Mountain Lakes Park

January‎ ‎27‎, ‎2019 – North Salem, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 5.2 miles

Max elevation: 982 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 629 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Map: Brochure and trail map – Maps available at Visitor Center

Park hours: Open seven days a week, dawn to dusk, year-round.
Phone: (914) 864-7312

Trailhead parking: 201 Hawley Road, North Salem, NY 10560

 

Overview:

The 1,082-acre Mountain Lakes Park is Westchester’s northernmost county park. It is characterized by a rugged landscape and native hardwood forest with miles of trails. The park boasts five lakes and a spectacular overlook, which makes for breathtaking hiking destinations. Although located in North Salem, 68-acres of the park are in Lewisboro. The highest point in Lewisboro, at 850 feet, offers a view of the three lakes. The highest elevation in Westchester County, Bailey Mountain, at 982 feet is also inside the park.

Mountain Lakes Park

Mountain Lakes Park

Mountain Lakes Park offers the total outdoor experience including camping, fishing, ice skating, hiking, nature exploration, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, picnicking and a high/low ropes challenge course.

Mountain Lakes Park

Mountain Lakes Park

During July and August, the park is home to Camp Morty, a traditional camp experience for underprivileged children residing in Westchester County. Camp Morty is the county’s sleep-away summer camp for boys and girls who live in foster homes or are receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services. It is named in memory of Morton Hyman, who served for nearly 20 years as supervisor of camping for Westchester County Parks.

Camp Morty - Mountain Lakes Park

Camp Morty – Mountain Lakes Park

History:

Mountain Lakes Park was purchased by Westchester County in 1961. Part of a tract of land originally settled as Ridgefield, it was purchased sometime in the early 1700’s from Chief Catoonah of the Long Pond Indians. When the CT-NY border was changed in 1731, this was part of the “oblong lands” given to New York. Part of the property was once owned by George F. Bailey of circus fame. Later it belonged to Henry B. Anderson, a prominent attorney who built ten miles of road in the park in anticipation of developing a rival to Tuxedo Park. Until its close in the 1930’s, it attracted more than 20,000 visitors who enjoyed the view to the Hudson River. In 1956, the property was sold to a developer, but then bought by the county to establish an overnight camp for youngsters.

Trails Overview:

The park features seven well blazed trails plus several connecting trails that travel through hardwood forests, rock outcrops and cross meandering streams.

  • The 3.6-mile-long Orange Trail loops around the park, following woods roads for most of its length (the first 0.7 mile east of the park office is paved).
  • The 1.7-mile-long Yellow Trail loops around the northeast corner of the park.
  • The 2.0-mile-long Blue Trail loops around the eastern end of the park.
  • The 1.2-mile-long White Trail leads to a panoramic south-facing viewpoint and can be combined with a portion of the Orange Trail to make a 1.7-mile-long loop.
  • The 1.9-mile-long Old Sib Trail, the newest trail in the park, traverses its northern section. It features rolling terrain and passes through an area with an abundance of old stone walls. The Old Sib Trail can be combined with the Yellow, Orange and Blue Trails to form a loop.
  • The 0.3-mile-long Green Trail leads to the summit of Bailey Mountain, the highest point in Westchester County (unfortunately, there is no view).
  • The 1.5-mile-long Red Trail goes around Hemlock Lake and Spruce Lake.
Mountain Lakes Park Trail Map

Mountain Lakes Park Trail Map

The Hike:

This 5.2 mile loop hike was done counterclockwise and involves some bushwacking and off trail exploration. Hikers can choose to stick to the marked trails if so desired. Longer or shorter loop hikes can be done using this guide as a reference.

Mountain Lakes Park

Mountain Lakes Park

From the park office, we proceeded ahead on the paved road, passing a gate. The road is marked with orange blazes and passes the entrance to Camp Morty on the left.

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Orange Trail

Near the the top of the hill, there is a gravel parking area on the right. The White Trail begins just past a locked gate in the back of the parking area onto a woods road that heads uphill in a southerly direction. Seeing white blazes throught the trees, a short distance away, we took a shortcut on an unmarked path to the White Trail.

unmarked path to the White Trail

unmarked path to the White Trail

We followed the woods road, the route of the White Trail, which climbs gradually and reaches a turnaround at the crest of the rise. Bearing right here and leaving the White Trail, we continued to a viewpoint by a cedar tree. A bench has been placed here for hikers to take a break to enjoy the panoramic south-facing view over Lakes Waccabuc (to the right) and Oscaleta (to the left).

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Lookout Point - Mountain Lakes Park

Lookout Point – Mountain Lakes Park

Lookout Point - Mountain Lakes Park

Lookout Point – Mountain Lakes Park

Lookout Point - Mountain Lakes Park

Lookout Point – Mountain Lakes Park

After taking in the view, we went back to the White Trail and continued ahead. The trail now follows a footpath through a ravine and bears left to climb stone steps below a large rock outcrop.

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

After bearing right and continuing to climb, the trail reaches a seasonal viewpoint over Lakes Rippowam and Oscaleta from a rock ledge.

seasonal viewpoint - Mountain Lakes Park

seasonal viewpoint – Mountain Lakes Park

From the viewpoint, the trail bears left and continues to climb. At the crest of the rise (910 feet), this hike has climbed about 300 vertical feet from the park office. The trail now levels off and soon joins a woods road that runs along the park boundary, with private property on the right. The woods road descends gradually, curves to the left and ends at the park road which is the Orange Trail.

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

terminus of White Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

terminus of White Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

We turned right and followed the Orange Trail, which begins a steady, gentle climb. After curving to the right, the trail passes a trail on the left that leads to the Larch Lean-to, as well as an interesting rock outcrop. The trail now curves to the left and descends slightly to reach a junction. We veered right at the fork and continued on the Blue Trail, soon reaching the start of the Green Trail on the left.

Orange Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

veer right onto Blue Trail

veer right onto Blue Trail

Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

The Green Trail climbs gradually towards the summit of Bailey Mountain, the highest point in Westchester County at 982 feet. After a brief climb, the trail levels off and reaches the highest point, marked by a Witness Post. Previously there was a sign there, but it is frequently stolen and according to a park employee, it is replaced about every six months.

Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

From the summit, the Green Trail is relatively level as it heads northwest along the ridge. It then turns left, descends steeply and ends at a gravel road, the route of the Orange Trail.

Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

terminus of Green Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

terminus of Green Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

We turned right on the Orange Trail which heads northwest on the gravel road and passes the Cedar Campsite on the right. In about 630 yards the Orange Trail comes to a junction with the Blue Trail, which crosses the road. Here we turned left.

Orange Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Cedar Campsite - Orange Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Cedar Campsite – Orange Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

The Blue Trail enters the woods and heads southwest. In about 280 yards, the Blue Trail comes to a fork with an unmarked woods road. That road leads to the northern side of Hemlock Lake. We veered left to remain on the Blue Trail.

Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

stay left on Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

stay left on Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

The Blue Trail begins a steady descent through a valley with some interesting rock formations. At the base of the descent, the trail levels off and crosses Crook Brook alongside a lovely cascade.

rock formation - Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

rock formation – Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Crook Brook - Blue Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Crook Brook – Blue Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Just before the trail begins to climb and veer to the east, we left the trail and began to bushwack in a westerly direction towards Hemlock Lake. In about 200 yards we reached the Hemlock Lake (HL) Trail and turned left. The trail comes close to the shore of the lake and runs along its edge, soon reaching a lean-to at the Hemlock South Campsite, which overlooks the lake. We stopped here to take a break and have a snack.

Hemlock Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Campsite - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Campsite – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake – Mountain Lakes Park

The Hemlock Lake Trail passes alongside the mess hall and a moss covered area with some rock outcrops along the shore of the lake. We then left the trail and walked the park road to the western end of Hemlock Lake.

Mess Hall - Hemlock Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Mess Hall – Hemlock Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake - Mountain Lakes Park

Hemlock Lake – Mountain Lakes Park

Directly in front of the lake is a gravel road that is not listed on the trail map. We took this road past the swimming pool and onto an open field. We then entered the woods and began bushwacking towards Spruce Lake. Along the way we saw a cluster of small cabins and a stone wall that leads all the way to the lake’s shore.

park road - Mountain Lakes Park

park road – Mountain Lakes Park

swimming pool - Mountain Lakes Park

swimming pool – Mountain Lakes Park

open field - Mountain Lakes Park

open field – Mountain Lakes Park

bushwack - Mountain Lakes Park

bushwack – Mountain Lakes Park

bushwack - Mountain Lakes Park

bushwack – Mountain Lakes Park

bushwack - Mountain Lakes Park

bushwack – Mountain Lakes Park

Once near the shore of the lake, We reached the Spruce Lake Trail and turned left. The trail crosses a stone wall and runs close to the edge of the lake. It then crosses Crook Brook on a small wooden footbridge, with another lovely cascade to the left.

Spruce Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake - Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake – Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Spruce Lake Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

In about 210 yards, we reached the start of the Red Trail, which begins on the left. The Red Trail climbs gradually through the woods as it heads east and parallels Crook Brook, passing another cascade. The trail soon reaches a stone chamber to the right of the trail.

Red Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Red Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Crook Brook - Red Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Crook Brook – Red Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Red Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Red Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Corbelled Stone Chambers are scattered throughout the Eastern part of North America. They were intricately built by overlapping stones to curve the wall inward, with a massive lintel stone placed across the top of the entranceway and capstones put in place to form the roof. They were often built into hillsides and near water sources. There is much debate over who built them and their original purpose. Some believe they are equivalent to root cellars built by the colonists while others believe they date back thousands of years.

Corbelled Stone Chamber - Mountain Lakes Park

Corbelled Stone Chamber – Mountain Lakes Park

We then took a small footpath next to the stone chamber, passing the infirmary and out to the paved road, the route of the Orange Trail.

infirmary - Mountain Lakes Park

infirmary – Mountain Lakes Park

We turned right on the Orange Trail and began heading downhill. We passed through a gate, with a small gravel parking area on the left (the start of the White Trail from earlier), now retracing our steps past Camp Morty (on the right) and continuing downhill on the paved road back to the parking area, where the hike began.

Orange Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail - Mountain Lakes Park

Orange Trail – Mountain Lakes Park

Review:

This is one of Westchester’s best kept secrets (maybe not anymore). The trails are rugged enough to make it interesting and the meandering streams with their many cascades make for an enjoyable hike. We only explored a small section of the park and look forward to a return visit. This is a better place to hike in the winter months as it probably gets quite crowded in the summer with all the activities they offer.

Pros: Scenic trails, rock formations, Lookout Point, many stream crossings, lesser traveled.

Cons: No view on Bailey Mountain.

Take a hike!

Mountain Lakes Park

Mountain Lakes Park

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