November 3, 2019 – Warwick, NY
Length: Approximately 3.5 miles
Max elevation: 1,433 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 538 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Trailhead parking: Cascade Lake Rd, Warwick, NY 10990
Prospect Rock is a rock outcrop that overlooks Greenwood Lake atop Bellvale Mountain, in Orange County, NY. It is about 0.4 mile from the New York/New Jersey State line. The famed Appalachian Trail (AT), which winds its way almost 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine and cuts through 38 miles of Orange County (nearly 7 miles in Warwick), first enters New York at the Warwick border with New Jersey. An American flag flaps in the breeze at Prospect Rock, marking the highest point on the AT in New York at 1,433 feet.
Bellvale Mountain is a mountain range located near Bellvale in Orange County, New York. It is a continuation of Bearfort Mountain in New Jersey. The Appalachian Trail is located along the ridge of the mountain. Puddingstone of the Skunnemunk Conglomerate is visible along the ridge.
Cascade Lake Park is located at the end of a rural residential neighborhood on Cascade Lake Road, in the southern section of the Town of Warwick, near the New York/New Jersey border. The mostly undeveloped park is comprised of 504-acres and is used for passive enjoyment of a natural environment. There is ample parking in the paved lot and the park has several benches, but no picnic tables or trash receptacles. This park has been identified as a Natural Resource Area under the NRPA classification guidelines. Cascade Lake Park is owned and maintained by the Town of Warwick.
Cascade Lake Park was named for the 5-acre man-made reservoir that was formed by damming Longhouse Creek in order to harness water power. Cascade Lake allows non-motorized boating and fishing. There is access to the water for the launching of a rowboat, canoe or kayak.
The park is criss-crossed with numerous woods roads and although some of them are blazed (some sporadically and/or faded), they may be a little confusing. Unfortunately there is a history of illegal ATV activity in the park so one needs to be vigilant while hiking the trails.
The Blue Trail, also known as the Zig-Zag Trail, has gotten some fresh paint and is well marked. This blue-blazed trail heads in a southeasterly direction from the parking area on a woods road that climbs steadily towards the ridge of Bellvale Mountain. It eventually turns left onto a footpath, leaving the road, where it continues to climb, ending at a junction with the Appalachian Trail, just north of Prospect Rock.
We were looking to do a moderate hike with some good views and different options. With all the trails in Cascade Lake Park and almost 2,200 miles of the AT on Bellvale Mountain, our options were plenty. I hiked the eastern slope of Bellvale Mountain via the State Line Trail in 2018 and that was steep. I was looking for a slightly gentler option to get to those views of Greenwood Lake. This hike fit the bill perfectly.
We took the blue-blazed Zig-Zag Trail all the way to the Bellvale Mountain ridge, turned right, walked a short distance to Prospect Rock and hung out there for a bit. We then headed south on the AT for about 0.4 mile, to the NY-NJ border. We then retraced our steps along the AT and descended via the Blue Trail, back to the parking lot. A simple and easy to follow hike that is perfect for a cool day.
We took a left on the lower leg of the Pink Trail just to add some length to the hike, but it comes to a dead end where the trail is washed out by a swamp and there is no way to get around it without submerging your feet. I marked it on the track below.
From the southern end of the parking area, proceed past the steel barrier, marked with three blue blazes. This is the start of the blue-blazed Zig-Zag Trail, which you will be following for the first mile of the hike. Follow the blue blazes as they head in a southerly direction on a wide woods road, passing alongside Cascade Lake and a short distance later, the dam waterfall, which cascades and flows into Longhouse Creek.
The Blue Trail starts to curve to the east and soon reaches a four-way intersection. Continue straight through the intersection, then continue straight through a second intersection. At a third intersection, the trail veers to the right and uphill along a washed out, eroded section of the road. Follow the blue blazes as the eroded woods road continues uphill on a moderate grade. At the top of the hill you’ll reach a fourth and fifth intersection of woods roads. Keep an eye on the blue blazes as they turn left into the woods on a footpath, leaving the woods road, at the fifth intersection.
The narrow footpath now enters the woods and soon crosses a sixth intersection with another woods road and continues uphill, sometimes steeply. The blue blazes turn left at a large rock outcrop and climbs through the rocks to where the Blue Trail ends at the ridge of Bellvale Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail crosses.
Turn right (south) on the Appalachian Trail which now climbs steeply on puddingstone conglomerate slabs to Prospect Rock, marked by an American Flag. This is an outstanding vantage point over Greenwood Lake, with the hills of Sterling Forest beyond. This is a good spot to take a break and enjoy the view.
Prospect Rock is the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in New York State, at 1,433 feet above sea level.
From Prospect Rock, the trail descends on a grassy woods road, interrupted by various rock outcrops. After passing through a dense growth of pitch pines, the trail arrives at the New York-New Jersey state line, marked by initials painted on the bedrock.
This is the turnaround spot of the hike.
Now retrace your steps on the Appalachian Trail (north), passing Prospect Rock and turning left on the blue-blazed Zig-Zag Trail. Follow the blue blazes through the woods as they descend and turn right when the Blue Trail joins the woods road.
Follow the Blue Trail as it heads downhill on the eroded woods road, past the dam waterfall, Cascade Lake and back to the parking lot, where the hike began.
A great hike with some outstanding views. This is probably one of the easier ways to get to the ridge of Bellvale Mountain. We were the only ones on the trail and at the ridge during our hike. We spent some time up there soaking in the November sun and enjoying the view. A good hike to do on cooler days because the wide woods road and the mostly exposed ridge-line doesn’t offer much protection from the sun. By doing this hike you can brag to your friends that you hiked from New York, all the way to New Jersey.
Scenic views, Appalachian Trail, Bellvale Mountain ridge, well blazed trails.
Although we didn’t see any ATVs, there is evidence of their use in Cascade Lake Park.
Take a hike!