High Tor – Palisades Interstate Park

June 24, 2018 – New City, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 3 miles

Max elevation: 832 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 793 ft.

Route type: Out and back

Map: Hudson Palisades Trails Map #112

Trailhead parking: Haverstraw Rd, New City, NY 10956 (roadside parking)

 

The mountainous ridge within High Tor State Park is part of the Palisades escarpment, which ends at New York State Route 45. At 832 feet above sea level, High Tor is the highest point on the Hudson Palisades. One of Rockland County’s best-known landmarks, High Tor offers outstanding views of the Hudson River and the town of Haverstraw below. During the Revolutionary War, beacons were placed on the summit to alert the Colonists of approaching British troops. It was also used as an air raid watch during World War II.

Like Tallman or Hook Mountain, this chunk of South Mountain was, by virtue of its trap rock composition, faced with the threat of destruction by quarrying. On numerous occasions, quarry operators sought to buy the property from its owner, Elmer Van Orden. While Van Orden always refused to sell, his death in 1942 revived fears that High Tor might end up defaced by quarrying. One of Rockland County’s most beautiful sites, it had inspired countless poets, artists, and even playwrights. Among them Maxwell Anderson, whose well-known 1937 play, High Tor, is the basis of a 1956 movie with Bing Cosby and Julie Andrews.

High Tor - courtesy of Historical Society of Rockland County

High Tor – courtesy of Historical Society of Rockland County

At Van Orden’s death, the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission immediately sought to acquire the property. A campaign led by the Hudson River Conservation Society and the Rockland County Conservation Association, and supported by dozens of groups and individuals, raised sufficient funds to purchase the property, which was transferred to the Commission in April, 1943. At the same time, Archer Huntington decided to donate his own 470-acre estate, which included Little Tor.

High Tor summit

High Tor summit

The park is traversed by a 3.5-mile section of the Long Path. In addition, a woods road leads north from the parking lot to cross the Long Path along the ridge top and continues north to the top of the promontory known as Little Tor. High and Little Tor comprise the major part of South Mountain, which is the northern boundary of the Palisades.

On the day of this hike, the weather forecast called for rain and fog. There was a window of several hours where I felt that we could get a short hike in before it began to rain. Having hiked most of the Palisades, I decided on this short out and back on this Sunday Morning.

High Tor - Palisades Interstate Park

High Tor – Palisades Interstate Park

From the intersection of Ridge Road (CR 23), we proceeded west on Old Route 304.

intersection of Ridge Road (CR 23)

intersection of Ridge Road (CR 23)

Just beyond the fourth telephone pole from the intersection, a double blaze on a tree indicates that the Long Path (which has been running along the road) turns right and enters the woods. We would be following the aqua-blazed Long Path all the way to the summit.

Long Path

Long Path

After leaving the road, the Long Path crosses several wet areas on puncheons and soon begins a moderate climb on a rocky footpath.

Long Path

Long Path

A short distance beyond, the trail bears left, crosses a stream on a wooden bridge, briefly levels off, then continues to climb. In half a mile, after gaining about 250 feet in elevation, the trail bears left and levels off again. It was at about this time that I saw a Coyote, just ahead, about 30 feet to my right. I stopped to try to raise my camera, but it saw me and took off into the woods.

Long Path

Long Path

The Long Path descends a little to reach a junction with the white-blazed Spur Path, which begins on the left (the junction is marked by two signposts and a triple white blaze on a tree).

junction with the white-blazed Spur Trail

junction with the white-blazed Spur Trail

On the way back down, we would venture down the Spur Trail, but for now, we proceeded ahead on the Long Path, which now resumes a gradual climb. In another third of a mile, the Long Path reaches the crest of the ridge. To the right, the Hudson River is visible below through the trees. An unmarked woods road proceeds ahead, but we turned sharply left, continuing to follow the aqua blazes of the Long Path. After a short gentle uphill stretch, we reached the base of a steep talus slope.

Long Path

Long Path

The trail now begins a steep climb of High Tor.

Long Path

Long Path

The grade moderates as the trail skirts a rocky knob on the left and descends a little into a ravine, but the climb soon resumes, with a number of steep sections.

Long Path

Long Path

After passing through a grassy area,

Long Path

Long Path

Long Path

Long Path

The Long Path emerges on the 832-foot-high summit of High Tor, having climbed over 600 vertical feet from the start of the hike.

summit of High Tor

summit of High Tor

Even on this overcast morning, the views from High Tor are spectacular. Directly below to the northeast is the town of Haverstraw, with the Hudson River to the east.

Haverstraw, with the Hudson River to the east

Haverstraw, with the Hudson River to the east

To the south, you can see the large Lake DeForest.

Lake DeForest

Lake DeForest

To the north and west are the rolling hills of Harriman State Park, visible on a clear day. An aircraft beacon was once located on the summit, and the anchors of the beacon are still visible.

anchor - High Tor summit

anchor – High Tor summit

There is also plenty of graffiti at the summit as well.

graffiti - High Tor summit

graffiti – High Tor summit

We spent quite some time at the summit, hoping for the sky to clear. Instead, some dark clouds appeared and we decided to make our way down the mountain before we got caught in a downpour. We retraced our steps on the Long Path, to the junction with the Spur Path.

junction with the Spur Path

junction with the Spur Path

junction with the Spur Path

junction with the Spur Path

We turned right onto the white-blazed Spur Path which heads gently downhill in a westerly direction.

Spur Path

Spur Path

The trail travels through the woods then comes out on an open field and ends at an informational sign with history about the property.

Spur Path

Spur Path

Spur Path

Spur Path

The ruins of the Youmans-Van Orden House are just beyond the sign. The area is overgrown and they are best viewed in the winter months. Behind the fireplace, there are more remnants of the house, but they are difficult to see with all the heavy foliage surrounding them.

Youmans-Van Orden House

Youmans-Van Orden House

Youmans-Van Orden House

Youmans-Van Orden House

Youmans-Van Orden House

Youmans-Van Orden House

I found what appears to be a Deer skull in the fireplace.

Deer skull

Deer skull

We sat here for a short time and then felt some drops. That was our cue to get it in gear and finish up this hike. We retraced our steps back to the Long Path and turned right. From there it was an easy walk down, the same way we came up. We then walked about 100 feet on the road and back to the parking area, where our hike began.

Long Path

Long Path

This is a great short hike with some semi-challenging areas. On the day we visited, we passed several hikers, but while at the summit, several others arrived. This is a great spot with excellent views of the Hudson Valley. The ruins are better visited when they are not covered with vegetation. I plan on going back soon and including Low Tor on my subsequent hike.

Pros: Fantastic views, Long Path, well blazed trails, Hudson River, the Palisades.

Cons: Graffiti at the summit, can get crowded.

Take a hike!

High Tor - Palisades Interstate Park

High Tor – Palisades Interstate Park

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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