footpath was overgrown so we turned around and instead chose to walk on the wider Brooks Hollow Trail.
The Brooks Hollow Trail starts from Route 6, just east of Lake Massawippa. It proceeds north, following a road along the east side of the lake.
The trail then passes through an abandoned camp. I have read that there were Boy Scout camps along the lake at one time, this may have been one of them. We walked over to one of the cabins that sits at the edge of Lake Massawippa.
The view south from the abandoned cabin.
There are quite a few structures that have been left to rot in this abandoned camp.
These ruined structures are not safe and we stayed a safe distance away from them.
There are several teepee like structures at the northern end of the lake that are made from steel pipes.
The Brooks Hollow Trail becomes obscure at several points in this area. We lost it once or twice while exploring the ruins of this camp, but with my superb navigational skills, we found the trail with no problems whatsoever.
The Brooks Hollow Trail heads northeast and narrows to a footpath at times, widens again then becomes obscure once more as it enters Brooks Hollow, a classic U-shaped post-glacial valley. This area was eerily quiet and we passed some bear scat on the trail, a sure way to heighten your senses. We made sure to talk loud and make noise as we walked through this desolate area.
The Long Path is just past the stream, but we didn’t run into it. The plan was to walk the aqua-blazed Long Path, which ascends Brooks Mountain steeply and passes a viewpoint over Lake Massawippa. It is real swampy in this area and there were no aqua colored trail markers to be found. Instead of searching for it, we began walking southwest and eventually we would run into it. The downside of that is we missed the viewpoint. It was a tough bushwack through Brooks Hollow. It was swampy, muddy and the rocks were slick. Nevertheless, we made it to a hill where the going was easier and began to ascend the southern edge of Brooks Mountain and found the Long Path.
We climbed the hill towards the summit in search of the view, but after a lame try we gave up and turned around. We then took a break and rested up a little. We then began heading southwest on the Long Path.
The Long Path heads toward the northern end of Barnes Lake then veers to the west and crosses NY 293. We left the Long Path and began walking south along the wide shoulder of NY 293. Barnes Lake is visible from the road at this point.
It was shortly before 1:00 pm and there wasn’t too much traffic, which made the road walk much easier and safer.
There is a red dock on Barnes Lake that I wanted to visit so we took a detour from the road to check it out.
This turned out to be the highlight of the hike. We sat here for quite some time, enjoying the view, the cool breeze and a snack.
I truly enjoyed just sitting here gazing out at the lake. Not a bad view in the house.
With some reluctance, we gathered our gear and headed out. Once back on NY 293, I glanced back at my new favorite spot.
We continued on NY 293 and stayed left along the shoulder, heading back to US 6.
We walked up the entrance ramp towards US 6……
and then in a short distance we turned left into the Lake Massawippa parking area where the hike began.
Not one of the better hikes that I have done, but it had enough to keep me interested. The two lakes are beautiful and yes tranquil. We didn’t encounter anyone on our hike which is always a plus. The only people we saw was when we were sitting at the dock, there were people walking their dog on the other side of Barnes Lake where we first began the hike. Bushwacking takes me back to when I was a kid, there were no trails back then. If we wanted to get from point A to point B, we bushwacked there. It also tests your navigational skills and I would not recommend it unless you are proficient with a map and compass. What are your thoughts? I would like to know. I hope that you enjoyed reading this entry and please don’t forget to follow my blog. Now get out there and bushwack!
Pros: Very secluded area, abandoned camp ruins, Barnes Lake, Lake Massawippa, woods roads, bushwacking.
Cons: Road walks.