June 5, 2021 – Putnam Valley, NY
Difficulty: Moderate – strenuous
Length: Approximately 4 miles
Max elevation: 935 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 922 ft.
Route type: Double Lollipop Loop
Free Web Map: Granite Mountain Preserve Trail Map 2020
Free Avenza App Map: Granite Mountain Preserve Trail Map – 2020
Trailhead parking: Peekskill Hollow Rd, Putnam Valley, NY 10579
No bathrooms on site
Granite Mountain Preserve is a 400-acre preserve that lies within the boundaries of the East Hudson Highlands in Putnam Valley, NY. Nestled between Oscawana Lake Road and Peekskill Hollow Road, it is just north of the Westchester County border in Putnam County and west of the Taconic State Parkway. Granite Mountain Preserve is owned and managed by Hudson Highlands Land Trust.
Granite Mountain is located within the Peekskill Hollow Brook watershed, part of both the City of Peekskill and Town of Cortlandt drinking water systems. Granite Mountain Preserve contains two peaks that rise more than 900 feet and is dominated by a northern hardwood forest that includes red and chestnut oak, hickory, tulip and sugar maple along with marshy wetlands and streams. The property also provides an excellent bird habitat and is known for its species-rich collection of flora.
The preserve includes a network of well marked woodland hiking trails, a new parking area and kiosk, making it a publicly accessible open space offering numerous non-motorized recreational opportunities. Granite Mountain Preserve is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were members of the Canopus group of the Nochpeem band of the “Wappinger Indian Confederacy.” As part of the Mohican nation, they spoke the Algonkian language.
The footpaths made by the Native Americans usually followed the stream valleys. The first settlers followed these footpaths and in the course of time, they became the roads we know today as Peekskill Hollow, Canopus Hollow and Oscawana Lake roads.
Dutch and English farmers moved into the area toward the end of the 17th Century. In 1697, the Highland Patent was granted to Adolph Philipse. The first settlers arrived around 1740. Under the Philipse Patent, the earliest European settlers in the area were the tenant farmers who leased tracts of land from the Philipse family during the first half of the eighteenth century and set about the business of clearing the rugged land for farming.
Despite such physical conditions as rocky soil and steep slopes which made farming a difficult occupation in Putnam Valley, its settlers were an industrious lot who cleared much of the land which has now been reforested. They raised corn, buckwheat, rye, oats, potatoes and turnips, along with a number of lesser crops.
The whole Preserve, like the entire region, was harvested for lumber, firewood and charcoal at various times throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of the Preserve, presumably, was deforested throughout the 1800’s for agriculture and timber harvesting, and stonewalls were built in large part in association with farming. The largest trees growing in the Preserve now are approximately 100 feet tall. The majority are likely no older than 100 years though some “wolf trees” may date to over a century.
In 2017, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) acquired three land parcels on Granite Mountain to create the Granite Mountain Preserve and permanently conserve 358 acres. In late 2018, they announced the expansion of the Preserve to 400 acres with the addition of an adjacent parcel.
The property included a network of informal trails, which have since been improved to better protect the property’s natural resources and enhance the visitor experience. Improvements include: the construction of new sustainable trails, including stone steps and rerouting some preexisting trails. Some of the work was performed by Tahawus Trails LLC, a full-service trail design, construction, and consulting company based in New York State.
A new welcome sign near the main gate on Peekskill Hollow Road was installed and a new parking/access area just past the main gate was completed at the end of 2018. Joshua Uchetel, a scout from Putnam Valley Boy Scouts of America Troop 41, designed and constructed a new informational kiosk beside the parking lot, which will offer helpful information to help guests plan their visit.
HHLT is also working with Putnam County on a management agreement for adjoining land, which will bring the Preserve to more than 500 acres in total.
There are approximately five miles of maintained, marked trails through rich, rocky woodlands, leading to rugged hilltops with limited views. The trail system consists of a network of woods roads and footpaths that are divided into three different color closed loops for hiking: a southern green trail loop, a yellow trail loop to Lookout Point, and a northern red trail loop. Connector trails link the three loops.
The trails are well maintained and clearly marked with Hudson Highlands Land Trust plastic discs of various colors with wooden signs at trail junctions.
The main entrance to the Preserve, marked with a “Welcome to Granite Mountain Preserve” sign, is located opposite Jeanne Drive and across the street from 500 Peekskill Hollow Road in Putnam Valley. Be sure to input “Granite Mountain Preserve” into Google Maps as just “Granite Mountain” will lead you to the wrong location. The new access area and parking lot is located inside the main gate.
There is room for approximately 8 vehicles in the small lot. When we arrived at 8 am on a June Saturday morning, there was one car already there. When we were done, just before 11 am, ours was the only vehicle in the lot.
It’s always a good idea to print out a map beforehand as there were none at the kiosk on the day of our visit.
This hike covers the Yellow and Red Trail loops, both done counterclockwise. The Yellow Trail was completed first, then the Red Trail. Both trails have moderate elevation gains, but it does add up.
The Red-Yellow Trail, which begins at the parking area, is the most strenuous part of the hike. It gains approximately 400 feet of elevation in about 1/2 a mile.
It was a hot and humid day with temps reaching 90°, we started the hike early and were done by 11 am. Although we worked up a sweat, the shaded trails throughout this hike provided protection from the sun. The parking lot is also shaded so we didn’t come back to a blazing hot vehicle.
From the parking area, head towards the kiosk and turn left onto a footpath where you will see triple red and yellow blazes on a tree. This is the start of the Red-Yellow Trail which connects the parking area to the interior of the preserve. You will be following the Red-Yellow Trail for the first 1/2-mile of the hike. The trail climbs stone steps and soon turns left. As the trail approaches private property, it turns right on a switchback. The trail continues to climb, sidehilling the steep slope.
As the trail steepens, there are stone steps built into the trail that gain elevation quickly. Soon the trail switchbacks again and continues its steep climb on a woods road that parallels an intermittent mountain stream. In about a 1/2-mile from the start, the Red-Yellow Trail comes to a junction with the lower leg of the Yellow Trail.
Continue straight past the junction with the lower leg of the Yellow Trail for another 500 feet. You will arrive at a T-intersection, where the Red-Yellow Trail turns right. You will come back to this junction later, but for now, turn left on the upper leg of the Yellow Trail, heading towards Lookout Rock. After crossing an intermittent stream on rocks, you’ll see triple yellow blazes on a tree.
Follow the yellow blazes as they weave their way through the woods. The trail continues to climb, but on a more moderate grade. As the trail begins to head north, it passes over a an old stone wall. At the top of the rise, the trail reaches the northernmost section of the preserve and turns left, bordering another stone wall.
Soon the trail begins to head in a southerly direction. The trail loops around, avoiding the true summit of Granite Mountain and soon parallels another stone wall. A short distance later, the trail reaches Lookout Rock.
This keyhole viewpoint from Lookout Rock provides southeast-facing limited views. During leaf off season the view should be much better. This makes a good spot to take a break and rest from the climb. You have now hiked about 1.3 miles.
When you are ready to continue, follow the Yellow Trail as it begins to descend, passing Mountain Laurel along the side of the trail.
In about 250 yards from Lookout Rock, the Yellow Trail comes to a junction with the start of the Green-Yellow Trail, marked with blazes and wooden signs. Turn left at this junction to remain on the Yellow Trail.
As the trail descends along the eastern slope of Granite Mountain, the forest becomes more dense. After several slight ups and downs, the trail descends to recross the intermittent stream on rocks and the Yellow Trail ends at the junction with the Red-Yellow Trail, closing the loop.
Turn left on the Red-Yellow Trail and head uphill for another 500 feet. You will arrive at the T-intersection that you encountered earlier in the hike. This time turn right towards the Red Loop.
Follow the Red-Yellow Trail for about 140 feet until its terminus at a collapsed stone wall. The Red Trail Loop begins on the other side of the wall. After passing through the stone wall, turn right on the Red Trail and follow it uphill as it travels on a woods road.
Soon the trail levels off as it sidehills the slope, heading in a northeasterly direction.
Looking up at the steep slope towards the summit, one can see cave-like openings in the granite rock formations.
The trail runs along the eastern border of the the preserve and soon begins a gradual ascent. The trail soon passes through a grassy area bounded on all sides by stone walls then veers left and begins to climb some more. The trail passes through a stone wall then over another stone wall.
As the trail bends to the west, it levels off and begins a gradual descent. In about 0.8-mile, the Red Trail closes the loop at the collapsed stone wall that you passed through earlier.
Turn right, leaving the Red Trail, crossing through the collapsed stone wall and begin retracing your steps on the Red-Yellow Trail. When you reach the junction with the Yellow Trail, turn left to remain on the Red-Yellow Trail. Follow the red/yellow blazes downhill, now retracing your steps back to the parking area, where the hike began.
Although the one view on this hike is not much to speak of, this was a really good hike. The trails are well marked and the preserve was free of litter. The landscape is scenic and the elevation gain will get your heart pumping. We only encountered two people while we were there and for the most part, had the place to ourselves. The bonus was that on a hot and humid day, the entire hike was in the shade.
Well marked trails, litter free, well maintained preserve, Trails are shaded throughout.
Take a hike!
- Granite Mountain Preserve – Hudson Highlands Land Trust
- Tahawus Trails LLC
- Land Trust Buys Granite Mountain – The Highlands Current – January 27, 2017
- The History Of Putnam County, N.Y.
- Historic Putnam Valley