February 3, 2019 – North Salem, NY
Length: Approximately 4.2 miles
Max elevation: 732 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 663 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Map: Halmi, Hearst-Mead, O’Donohue Preserves
Trail Map – Mountain Lakes Park Brochure and trail map
Trailhead parking: 698-640 NY-121, North Salem, NY 10560
Halmi Preserve – This 53 acre parcel was donated in 2002 by Mr. Robert Halmi, Jr. and can be accessed from Grant Road in between its intersections of Route 116 and June Road. An extensive trail system provides terrific walking and riding opportunities.
From the very highest point, there is a stone outcropping surrounded by wild blueberry bushes where one can see the Titicus Reservoir. This parcel has created a corridor of preserved space in the center of North Salem and provides access to the Hearst-Mead Parcel.
Hearst-Mead Preserve – In 1976, William and Austine Hearst donated almost 62 acres of land to the North Salem Open Land Foundation, the second parcel of their generous gift (the other is the 6.6 acre Hearst Preserve). One year later, in December 1977, Eugenie Mead donated the adjacent 8 acres, giving NSOLF 70 acres of contiguous open space.
With the Halmi Preserve acquisition in 2002 and the O’Donohue Preserve in 2006, it brings the total of uninterrupted open space in the center of North Salem to 135 acres.
The Hearst-Mead Preserve is steeply sloped and fully wooded and includes an old road bed and plenty of stone walls, a great walking spot for the energetic enthusiast. This parcel is accessed through the Halmi Preserve.
O’Donohue Preserve – Acquired in 2006, this 11 acre parcel located along Grant Road is almost entirely wooded with wetlands, vernal pools and is bordered on 2 sides with streams. A bridle path runs near the eastern property line. With its proximity adjacent to the Halmi Preseve, which connects to the 70 acre Hearst Mead Preserve, this acquisition has extended a corridor of preserved space in the center of North Salem. Named the O’Donohue Preserve in honor of the leadership contribution made by Kevin and Laura O’Donohue.
The three adjoining preserves have four marked hiking trails totaling 3 miles. The Red Trail in the Hearst-Mead Preserve connects to the North Salem (NS) Trail in the adjacent Mountain Lakes Park, making longer hikes possible.
Less than a mile from the Halmi Preserve Trailhead, on New York State Route 116, is a worthwhile stop. Balanced Rock is easy to find and visit since it’s located right on the side of the road. There is a small parking area in front of a barn, alongside the rock.
The address for Balanced Rock is 667 Titicus Road, North Salem, NY 10560.
We drove right by the trailhead without seeing it. I was expecting some kind of an entrance that leads to a small parking area, but that is not the case. There is a small pull-off parking area with room for several cars and it is easy to miss. The Google Map coordinates listed above are correct and you need to keep an eye out for the parking area. There were no cars when we visited, which made it easier to miss. A small sign is located about 30 feet from the parking area, set back from the road, which is also easy to miss.
Since there are only a combined three miles worth of marked hiking trails in the three preserves, we hit every section of trail with the exception of a short stretch of the Yellow Trail that is sandwiched between the White Trail. We also included a short walk to the scenic Pine Lake in Mountain Lakes Park to lengthen the hike.
The track below shows the hike as done in a counterclockwise fashion, retracing our steps from Mountain Lakes Park and also on a section of the Yellow Trail.
The White Trail begins at the back of the parking area and enters the woods. In a short distance, the white blazes become visible and there is also a small sign there to let you know you are in the right place. In about 280 feet, the White Trail splits. We veered right and followed the white blazes as they head south, with a stone wall on the left and horse farms to the right.
The trail soon turns left, goes through a break in the stone wall and heads southeast. The White Trail then turns right and then left, paralleling a stone wall, now heading northeast.
The White Trail soon joins the Yellow Trail that comes in from the left. The co-aligned White and Yellow Trails climb gradually and cross a stream on a wooden footbridge with a bench alongside it. The trail continues to climb and passes by some interesting looking rock formations.
The co-aligned trails then split, with the Yellow Trail going to the right as the White Trail leaves to the left. Now following the yellow blazes, the trail begins to head south. It climbs a little, then descends into a small valley and passes through several stone walls and enters the Hearst-Mead Preserve. The boundary of the preserves are not marked and it is hard to tell when exactly one enters or leaves the preserves.
The Yellow Trail comes to a T-intersection with the Red Trail, marked with a wooden chair. Turning right at the junction, the Red Trail descends gradually and soon climbs. It heads west at first, turns left then heads south, passing through a stone wall. The Red Trail passes through another stone wall, then turns left and heads east.
A short distance after passing through yet another stone wall, the Red Trail comes to a T-Intersection. To the right (blazed red), is a short spur trail that leads to another stone wall. The back of a small sign is visible just before the wall which marks the boundary of the Hearst-Mead Preserve. To continue to Mountain Lakes Park, turn right. (To stay in the preserve and complete a shorter loop, turn left and continue following the Red Trail back to the junction with the Yellow Trail.)
After passing through the stone wall, the trail crosses a power-lines cut. Just beyond the cut, the “NS” blazes appear. This is the North Salem Trail and part of Mountain Lakes Park. The NS Trail heads in southerly direction, passes through another stone wall, parallels a stream then crosses the same stream.
Soon the trail bends to the left and a short distance later, reaches a park road, the route of the Orange Trail in Mountain Lakes Park.
Here we turned right and followed the orange blazes down the hill.
The road was a sheet of ice on this day so I hitched a ride to cross the road.
The Orange Trail turns left at a Y-intersection with another park road, heads south along Pine Lake and reaches the Big Pine Campsite. This would be our turn around spot.
We sat at a picnic table here and enjoyed a snack while admiring the view.
A beaver lodge directly across the lake.
Retracing our steps on the Orange Trail, we headed uphill.
Turning left at the NS Trail, we continued retracing our steps. Recrossing the stream, passing through the stone wall and crossing the power-line cut.
We then reentered the Hearst-Mead Preserve and followed the red blazes as they lead north, passing the junction of the Red Trail on the left, where we walked previously.
An interesting looking boulder along the Red Trail.
In about 400 yards, the Red Trail comes to the junction with the Yellow Trail, where we turned right. Now following the yellow blazes, where we previously walked, earlier in the hike, we passed through several stone walls and reentered the Halmi Preserve.
In about another 550 yards, the Yellow Trail comes to a junction with the White Trail. Turning right here, we now followed the white blazes as they lead around the eastern perimeter of the preserve. At one point the trail parallels a stone wall that borders private property.
The White Trail descends and comes to a junction with the orange-blazed Vernal Pool Loop Trail. We turned right, entering the O’Donohue Preserve now following the orange blazes.
The Orange Trail heads in an easterly direction as it heads uphill.
The trail then curves left and descends as it borders private property.
The Orange Trail then ends at the White Trail, where we turned right.
The White Trail descends gradually as it heads southwest and crosses a stream on rocks.
The White Trail passes through a stone wall, turns right, then passes through another stone wall and turns right again. The White Trail then leads a short distance back to the parking area, where the hike began.
This is a really nice hike in the woods. Although the NSOLF description states that there is a view, I didn’t see one, but it’s a serene place to spend a few hours. We didn’t encounter anyone else while we were there and the woods were quiet. The trails are well marked, with a few easy stream crossings. The gently rolling hills make it a good winter hike when there is snow or ice on the ground. A visit to Pine Lake is a worthwhile detour. It is a very scenic spot with picnic tables, grills and lean-tos.
Pros: Well blazed trails, stone walls, rock formations.
Cons: No formal entrances to the preserves.
Take a hike!
Great description of the hike. Thanks so much for explaining how to find the trail head as it is a bit tricky to find. Great hike ~ will definitely be doing this one again!
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Thanks for reading, glad it was helpful.