May 21, 2022 – Putnam Valley, NY
Length: Approximately 4.2 miles
Max elevation: 918 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 756 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Buy Maps (Paper & Avenza): East Hudson Trails Map #103
Free Web Map: Fahnestock State Park Trail Map 2022
Free Avenza App Map: Fahnestock State Park Trail Map 2019
Trailhead parking: 4 Summit Ave, Putnam Valley, NY 10579
Limited street parking is available, though not in winter – No bathrooms on site
Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, also known as Fahnestock State Park, is a 16,171-acre state park located in north central Putnam County with portions in the towns of Carmel, Kent, Philipstown and Putnam Valley. The park is traversed by the Taconic State Parkway, US Route 9, NYS Route 301 and several local roads. Rail stations operated by Metro North Railroad are within ten miles of the park at Garrison, Cold Spring and Beacon. The park does not have a single, formal entrance. The park is managed and maintained by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Fahnestock is characterized by parallel ridges and hills that trend in a southwest to northeast direction. Steep slopes are often found on the southeast and northwest aspects of some of these ridges. Elevations range from approximately 400 feet in the lowest area of the park along Clove Creek in the vicinity of U.S. Route 9, to a maximum of over 1300 feet on a ridge west of Canopus Lake. The majority of the park is at elevations greater than 600 feet.
As the peaks of Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park are more hills than mountains, the hiking is generally less strenuous than others in the region. This makes the park a popular destination for casual hikers.
The Oscawana Ridge Trail is located on the southern section of Candlewood Hill in Putnam Valley. Candlewood Hill is a long ridge with its summit at an approximate elevation of 986 feet above sea level. It is located at the southeast end of Fahnestock State Park and is one of the park’s most prominent peaks. The southern portion of Candlewood Hill rises out of the western banks of Oscawana Lake.
In 2015, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation completed the purchase of 35 acres in Putnam Valley, protecting a ridge above Oscawana Lake from the impacts of residential development. The property will allow for the establishment of a public trailhead to facilitate development of trails in the southernmost section of Fahnestock Park, as designated in the park’s 2010 master plan.
The acreage was identified by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust as a Legacy Landscape conservation priority. The land was acquired for $414,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund.
In August 2021, a NY/NJ Trail Conference volunteer crew completed the new 2-mile-long Oscawana Ridge Trail on Candlewood Hill in the southern part of Fahnestock State Park near Oscawana Lake. The NY/NJ Trail Conference is now working with park staff to lay out a future loop trail down to the shore of Lake Oscawana. If you’d like to help build this trail when it’s approved, you can learn more about volunteering here.
The Oscawana Ridge Trail is marked with New York State Parks yellow plastic discs. It is about 2 miles long and mostly runs along old woods roads up on the ridge of Candlewood Hill. It is criss-crossed by numerous footpaths and/or woods roads that are not on the trail map.
The trail has several different points of entry. On this hike, the trail is accessed at the intersection of Lake View Drive and Summit Avenue in Putnam Valley. There is limited street parking available, but not in winter.
The trail is well blazed and relatively easy to follow. For most of its length, the Oscawana Ridge Trail travels on different woods roads, but at times departs the woods roads for footpaths along more interesting areas. Most of the intersections are well marked, but you have to keep your eyes open for the yellow blazes.
I hiked the Candlewood Hill Trail in June of 2021 and came back a week later to explore the southern section. That was about two months before they blazed the Oscawana Ridge Trail. The southern section has countless footpaths and/or woods roads that one can explore. Once I heard about the new trail, I made a return trip, but accessed the trail via its southernmost entry point.
The day of this hike, it was very foggy and there were no views to be had. I incorporated images that I captured in June 2021 from the same viewpoints traversed on this hike. I also walked right by a coiled up Copperhead that was right on the trail. My friend pointed it out after I walked right past it about three feet away.
This hike is an out and back, but could be combined with unmarked woods roads/trails to complete a loop.
We hiked the trail from end to end.
The trail gains elevation gradually. It felt like an easy walk up to the ridge.
With the exception of the open rock slabs along the upper slopes, the trail is mostly well shaded by the forest canopy and offers some protection from the hot sun.
The hike begins at the intersection of Lake View Drive and Summit Avenue, right near the DEAD END sign. This is the southernmost point of entry to the Oscawana Ridge Trail. The trail starts out as a footpath, but soon turns left and widens to a woods road as it heads north.
The trail passes many junctions with unmarked roads and footpaths so it is imperative to keep your eyes open for the yellow blazes. At the three-way junction below, the trail turns left and immediately turns right, leaving the woods road and climbs the hill on a footpath.
The trail soon widens again and gradually climbs the ridge, passing through stone walls that once served as boundary markers along property lines or as fences to keep animals in (or sometimes out). Farmers needed to clear rocks from their fields for plowing, so the walls served a dual purpose.
One particular wall along the trail is much wider than the others and stretches quite a distance to the west.
Most of the junctions are very well marked, but if you are not paying attention, you can easily miss your turn.
The trail continues north over undulating terrain.
I walked right by this Copperhead which was well camouflaged in the leaves. Even when I went to photograph it, it was hard to find with my lens.
Soon the trail climbs to the height of land, around 918 ft. above sea level. The actual summit of Candlewood Hill (986 ft.) is farther north and not reached on this hike.
The trail comes to an open area with expansive west-facing views over Bell Hollow and beyond from rock outcrops. You can leave the trail and walk along the the cliff’s edge for the multiple viewpoints in this area.
Please note: Due to fog on the day of this hike, the images below of the views were captured on June 27, 2021. All the images below accurately represent the views on the Oscawana Ridge Trail on a clear day.
The far reaching views are the hills of Fahnestock in the foreground with the higher hills in the distance being the Hudson Highlands.
In the image below, a sliver of the Hudson River is visible on the far left.
There is a rock outcrop on the opposite side, right on the trail with an east-facing view over Oscawana Lake and the surrounding hills. The view is probably much better during leaf-off season.
This makes for a good turn around spot if you only came here for the views. It’s about 0.35 mile to the end of the Oscawana Ridge Trail and a drop in elevation of about 160 ft. which you will have to make up on your way back. If you want to do the entire Oscawana Ridge Trail, continue following the yellow blazes north.
From the east-facing viewpoint, the trail begins a steady descent until it reaches its terminus at a junction with the Candlewood Hill Trail.
If you want to explore the Candlewood Hill Trail, turn right and climb towards the summit. The section of trail that heads downhill, ends at Bell Hollow Road in about 0.3 mile. Otherwise, this is the turn around spot and the halfway point of the hike. You will now be retracing your steps back the way you came.
Follow the Oscawana Ridge Trail back up to the ridge, past the scenic viewpoints, descending the ridge and follow the woods road back to Lake View Drive, where the hike began.
On our way back, the Copperhead was in the same exact spot.
A really nice hike with some decent views. The highlight of this hike is that we didn’t see a single soul during our time on the trail. Since parking is limited on Lake View Drive, this hike can be done starting at the north end of Bell Hollow Road where it enters the park. Follow the red-blazed Candlewood Hill Trail for about 0.3 miles until it turns left off a steep uphill woods road. The yellow-blazed Oscawana Ridge Trail continues on the road and climbs the ridge. Overall this was a a good day spent in the woods and well worth the effort.
Scenic landscape, nice views, lightly trafficked trail, a myriad of woods roads and footpaths for one to explore.
Parking is limited.
Take a hike!
- Trail Walker | New York-New Jersey Trail Conference – Fall 2021
- New York State Parks Press Release – April 24, 2015
- Fahnestock State Park
- Improvements in Fahnestock State Park