Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

December 24 & 27, 2020 – Stony Point, NY

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 2 miles

Max elevation: 151 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 180 ft.

Route type: Lollipop Loop

Free Web Map: Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site MapStony Point Battlefield Interpretive Map

Trailhead parking: 44 Battlefield Rd, Stony Point, NY 10980


Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site is located on a knobby promontory projecting into the Hudson River in the town of Stony Point, NY. It is the only preserved Revolutionary War battlefield in Rockland County. The site of a successful midnight assault led by Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne against a British Garrison on July 15-16, 1779. The site also hosts the oldest lighthouse (1826) in the Hudson Valley. The lighthouse is not presently open for tours, as repairs must be made.

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Today, a portion of the original battlefield, where Sir Henry Clinton placed his earthworks and batteries, has been preserved as a New York State Park. In addition to an historic lighthouse from the early 19th century and memorial arch, the park also includes a museum dedicated to the battle located in the visitors center, and also hosts several educational programs like guided tours and historical reenactments, that can teach visitors about military and civilian life in Revolutionary America.

Admission to the site is free. Special events may have a separate charge. Please call ahead for information and seating reservations for special events as needed. The grounds are open daily from mid-April to the end of October. From November to mid-April, the site grounds are open Monday to Friday and closed on weekends, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days. Call 845-786-2521 for information and hours of operation.

Please note: As an historic site, and a cemetery of Revolutionary War soldiers, they do not permit dogs or bicycles beyond the Memorial Arch, and no recreational games, or cooking fires are allowed.

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

There is good birding throughout the site year-round. Park in the parking lot when the site is open and enjoy birding throughout the grounds. You may park outside the grounds on the town’s Park Road, and walk into the site in the early morning, before dusk, or on weekends in the winter. Do not park on the sites drive, Battlefield Road, at any time as it is a marked tow-away zone. There are diverse habitats for birds including a freshwater swamp area at the entrance, woodlands, meadows, lawns and a small beach on the Hudson River on the south side of the peninsula. During winter, Bald Eagles roost in the trees near the river’s edge.

Bald Eagle - Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Bald Eagle – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site


History:

Stony Point is a rocky prominence that extends about a 1/4-mile into the Hudson River. At high tide, Stony Point, surrounded by marshes, became an island connected to the mainland only by a narrow causeway. At its highest, the point is about 150 feet above sea level, and steep.

When the British captured this rocky peninsula in May 1779, they began to construct an earthen fortress intended to disrupt Washington’s Continental Army in the Hudson Highlands and block the King’s Ferry crossing below. Naturally defensible, Stony Point was further improved by the addition of two rows of abatis (trees laid branch-side towards the enemy), felled from the site. The first abatis formed the “outer” works, and extended into the water south of the point. The second abatis was half way on the promontory and enclosed the “upper” works, or the “table of the hill”. 

Two months later, on July 16, George Washington and Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne launched a daring nighttime assault that surprised the garrison and allowed American forces to gain control of the fort in under an hour. 

George Washington gave Wayne orders to take Stony Point in a midnight bayonet charge. Wayne would command a force of about 1,300 Light Infantrymen. The Light Infantry were hand-picked men from various Continental regiments that formed an elite corps of some of the best American soldiers. Washington gave Wayne instructions to send the Light Infantry in through three different points “with fixed Bayonets and Muskets unloaded.”

Shortly after midnight on July 16, 1779, the three columns moved out. One column proceeded around the island and approached from the south across the marsh at low tide, the second and third columns crossed the causeway. The larger second column advanced along the northern shore of the island while the third column positioned themselves in the center of the British defenses. Once in position, the third column fired shots to divert the attention of British defenders as the north and south columns advanced towards the heart of the garrison.

As Wayne’s column began to cross the marsh, they slugged through water that came up to their chests. The men pushed forward into the darkness. As soon as they came to the other side, they began to dash up the steep slopes towards the first line of British defenses. Within about a half-hour, the heaviest fighting had ended.

Lt. Colonel Francois de Fleury was the first man into the inner works and pulled down the British flag flying there and exclaimed, “The fort’s our own!” After more bloody hand to hand combat, it was clear that further resistance by the British was futile, and Lt. Colonel Henry Johnson and the British troops surrendered. By 1:00am, Stony Point was in American hands.

The battle resulted in 15 Americans killed and 83 wounded. The British had lost 20 killed, 74 wounded and 472 captured.

For more history of the Battle of Stony Point, see links at bottom of page.

Battle of Stony Point

Battle of Stony Point

In 1826, the first lighthouse on the Hudson River was constructed at historic Stony Point to mark the southern entrance to the Hudson Highlands. The completion of the Erie Canal the previous year, which linked New York City to America’s heartland, increased traffic on the Hudson River dramatically, and the need for navigational aids was paramount. The thirty-foot-tall octagonal Stony Point Lighthouse, built of blue split stone, was constructed by Thomas Phillips of New York City, at a cost of $3,350. There have been three keeper’s dwellings at Stony Point. The original six-room stone dwelling was torn down in 1879 and replaced by a dwelling on the flat land just west of the lighthouse. The second house was razed and replaced by another structure, built closer to the river in 1938.

The second lighthouse keeper’s home stood a few steps below the octagonal lighthouse. The house was enclosed by a picket fence. At the base of the light are a few guests or tourists.

Stony Point lighthouse circa 1910

Stony Point lighthouse circa 1910

The Lighthouse guided mariners through the narrow pass between Stony and Verplanck Points until 1925. In its 99 years, only one vessel ran aground, with no reported fatalities, a testament to the vigilance of the lightkeepers, notably Nancy Rose, who tended the light for 47 years.

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

Through the efforts of the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, the Palisades Park Interstate Commission, and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, restoration of the lighthouse began in 1986. The exterior was repaired and painted, and the lantern was reglazed. On October 7, 1995, restoration was complete, and the light was activated for the first time in seventy years. The automated light, operated by solar power, beams a flash of light once every four seconds.

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

The movement for the acquisition of Stony Point as a state park began in 1895. The property was acquired through the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (ASHPS), which became the trustees of the original 35 acres of property. In 1898, the state began acquiring land associated with the Battle of Stony Point, including the oldest lighthouse built along the Hudson River, which dates to 1826 and belonged to the federal government. By 1978, the state had amassed 87 acres. After subsequent land acquisitions, the current site is now comprised of 137 acres. The state historic site opened to the public in 1902 and the museum, featuring exhibits about the battle and the lighthouse, was built in 1936. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

The site is now operated as Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site and is a beautiful mix of woods and tended lawns, with commanding panoramic views of the Hudson River looking north to the Hudson Highlands and south to Haverstraw Bay. The site features a self-guided walking trail and a museum displaying artifacts uncovered during archaeological digs. Also on the grounds is the Stony Point Lighthouse, the Hudson River’s oldest, which protected the southern entrance to the Hudson Highlands from 1826 to 1925.

Kings Ferry Overlook

Kings Ferry Overlook

Museum - Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Museum – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Stony Point lighthouse

Stony Point lighthouse


Trails Overview:

Most of the trails are paved paths that lead visitors throughout the site. There are several grassy footpaths as well. This State Historic Site is geared more towards people that are looking for a leisurely walk with Hudson River views and learning about American History. On any given day during the winter, one can spot Bald Eagles riding on rising columns of warm air known as thermals or perched in the trees.

There is also a self-guided walking tour. This tour brings you from the fort’s outer works, around the southern crest of the point, up to the lighthouse, around the north end of the point and returns to the outer works, with illustrated interpretive signs along the way describing the defensive positions, batteries, and accounts of the British soldiers who manned them. On this path, visitors pass the spot where Wayne entered the fort, where Lieutenant colonel de Fleury struck the British colors, and where Colonel Febiger accepted the surrender of Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, the Crown commander. Behind the museum, a spur path brings you out to the King’s Ferry Overlook and through the area where Colonel Butler’s column entered the fort.


Hike Overview:

Having been to this site on numerous occasions, I was looking for an easy walk with some Hudson River views and this spot fit the bill. This is a good place to just wander around, enjoy some fresh air and hopefully spot some Bald Eagles or Hawks. I visited the Site on Christmas Eve day while there was some snow on the ground and returned several days later after the rain washed away the snow. We parked in the lot on our first visit and on Park Road when we returned on the 27th. It’s a nice walk up Battlefield Road which follows the shore of the fresh water wetlands. 

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site


Points of Interest:

  • Battlefield Road ~  This paved park road winds its way along the fresh water wetlands and makes for a pleasant walk if parking your vehicle on Park Road.
Battlefield Road

Battlefield Road

Battlefield Road

Battlefield Road

  • Fresh Water Wetlands ~ There are diverse habitats for birds including a freshwater swamp area at the entrance. Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfishers and Canadian Geese are just a few of the birds that one can spot along this area.
fresh water wetlands

fresh water wetlands

  • Memorial Arch ~ Following the acquisition of the property, the Daughters of the Revolution of the State of New York, with the consent and under the supervision of the ASHPS, began the erection of a stone archway at the entrance to the reservation as a tribute to the memory of the American patriots who fought for American independence on that historic ground. The corner stone was put in place on October 17, 1908.
Memorial Arch - Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

The Memorial Arch, designed by Mr. H.K. Bush-Brown of Newburgh, NY, and built out of native rock of Stony Point with the exception of some of the granite trimmings, stands at the entrance to the bridge which leads across the West Shore Railroad cut to the the Reservation. The masonry measures 32 feet in width, 12 feet in depth and 23 feet in height. The archway is 12 feet wide, 12 feet deep and 15 feet in height.

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Over the archway is the inscription “Stony Point State Park.” Just underneath is “The fort’s our own,” The words that were said when the British flag was taken down. The keystone of the arch has the letters, “S N Y.”

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

On either side of the archway there are tablets that are now faded. The northern tablet bears the following inscription: STONY POINT, A BRITISH OUTPOST COMMANDING THE KING’S FERRY, ASSAULTED AND TAKEN, JULY 15-16, 1779 BY THE CORPS OF LIGHT INFANTRY COMMANDED BY ANTHONY WAYNE. RE-NAMED FORT WAYNE. ACQUIRED BY THE STATE OF NEW YORK 1897. THE AMERICAN SCENIC AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION SOC. CUSTODIAN.

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

The southern tablet bears the following inscription: THE SOCIETY DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK ERECTED THIS GATEWAY, GRATEFULLY COMMEMORATING THE SACRIFICES OF PATRIOTS FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE AND THEIR GALLANT ACTION AT THIS PLACE. DEDICATED AND PRESENTED TO THE STATE, 1909.

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Memorial Arch – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

  • Stone Gazebo ~ From a gazebo at the southern crest of the point, visitors can view the majestic Hudson River and the hills of Westchester and Rockland Counties. This stone gazebo dates back to at least 1908.
Stone Gazebo

Stone Gazebo

  • Horse Trough ~ Located near the museum on the circular drive, it is not your standard horse trough, as one can see in the images below. Rocks were used to build the trough as well as the wall behind it. The trough dates to about 1902, when the battlefield opened to the public. Many visitors arrived by boat at the landing on the north side of the peninsula and were taken by horse and wagon up the steep slope to the battlefield site. Horses could quench their thirst at the trough. To accommodate human thirst, a water fountain is located on the opposite side.
Horse Trough

Horse Trough

Horse Trough

Horse Trough

  • Stony Point Lighthouse ~ Stony Point Lighthouse, the oldest on the Hudson, marked the entrance to the Hudson Highlands for nearly a hundred years and was built in 1826. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1925 and was acquired by the parks commission in 1941. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

The specifications called for the construction of “an octagonal Pyramid, to be built of blue split stone and the best quick lime and sand mortar.” The building plan stated that the tower was to have three stories and a cellar for the storage of whale oil. A wooden stairway would lead from the first floor to the second, and a wooden ladder would connect the second floor with the lantern in the glass-enclosed top of the lighthouse. On December 1, 1826, the lighthouse, complete with copper roof and ventilator, was finished, at a cost of $3,350.

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

Benches near the lighthouse provide visitors with a place to relax and enjoy the south-facing views of the Hudson River Valley.

Bench by the lighthouse

Bench by the lighthouse

  • Stone Viewing Platform ~ At the northern crest of the point, visitors can enjoy north-facing views of the Hudson River from a stone viewing platform.
Stone Viewing Platform

Stone Viewing Platform

Stone Viewing Platform

Stone Viewing Platform

The stone platform also provides a good view of the lighthouse.

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point Lighthouse

  • Picnic Shelter ~ The stone picnic shelter overlooking the Hudson River, is currently being renovated.
Picnic Shelter

Picnic Shelter

  • Museum ~ The stone museum was built in 1936 and is divided into two galleries: one for the Battle of Stony Point, and one for the nineteenth century lighthouse. The Battle Gallery hosts a number of artifacts – clay pipes, chevaux-de-frise remnants, musket balls, infantry camp axes, the sword of Colonel Brinkerhoff, and some of the artillery pieces Wayne’s men captured the night of the attack. The Lighthouse Gallery has panels explaining the 99-year history of the lighthouse, including photographs of its keepers, residence buildings, gardens, and lens. Special mention goes out to Nancy Rose, who maintained the light longer than anyone – nearly fifty years. In the gallery is an original fourth-order Fresnel lens beautifully restored by the United States Coast Guard, just like the one that would have been housed in the lighthouse to safely guide mariners into the Hudson Highlands.
Museum - Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Museum – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

On November 11, 1960, a plaque was mounted on a rock near the museum building. It reads: “This tablet is to commemorate the heroic capture of the fortress of Stony Point by troops of the light infantry under the command of Maj. Gen. ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne the night of July 15-16, 1779.”

plaque near the museum

plaque near the museum

  • King’s Ferry Overlook ~ Behind the museum, a spur path brings visitors out to the King’s Ferry Overlook and through the area where Colonel Butler’s column entered the fort.
King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

Kings Ferry Overlook

Kings Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

The hulk of an old fishing boat lies partially submerged in the river below. That wreck has been there since at least 2003. The name on the bow, which is no longer visible, once read: “King’s Ferry.”

King’s Ferry Overlook

King’s Ferry Overlook

  • Living History ~ On weekends from April to October, weather and staffing permitting, a living history soldier’s camp is open, highlighting 18th century military life. There are many hands-on activities including an artillery drill, cannon and musket firings, 18th century blacksmithing demonstrations, open fire camp cooking, gardening, military arts and children’s activities. Contact the Site for details and times at (845) 786-2521.
living history soldier's camp

living history soldier’s camp

living history soldier's camp

living history soldier’s camp

cannon

cannon

18th century blacksmithing demonstration

18th century blacksmithing demonstration

  • Birds of Prey ~ Thanks to conservation efforts, the Bald Eagle, which had been so close to extinction, has made a remarkable comeback, particularly on the Hudson River. One of the highlights of a winter visit to Stony Point is seeing Bald Eagles roosting in treetops or soaring overhead, attracted by the open water and plentiful fish. Turkey Vultures can be seen year round and Hawks during migration season in the early Fall.
Bald Eagle - Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Bald Eagle – Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture


Review:

There is a lot to do and see at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site. Visitors can visit the museum (when open), walk through the living history military camp, watch the live reenactments as uniformed interpreters fire muskets (when available). Signs are strategically placed around the site so visitors may conduct a self-guided walking tour. Step back in time and march in the footsteps of Brigadier General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and his soldiers as they charged up the hill and stand with the lightkeepers as they watched over the thousands of ships passing Stony Point every year, protecting our nation’s commerce. A great place to visit year round for the entire family.

Pros:

Historical features, Hudson River views, Stony Point Lighthouse, Bald Eagles.

Cons:

Limited Winter hours, Site closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day


Sources:


Putnam Memorial State Park

December 13, 2020 – Redding, Connecticut

Difficulty: Easy

Max elevation: 780 ft.

Free Web Map: Putnam Memorial State Park Trail Map (DEEP)

Avenza App Map (FREE): Putnam Memorial State Park Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 73-79 Putnam Park Rd, Redding, CT 06896


Park Overview:

Putnam Memorial State Park is a history-oriented public recreation area in the town of Redding, Connecticut. The state park preserves the site that Major General Israel Putnam chose as the winter encampment for his men in the winter of 1778-1779 during the American Revolutionary War. Putnam Memorial State Park, sometimes referred to as “Connecticut’s Valley Forge” in view of the fact that the conditions that winter were more severe than the previous Winter at Valley Forge. It is Connecticut’s oldest state park, created in 1887 at the instigation of Redding town residents. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park

In addition to the remains of the encampment, reconstructed log buildings, and a museum, the park’s 183 acres include facilities for hiking, picnic tables, charcoal grills, pond fishing, and winter sports. The park is located at the intersection of Route 107 and Route 58 and is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The park is open from 8am to sunset. Visitors Center and Museum is open daily 10am – 5pm.

Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park


History Of The Park:

The movement to preserve and memorialize the site of the winter quarters of 1778-1779 in Redding began in the late 19th century. Although the details of this movement are not recorded, it is likely that the initial efforts were made by local citizens of Redding, especially Charles B. Todd, the local historian, and Aaron Treadwell, the landowner who donated the first tract of land that would become the Israel Putnam Memorial Camp Ground.

Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park

From the beginning, the purpose of preserving the site of the encampment was to commemorate the winter quarters, not to create an area for recreation. Charles B. Todd explained, It is not proposed to erect a pleasure park, but a memorial. The men it is designed to commemorate were strong, rugged, simple. Its leading features, therefore, should be of similar character and of such an historical and antiquarian cast as to direct the thought to the men and times it commemorates. The rugged natural features in which the proposed site abounds should be retained.

Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park

As early as the turn of the century, the park commission had determined to acquire the grounds of the “Old Put Club” on the east side of the main encampment. The possession of “Old Put Lake” is in every way desirable for the camp grounds, it is one of the most beautiful sheets of water in Western Connecticut, lying just over the eastern boundary line of the park and for quite a distance is less than one hundred feet from it. The park commissioners envisioned a fundamental separation of the park into two areas: one, on the west side, preserving the historical remains of the encampment, and the other, on the east side, offering recreational and scenic resources. This functional division of the park has remained to the present.

Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park


Trails Overview:

The trails at Putnam Memorial State Park are mostly gravel roads which served as the camp roads during the encampment. These roads are an Interpretive Trail, with signs posted at all of the points of interest with historical information. There are unmarked footpaths, as shown on the map, which can be walked as well. 

gravel road - Putnam Memorial State Park

gravel road – Putnam Memorial State Park

The area around Philips Cave provides a short trail over and around jumbled rocks. On the east side of Putnam Park Pond, there are more trails as well.

area near Philips Cave

area near Philips Cave

 

area near Philips Cave

area near Philips Cave

 

cliff above Philips Cave

cliff above Philips Cave

Near the northern end of the park, just south of the Officers Quarters/Magazine, is a white/blazed trail that leads to the 36-acre Joan Plishner Wildlife Preserve. This Double loop, 1.3 miles long trail through mostly open woods, provides hikers the opportunity to tack on additional mileage if so desired.

Joan Plishner Wildlife Preserve

Joan Plishner Wildlife Preserve


Points of Interest:

  • Visitor Center – this building was originally built in 1893 as the park pavilion. It was used as a shelter during inclement weather, for dances and picnics, and for town events. The upstairs was used as the original park museum. The building was dismantled board by board in 2005, and reconstructed into a 4-season climate controlled visitor center where visitors can get a park orientation prior to entering the historic encampment.
Visitor Center - Putnam Memorial State Park

Visitor Center – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Camp Guardhouse – A log hut which was reconstructed about 1890 on the remains of a hut from 1778. The actual purpose of the original structure is in question, although local lore said it was the Guard House. The construction and size of the hut gives the visitor an approximation of one of the 116 enlisted men’s soldiers huts. Each hut contained 12 soldiers.
Camp Guardhouse - Putnam Memorial State Park

Camp Guardhouse – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Camp Guardhouse - Putnam Memorial State Park

Camp Guardhouse – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Putnam’s Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue – is on the front lawn of the Visitor Center. It was sculpted by renowned local artist Anna Hyatt Huntington at her estate just a few miles from the park. Ms. Huntington was 94 when she completed the statue for its 1969 dedication at the park. The bronze depicts General Israel Putnam’s legendary ride down the stone steps in Greenwich, then called” Horseneck,” where he narrowly escaped from the British dragoons.
Putnam's Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue

Putnam’s Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue

 

Putnam's Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue

Putnam’s Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue

 

Putnam's Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue

Putnam’s Escape at Horseneck Bronze Statue

  • Main Entrance Area – Civil War cannons and miniature blockhouses flank the road. Blockhouses were used in frontier areas during the French and Indian War where Israel Putnam achieved fame for his courageous exploits. There are several other Civil War cannons inside the park. These weapons were surplus arms from the Civil War which ended only a few years prior to the park’s commissioning. The gateway view focuses on the Monument.
Main Entrance Area - Putnam Memorial State Park

Main Entrance Area – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Main Entrance Area - Putnam Memorial State Park

Main Entrance Area – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Main Entrance Area - Putnam Memorial State Park

Main Entrance Area – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Memorial Monument – Constructed in 1888, one year after the commissioning of the memorial park, this monument honors the men of the three different camps in Redding during that winter of 1778-79. The monument was the very first structure erected at the park. The visitor can read the names of the different brigade generals who commanded the camps under Major General Israel Putnam’s command.
Memorial Monument - Putnam Memorial State Park

Memorial Monument – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Memorial Monument - Putnam Memorial State Park

Memorial Monument – Putnam Memorial State Park

The 44-ft. tall granite obelisk was built in the summer of 1888 under the supervision of a committee appointed by the governor.

Memorial Monument - Putnam Memorial State Park

Memorial Monument – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Memorial Monument - Putnam Memorial State Park

Memorial Monument – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Memorial Monument - Putnam Memorial State Park

Memorial Monument – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Collapsed Chimney Remains (Firebacks) and Company Street – The enlisted men’s encampment consisted of 116 log huts set in a double row for almost a quarter mile down the company street. The only above ground remains of those huts today are the piles of collapsed stone chimneys. Each stone pile, or fireback, marks the location of a 1778 hut. The men camped in this location belonged to Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor’s New Hampshire Brigade and the 2nd Canadian Regiment under Col. Moses Hazen. The fireplaces and chimneys were made of local fieldstone. The huts had dimensions of 16 x 12 feet. Each hut held the 12 soldiers who built their own hut. The troops lived in tents until their huts were completed in late December. Ongoing archaeological field work has told us much about the huts and their occupants.
Firebacks - Putnam Memorial State Park

Firebacks – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Museum – This building contains exhibits and historical materials including artifacts unearthed at the campsite during archaeological excavations. The museum was built in 1921 by long time Redding Town Historian Margaret Wixted’s father. This building replaced the original museum housed on the second floor of the old 1893 Pavilion. Park Guides are present to tell visitors about the park and answer questions. Hours are posted at the park gates or at the Visitor Center.
Museum - Putnam Memorial State Park

Museum – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Officers Quarters – The chimney remains mark the site of a company officer’s hut. The hut was an 1890 replica built on the original site. The hut was destroyed by fire years ago. The company-level officer’s huts were located behind the enlisted hut line. There are several other firebacks of these junior officer hut remains in the woods behind the enlisted hut line.
Officers Quarters - Putnam Memorial State Park

Officers Quarters – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Philips Cave – Local legend says a shallow cave in this rock outcrop was used by one Mr. Philips. Philips was a soldier who returned after the war to live in this cave. He led the life of a hermit, including liberating an occasional chicken or produce from local farmers. He was evicted by the community. Another version said he was “permanently removed.”
Philips Cave - Putnam Memorial State Park

Philips Cave – Putnam Memorial State Park

There are several cave-like openings throughout this area. 

cave - Putnam Memorial State Park

cave – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

cave - Putnam Memorial State Park

cave – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Officers Quarters/Magazine – This structure was reconstructed on the original foundations that are cut into the hillside. Long thought to be an officer’s barracks, recent information is now leading archaeologists to believe it was actually the camp magazine which held the kegs of gunpowder. The location far away from troop quarters and being semi-enclosed in the earthen bank support this theory. More research will be done on this site.
Officers Quarters/Magazine - Putnam Memorial State Park

Officers Quarters/Magazine – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Cemetery/Command Officer’s Quarters – Another bit of hand-me-down lore at the time the park was created in the 1880’s was that the two mounds of stones, inside the square formed by the granite posts, were thought to be the camp cemetery. Accordingly, a memorial monument was erected to mark the site circa 1890. Archaeology work from the 2002-04 seasons has proven the site actually to be a double-ended (two chimneys) Field Officers quarters. Further research has pointed to the distinct probability that the hut belonged to Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn who was the ranking officer living at the camp (Some senior officers were quartered at area homes).
memorial monument - Putnam Memorial State Park

memorial monument – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • Lake McDougall – The stone damn which creates this pond was installed at the time of the park’s creation. But the stream was very much in in existence during the 1778-79 army encampment. It is one of two main streams, one at each end of the camp, which provided water for the troops. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s name is listed on the memorial monument as one of the commanders at the Reading camps. Actually, McDougall had been the commander of Putnam’s Division prior to going into winter quarters. Gen. Washington placed the division under Israel Putnam and kept Gen. McDougall in command of the Hudson Highlands which included the all important fortress West Point.
Lake McDougall - Putnam Memorial State Park

Lake McDougall – Putnam Memorial State Park

  • The Recreational Section –  provides access to Putnam Park Pond, picnic tables and charcoal grills as well as more walking trails. 
Recreational Section - Putnam Memorial State Park

Recreational Section – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Recreational Section - Putnam Memorial State Park

Recreational Section – Putnam Memorial State Park

 

Recreational Section - Putnam Memorial State Park

Recreational Section – Putnam Memorial State Park


Review:

A truly beautiful park that is well laid out and loaded with history. One can spend quite some time here walking around capturing images of the historical features as well as the landscape. Well worth a visit anytime of year to get a hands-on history lesson of the American Revolution and the hardships that those soldiers endured during their winter encampment from 1778 – 1779.

Pros:

Historical site, scenic landscape, well maintained park.

Cons:

The park is bisected by Connecticut Route 58, some road noise can be heard throughout the park.


Sources:

Prospect Mountain Preserve – Litchfield Land Trust

November 28, 2020 – Bantam, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate – strenuous (steep ascents, steep descents)

Length: Approximately 4.1 miles

Max elevation: 1,350 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 811 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Map: Prospect Mountain Preserve Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 213-127 Prospect Mountain Rd, Bantam, CT 06750


Preserve Overview:

Located in the Litchfield Hills Region of Connecticut, the Prospect Mountain Preserve includes 340 acres, west of the Borough of Litchfield. The preserve features most of a locally prominent hill with a nice viewpoint near its 1,350-foot summit, as well as a large pond to the west. The property is mostly forested, with several meadows indicating past agricultural uses. The area was subject to significant nickel-mining explorations in the nineteenth century. A number of mine shafts still exist on the property. Many are filled with water and visitors are cautioned to approach them with care.

Prospect Mountain Preserve

Prospect Mountain Preserve

There are three access points to the preserve, Cathole Road, lower Prospect Mountain Road (no parking), and the main trailhead on upper Prospect Mountain Road, where there is room for 6-8 cars. There are no restrooms available on site. Prospect Mountain is preserved by the Litchfield Land Trust and open to the public for hiking and recreational enjoyment. No hunting, ATVs, or vehicles are permitted on the property.

Prospect Mountain Preserve

Prospect Mountain Preserve


History:

Prospect Mountain was an area of exploration and excavation for mineral riches from the town’s earliest days. Between the mid-1700’s and the mid 1800’s, people used the land here for farming, grazing, logging, and mining (for iron ore, copper and nickel ore). Connecticut’s early history is full of mines. Litchfield’s Prospect Mountain is part of that mining history, and remnants of its copper and nickel excavations are still evident along the nearly 5 miles of trails that wind across the 1,350-foot summit. Industrial activity which had grown during the Revolution continued in the years that followed.

The area of most of the mining activity in Litchfield, in the mid-to-late 19th century, was Mount Prospect, where at least six mines or prospects were worked. Various companies were incorporated to do mining in the town of Litchfield, chiefly on Prospect Mountain, sometimes called Prospect Hill or Mount Prospect. The three principle mines were the Granniss Mine just west of Prospect Mountain, Buck’s Mine on the southwest slope of the hill, and the Connecticut Nickel Company’s mine, one mile south of the summit. The mines were worked intermittently from 1835 until 1880, but were too small and too low a grade to be commercially exploitable.

In 1860 the Connecticut Mining Company bought two mining rights on Prospect Mountain. They promised an abundant return for funds invested and labor performed.

Connecticut Mining Company

Connecticut Mining Company

In 1864, the Nickel Mining and Smelting Company purchased the rights to mine on the west slope of Prospect Mountain. Some nickel was indeed taken out of the mountain, and it is said that it was sold to the Government and used to make the nickel cents which were in circulation before the nickel five-cent piece was placed in use. Eventually, the venture shared the fate of the other Litchfield mines.

Image courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society

Image courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society

In 1983, 481 acres on Prospect Mountain were titled to the Litchfield Land Trust from the Nature Conservancy, a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Gagarin, the James J. Porter Trust and Mr. Thurston Green. Since then additional parcels on Prospect Mountain have been obtained and LLT has established and maintains 4 scenic trails on its Prospect Mountain Preserve offering views from the highest elevation in Litchfield.


Trails Overview:

  • Prospect Mountain Trail – blue blazes – 1.9 miles – is rated moderate/challenging as it includes a 400-ft. elevation gain to the summit, as well as some steep and rocky areas. The Prospect Mountain Trail transects the preserve. This trail was once a portion of the blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail. Highlights include rocky terrain, mountain laurel, a stand of young black birch (regeneration from tornado destruction in 1989), a steep ravine, and Prospect Mountain’s south and north summits, each with long views.
  • Yellow Trail – 0.7 mile – is rated moderate/challenging. This trail forms a loop with the blue-blazed trail, traveling through a predominantly birch forest. It crosses seasonal wetlands and ascends steeply to meet the Prospect Mountain Trail near the mountain’s 1,350-foot summit.
  • Grannis Pond Loop Trail – red blazes – 1 mile – west of Prospect Mountain Road, is relatively easy. It passes along the south shore of Granniss Pond then turns north, crossing a footbridge, below the pond along its western shore on a boardwalk. This loop trail continues on through a pine plantation, old stone walls, an old farm road, an old high meadow, and back down towards the pond’s eastern side. The last feature before completion of the loop is an old horizontal mine shaft opening and a pond overlook.
  • Graham Thompson Trail – white blazes – 1.2 miles – is of moderate difficulty. The trail begins at Prospect Mountain Road, initially loops southeast, passing through wetlands and an old pine plantation, then recrossing the wetlands before turning sharply to the right and through barway. It continues in a northerly direction through mostly open forest of moderate inclines and descents. Finally, the trail bears more easterly, becoming steeper until it meets the Blue trail near the south summit.

The entire Prospect Mountain Preserve trail system is part of Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s (CFPA) statewide system of trails, and is jointly administered by CFPA and Litchfield Land Trust (LLT).


Hike Overview:

Always looking for interesting places to hike, I came across this preserve on social media and became interested. This hidden gem packs a lot of enjoyment for the novice and avid hiker alike. A novice hiker will enjoy its well marked and easy to follow trails. The avid hiker will enjoy the relentless ups and downs throughout the rugged landscape. There aren’t too many level stretches of trail to be found at Prospect Mountain Preserve. The views are enjoyable enough as is the scenic Granniss Pond. The mines provide another point of interest to search out along the trails.

Not knowing much about this place and not being able to find much info online, I was hoping to take in as much of what it has to offer. Unfortunately, we missed a mine or two during our visit and we did not hike the White Trail.

This hike follows the Blue Trail from Prospect Mountain Road (main trailhead), in a counterclockwise lollipop loop (Blue, Yellow, then Blue back to trailhead). Then following the Grannis Pond Loop Trail counterclockwise around Grannis Pond and back to the trailhead.

Prospect Mountain Preserve – Litchfield Land Trust

Prospect Mountain Preserve – Litchfield Land Trust

This hike climbs to the North Summit of Prospect Mountain twice and both routes are steep.

Prospect Mountain Preserve elevation profile

Prospect Mountain Preserve elevation profile


The Hike:

From the main trailhead on Prospect Mountain Road, follow the blue-blazed Prospect Mountain Trail as it heads northeast. To the left of the trail, mere feet from the trailhead, is an old water filled mine. Hikers should use caution in the vicinity of the mines, as their deep water filled pits, especially when covered with leaves, can be dangerous.

Main Trailhead - Prospect Mountain Preserve

Main Trailhead – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail - Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

This water filled shaft, near the trailhead, is part of the Granniss Mine.

mine - Prospect Mountain Preserve

mine – Prospect Mountain Preserve

mine – Prospect Mountain Preserve

mine – Prospect Mountain Preserve

In a short distance, the Blue Trail turns right, crosses a small stream on rocks and soon runs along a stone wall that borders a meadow.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

At the end of the stone wall, the trail begins a steep ascent. For about 300 yards, the trail climbs straight up the mountain, no switchbacks.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

At the top of the rise, the trail turns left, dips down a little and climbs again. To the left is a short spur trail that leads to Gagarin Grove, where there is a small grove of giant, 200-plus-year-old Sugar Maples. You may want to stop a minute to catch your breath as you view these ancient trees.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Gagarin Grove – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Gagarin Grove – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Gagarin Grove – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Gagarin Grove – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The trail continues northeast, descending into a hollow, then climbs out of the hollow, gradually at first, then the climb steepens. In about another 420 yards (from Gagarin Grove), The Blue Trail reaches the North Summit of Prospect Mountain and turns right.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Turn left on the Yellow Trail and walk a short distance to a rock outcrop, furnished with a bench, to north and west-facing viewpoints of the surrounding countryside.

turn left to North Summit view

turn left to North Summit view

Yellow Trail - Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

At the summit of Prospect Mountain, you will see a welcoming bench dedicated “In loving memory of Peter and Tekla Litwin from their son Ted Litwin.” This is a good place to take a break. Up to this point, you have hiked about 0.8 mile with more than 350 feet of elevation gain.

North Summit - Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The north and west views were opened in spring 2011, when the Litchfield Land Trust created the yellow-blazed trail from Cathole Road to the summit.

North Summit view - Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view - Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view from bench - Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view from bench – Prospect Mountain Preserve

When you are ready to continue, retrace your steps back to the junction with the Blue Trail and proceed ahead, now going southeast along the ridge. The trail climbs a little, descends into another hollow, passing a vernal pool on the left then gradually climbs until reaching the South Summit.

continue ahead on Blue Trail

continue ahead on Blue Trail

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

South Summit – Prospect Mountain Preserve

South Summit – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The South Summit affords a south-facing viewpoint and another place to stop along the way.

South Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

South Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The mountain visible to the far left is Mount Tom. If you zoom in with your camera or binoculars, you can see the stone tower at the summit.

South Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

South Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The Blue Trail descends from the summit, rather steeply in places. In about 300 feet, the Blue Trail comes to a T-intersection with the White Trail, which begins on the right. The Blue Trail turns left in front of a large rock cliff and a short distance later, turns right, and climbs up and across the same cliff, heading in a southerly direction.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

turn left to remain on Blue Trail

turn left to remain on Blue Trail

turn left to remain on Blue Trail

turn left to remain on Blue Trail

rock formations at junction of Blue/White Trails

rock formations at junction of Blue/White Trails

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The trail soon begins a steady descent on what appears to be an old mining road. Stay alert for the “Pool Mine” which is in this area. We missed this mine when we got distracted stopping to talk to the president of the Litchfield Land Trust, who was hiking with a small group. He commented that they are working on a new trail. By the time we realized that we had passed the mine, we did not feel like climbing back up to look for it.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The trail soon makes a left turn, leaving the road and passes through Mountain Laurel thickets.

Blue Trail turns left

Blue Trail turns left

Blue Trail turns left

Blue Trail turns left

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The Blue Trail passes some interesting looking rock formations and a short distance later, at the base of the descent, reaches a junction with the start of the Yellow Trail. Turning right on the Blue Trail here will lead to the Cathole Road trailhead. Continue straight, now following the yellow blazes.

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Cathole Road trailhead junction

Cathole Road trailhead junction

The Yellow Trail soon crosses a small stream on rocks and begins a steady ascent of Prospect Mountain.

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

In about 375 yards from the start of the Yellow Trail, there is a pile of mine tailings (waste rock) to the left of the trail. Just past the pile is one of the vertical shafts of the Smith Mine. The other water filled shaft is about 200 feet south.

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The Smith Mine, located in the upper northeast area of the mountain, was first worked by the Connecticut Mining Company in the late 1850’s. In the late summer of 1859, they had a twenty-foot shaft dug with “a beautiful show of mineral wealth” according to a company prospectus. Two years later, the shaft had been increased to fifty feet and had produced well over 400 tons of ore analyzed at three percent and more of nickel content.

Smith Mine - Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Smith Mine – Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Please exercise extreme caution in the vicinity of these mines. They are deep water filled pits and the ground around them may be unstable, which could cave-in without warning.

Smith Mine - Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Smith Mine – Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

As there are two shafts at this location, it is assumed the second one was started around this time also.

Smith Mine (2nd shaft) - Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Smith Mine (2nd shaft) – Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

After passing the mines, the trail levels off briefly, then resumes its climb, gradually at first then becomes much more steep.

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Yellow Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

After about 0.7 mile from its start, the Yellow Trail reaches the North Summit. You may want to take a break and enjoy the views here once again.

North Summit – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

North Summit view – Prospect Mountain Preserve

When you are ready to continue, follow the yellow blazes a short distance to the junction with the Blue Trail and turn right. Now retrace your steps along the Blue Trail as it descends Prospect Mountain, steeply in places, and follow the blue blazes all the way back to the Prospect Mountain Road trailhead, where you began the hike.

turn right on Blue Trail

turn right on Blue Trail

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Blue Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

If you would like to continue the hike, look for the red-blazed Grannis Pond Trail which is directly across the road. This trail can be hiked in either direction, but we chose to do it counterclockwise because the Granniss Mine would be at the beginning and the skies were threatening rain. Walk a few feet up the road until you see the start of the other end of the Red Trail. Follow the red blazes down the hill and in a short distance, the Granniss Mine is on the right.

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Mine - Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Mine – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The Granniss Mine was part of a 12-acre tract on the western slope of the mountain that was begun in 1864 by the NY based Nickel Mining & Smelting Company. Here, a tunnel was extended some 75 feet under Prospect Mountain Road with the intent of reaching a nearby vertical shaft, but was never completed. It stands today as a dead end horizontal shaft leading to nowhere. It has the distinction of being the only mine on Prospect Mountain that over 150 years later, can still be entered.

Granniss Mine - Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Mine – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Mine - Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Mine – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Just ahead is the scenic Granniss Pond.

Granniss Pond – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Pond – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Follow the Red Trail as it climbs the hillside, veering away from the pond and crosses a small stream on a wooden footbridge. The trail travels through an area with interesting rock formations and if the leaves are down, you may be able to see Granniss Pond down below on the left.

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

The Red Trail passes through several stone walls as it wraps around the pond then goes through a pine plantation.

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

As the trail comes close to the edge of the pond, it runs on wooden planks, passing a Beaver Lodge.

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Beaver Lodge - Granniss Pond

Beaver Lodge – Granniss Pond

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

In a short distance, the Red Trail crosses an outlet stream of the pond and turns left, soon reaching the south shore of Grannis Pond. The trail now runs along a grassy woods road, passing a bench and continues uphill to its terminus on Prospect Mountain Road, where the hike began.

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Pond – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Granniss Pond – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Red Trail – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Main Trailhead – Prospect Mountain Preserve

Main Trailhead – Prospect Mountain Preserve


Review:

This hike and preserve far exceeded my expectations. It is surprisingly rugged with its endless ups and downs. The trails are well marked and easy to follow. We only ran into a group of about 6 people and a solo hiker on our visit and for the most part, had the place to ourselves. The scenic landscape with its interesting rock formations, mines and viewpoints, make it a worthwhile destination for a day hike. Prospect Mountain Preserve has a little bit of everything that most outdoor lovers will enjoy.

Pros:

Historical features, scenic views, mines, rock formations, not much foot traffic, well marked trails, well maintained.

Cons:

Would be helpful to have informational signs about the mines and/or history of the preserve.


Take a hike!

Prospect Mountain Preserve – Litchfield Land Trust

Prospect Mountain Preserve – Litchfield Land Trust


Sources:

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest

November 21, 2020 – Watertown, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate – strenuous (steep ascents, steep descents)

Length: Approximately 4 miles

Max elevation: 780 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 719 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Map: Mattatuck State Forest Trail Map (DEEP)

Avenza App Map (FREE): Mattatuck State Forest Trail Map

Trailhead parking: Black Rock State Park 2065 Thomaston Rd, Watertown, CT 06795

There is a $15.00 daily parking fee in season for non-residents on weekends and holidays. $10.00 on weekdays.

Hunting is permitted in State Forests intersected by this trail. Please use caution and wear orange during hunting season.


Overview:

Mattatuck State Forest is a Connecticut state forest spread over twenty parcels in the towns of Waterbury, Plymouth, Thomaston, Watertown, Litchfield, and Harwinton. The Naugatuck River runs through a portion of the forest. Of the many land parcels that make up this forest, the largest, 1,327 acres, adjoins Black Rock State Park and is accessible from the park’s trails. Additionally, the well-marked, 42-mile long Mattatuck Trail passes through several portions of the forest. The forest is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck State Forest


History:

Originally, the area that is now Mattatuck State Forest was inhabited by the Paugasuck (a sub-nation of the Paugussett) Indians. The Paugassett roamed the entire Naugatuck Valley and had a vibrant society. They lived in wigwams and hunted, fished, and raised crops for food. The Algonquin name for the area was “Matetacoke” meaning “place without trees.” It appeared as “Mattatock” in 1673, and “Mattatuck” in the General Court record of May 18, 1674. In 1684, Thomas Judd and 35 prospective landowners purchased the land from the natives.

With the arrival of European pioneers came the onset of farming. That meant clear-cutting huge sections of land, cutting down trees that had never before felt an ax or a saw. In the 1880’s, when the farming boom subsided, industries took charge. Mattatuck State Forest and Black Rock State Park were deforested; the wood being used as fuel for foundries and brass milling in the nearby Naugatuck Valley.

By the time Harley F. Roberts had the idea to conserve some of his local area for a state forest, the land was in rough shape. Probably no one man accomplished more for Connecticut state forests than Mr. Harley F. Roberts, Master of the Taft School in Watertown. It was through him that in 1925 the Black Rock Forest, Inc. was organized for the sole purpose of acquiring and giving to the State, Black Rock park and Mattatuck forest. Mattatuck’s initial 723 acres were gifted to the state in 1926. By 1930, through a combination of continued land donations by the Black Rock Association and purchases by the state, the forest had grown to 2,578 acres. Mr. Roberts’s vision of land conservation has been well respected, for in the years since his original gift, Mattatuck has grown to encompass 4,510 acres in 20 different parcels within the towns of Waterbury, Plymouth, Thomaston, Watertown, Litchfield, and Harwinton.

Mr. Roberts died in the spring of 1930. His friends appreciative of his service to the State, presented a tablet which was dedicated June 7, 1930 by Mr. Horace Taft.

Harley F. Roberts Memorial - Mattatuck State Forest

Harley F. Roberts Memorial – Mattatuck State Forest

The tablet was placed upon a remarkable boulder, a natural monolith in the forest, not far from Bidwell Hill Road. This grove was partially thinned and was supposed to be maintained as the Roberts Memorial Grove. It now sits forgotten in the woods.

Harley F. Roberts Memorial - Mattatuck State Forest

Harley F. Roberts Memorial – Mattatuck State Forest

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp Roberts, which housed Company #175, was stationed at Black Rock State Park in Thomaston, Connecticut. The camp was established May 30, 1933 and was discontinued Sept. 28, 1937. The camp’s main projects were: building miles of truck trails, survey and boundary work, gypsy moth removal and tree planting. The CCC embarked on a massive reforestation project, planting tens of thousands of trees and instituting erosion control. The forest began to improve under the practices of the CCC, which turned the abused landscape into productive woodlands.

Signs of the region’s industrial history and resource exploitation abound on the landscape, but today’s forest hides much of the evidence. Remains of quarries, lime kilns, house foundations, agricultural fields, and charcoal mounds can still be found.

The Leatherman: The complete story of this legendary vagabond will never be known, but the Connecticut Legend of the Leatherman is alive and well in Mattatuck State Forest. This renowned tramp wore a 60 pound, leather patchwork suit and carried two bags in one hand and a walking stick in the other. Among his belongings were an ax, pail, hatchet, jack-knife, awl and scraps of leather.

The Leatherman

The Leatherman

The Leatherman had a 34 day, 365 mile, clockwise loop through western Connecticut and eastern New York. He faithfully followed this loop for roughly three decades until his death in 1889. He completed the circuit 11 times each year.

The Leatherman's circuit

The Leatherman’s circuit

Each day ended 10-11 miles from the last, and his long series of evening rest areas included many cave shelters and rock overhangs. One of his rest stops was in Mattatuck State Forest, that today is known as the Leatherman’s Cave. Although it’s not a true cave, it’s more of a fissure cave. Fissure caves are formed by movements of the earth – earthquakes and other shifts – as opposed to erosion, which forms most caves. This jumble of massive rocks under a ledge known as Crane’s Lookout, is probably the most well known and spectacular of all the Leatherman’s Caves.

Leatherman's Cave - Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

He survived the blizzard of 1888, but the next winter was found dead in his cave in Briarcliff, NY. His bag contained heavy leather equipment as well as a crucifix and a small French prayer book from 1840. He was buried at the Sparta Cemetery in Ossining, New York.

The grave site was situated right next to Route 9 and so many people visited his grave that concerns arose that someone could get hurt. So the local historical society decided to exhume the remains of the Old Leatherman and move his grave farther away from the road. The historians thought that while they were at it, they could also take the opportunity to do forensic tests on the remains, to learn more about him. In late May 2011, when the grave was dug up, they did not find any remains, just dirt and some iron nails. They re-buried the dirt and iron nails in a plain pine box, on higher ground in the middle of the cemetery. Visitors can see the boulder, which is his gravesite with a plaque that reads: The Leatherman.

Leatherman’s Grave - Sparta Cemetery

Leatherman’s Grave – Sparta Cemetery

The band Pearl Jam recorded a song about him, “Leatherman.” His leather bag is on exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.


Trails Overview:

  • Mattatuck Trail – The 42 mile-long Mattatuck Trail, is part of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system. It travels across Black Rock State Park from west to east, crossing Bidwell Hill Road and entering Mattatuck State Forest. The trail then crosses US-6 and climbs steeply to Crane’s Lookout and descends steeply, passing through the Leatherman’s Cave.

Mattatuck Trail - Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

  • Branch Brook Trail – Most of the 0.8-mile Branch Brook Trail is located in the forest, south of Reynolds Bridge Road in the town of Watertown. It is used to form a loop hike to return back to Black Rock State Park. An almost level woods road that makes a nice finish to this challenging hike.

Branch Brook Trail - Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

These trails can be combined with the trails in Black Rock State Park to form a longer loop hike.


Hike Overview:

This is one of those “must do” hikes in Connecticut. If the history and the lore is not enough, the sheer beauty of the area makes it a worthwhile trek. The Leatherman’s Cave itself is massive and the Mattatuck Trail goes right through it. The area around the cave is also quite impressive with all the overhanging ledges and rock formations. One of the most resplendent sections of trail that I have hiked.

This loop begins and ends in Black Rock State Park, where there is plenty of parking. There is no out-of-state parking fee after Labor Day or before Memorial Day weekend.

A lot of people do this hike in reverse of how it is described here, but by doing the hike counterclockwise, the last mile of the hike is on an almost entirely level woods road. It is preferable to this writer, to do the more strenuous sections early on and finish with an easy stroll along the brook.

The Mattatuck trail has varying easy-to-difficult sections. Starting in Black Rock State Park, it’s an easy walk through the woods. As the trail climbs the ridge towards Crane’s Lookout, it becomes steep and rocky. Most of the elevation is gained in under a mile, from US-6 (Thomaston Road) to Crane’s Lookout. From there, the descent is rather steep in sections, sometimes over open rock slabs. The last mile on the Branch Brook Trail is an almost level woods road.

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest

There is some light rock scrambling along steep sections of the Mattatuck Trail, where you may have to use both your hands and feet while ascending and descending.

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest

Please Note: This hike should not be attempted if there is rain, ice or snow. The Mattatuck Trail travels up and over steep sections of open rock slabs and ledges with steep dropoffs. Poor weather conditions and/or wet leaves resulting in poor traction, could be dangerous.


The Hike:

After entering Black Rock State Park, park just past the ticket booth, by the paved park road that leads to the beach (Black Rock Pond). If the gate is open, there is parking closer to the pond.

paved park road – Black Rock State Park

paved park road – Black Rock State Park

Walk past the gate and proceeded up the paved park road towards Black Rock Pond. Just before the restrooms, turn right, leaving the park road, walk across the field and cross the steel footbridge.

paved park road – Black Rock State Park

paved park road – Black Rock State Park

turn right and walk across the field - Black Rock State Park

turn right and walk across the field – Black Rock State Park

steel footbridge – Black Rock State Park

steel footbridge – Black Rock State Park

After crossing the bridge, turn left by the large park map, on a woods road, crossing a small wooden footbridge and proceed uphill.

turn left after crossing the steel footbridge

turn left after crossing the steel footbridge

woods road – Black Rock State Park

woods road – Black Rock State Park

woods road – Black Rock State Park

woods road – Black Rock State Park

In just under 300 feet, the woods road joins the blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail, which continues uphill towards Black Rock. This turn is easy to miss as you have to make a hard left, almost making a U-turn. Follow the blue blazes as they immediately turn right and begin heading in a southeasterly direction on another woods road.

turn sharp left on Mattatuck Trail

turn sharp left on Mattatuck Trail

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

The Mattatuck Trail travels along the southern end of Black Rock State Park, near Black Rock Pond. It crosses a series of small wooden footbridges over outlet streams of Black Rock Pond.

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

In about 0.75 mile, from the start of the hike, the Mattatuck Trail crosses Bidwell Hill Road, leaving Black Rock State Park. The trail crosses the road diagonally to the right and reenters the woods, entering Mattatuck State Forest.

Mattatuck Trail – Bidwell Hill Road

Mattatuck Trail – Bidwell Hill Road

Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck State Forest

The trail heads uphill on a woods road and in another 540 feet, turns left leaving the woods road and weaves its way through the woods, crossing a small stream, turning left (heading north) then turning right and crossing US-6 (Thomaston Rd). Care should be taken while crossing this road

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – US 6

Mattatuck Trail – US 6

The trail reenters the woods and now begins a steady climb. At times the trail climbs steeply over rock slabs which could be slick, if wet or covered with leaves.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

The trail levels off briefly then resumes its steep ascent over a large rock formation. Once at the top of the rock formation, looking back, some partial views can be had. The trail levels off a little, traveling along slanted rock slabs with steep drop offs to the left.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

The trail descends a little, climbs slightly then descends steeply into the valley, intersecting several woods roads as it passes through a wet area on wooden planks.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

The trail turns left and begins to climb more steeply on rock slabs, then through a section of trail that is extremely rutted. At the top of the rise, the trail turns left as it reaches a junction with an unmarked trail.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

The Mattatuck Trail comes out on open rock at Crane’s Lookout. From here, you can see the countryside about 270 degrees all around you. You are now standing above the Leatherman’s Cave.

Crane's Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

Crane’s Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

A memorial for a 24 year old man that was killed in 2015, in a tragic automobile accident.

Crane's Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

Crane’s Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

At an elevation of 780 feet, views of Thomaston and Watertown’s hills and valleys

Crane's Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

Crane’s Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

You have now hiked almost 2 miles. This makes for a good spot to remove your pack and rest up from the climb, while you take in the views.

Crane's Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

Crane’s Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

The next part can be confusing. There is a forked arrow painted on the rock that points down the side of the Crane’s Lookout, to the left. The blue blazes will soon appear as you descend. When you come to a Y-intersection with the Jericho Trail (also blue blazed), which begins on the right, bear left to stay on the Mattatuck Trail.

Crane’s Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

Crane’s Lookout – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

The trail hugs the side of the rock formation that you just descended and in a short distance, reaches the Leatherman’s Cave. The Mattatuck Trail passes through the cave and exits the other end. You may want to take some time to explore this area.

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Looking back at the Leatherman’s Cave after exiting the other end.

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave – Mattatuck State Forest

After exiting the cave, the trail passes through another interesting area of high overhanging ledges and rock formations. You may have to climb over some small boulders as you make your way through this section of trail.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

The trail descends steeply, losing about 350 feet of elevation in about 500 yards. The trail climbs again, gaining about another 100 feet of elevation in the next 500 yards or so. The trail descends again, losing another 150 feet of elevation before the grade lessens.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Near the base of the final descent, the trail passes an old quarry.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

After about a mile from the Leatherman’s Cave, the Mattatuck Trail reaches a junction with the Branch Brook Trail, which begins on the left.

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Turn left and follow this almost level woods road in a westerly direction as it heads towards US-6.

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail - Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

I read that this trail was once a trolley track from Waterbury to Black Rock at the turn of the century. By the looks of the amount of effort it took to construct it, by blasting the rock and raising the road bed, I tend to believe it.

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

In about 0.7 mile, the trail turns right, crossing the Branch Brook on a wooden footbridge, and a short distance later, reaches US-6.

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Branch Brook Trail – Mattatuck State Forest

Cross the road carefully and walk down the entrance road of Black Rock State Park, past the ticket booth, to the parking lot, where the hike began.

US 6 - Black Rock State Park

US 6 – Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park


Review:

A somewhat challenging hike at times with the steep climbs and descents, but very rewarding and a good workout. The area around the Leatherman’s Cave is awe-inspiring and has a prehistoric feel to it. The Mattatuck Trail passes underneath massive overhanging ledges and climbs around rock formations. The Leatherman’s Cave is most impressive of all and exceeded my expectations. I have been to the Leatherman’s Cave In Ward Pound Ridge and this is by far on a much grander scale.

Pros:

Historical features, Leatherman’s Cave, Crane’s Lookout, scenic views, well marked trails, rock formations.

Cons:

Road crossings, some road noise can be heard.


Take a hike!

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest

Leatherman’s Cave Loop – Mattatuck State Forest


Sources:

Hidden Valley Preserve Loop

November 14, 2020 – Washington Depot, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 4.5 miles

Max elevation: 841 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 509 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Map: Hidden Valley Preserve Trail Map 2019

Avenza App Map (FREE): Hidden Valley Preserve Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 198 Bee Brook Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794

The preserve is open daily, Sunrise to Sunset

Please Note: There are neither restrooms nor drinking water at the preserve.

Hidden Valley Preserve is “Carry in-Carry out,” Do not litter.


Overview:

Hidden Valley Preserve is a 727-acre tract located northeast of Washington Depot, Connecticut. The property is characterized by densely wooded hillsides cascading into the meandering river below, providing views from the Lookout and Pinnacle. The preserve is crisscrossed by nearly 17 miles of trails that offer a variety of terrain for hiking.

Hidden Valley Preserve

Hidden Valley Preserve

Hidden Valley Preserve is one of three public preserves owned by Steep Rock Association (SRA). Steep Rock Preserve and Macricostas Preserve are the other two. SRA is is a non-profit land trust whose mission is to conserve ecologically and historically significant landscapes in and around Washington, CT and the Shepaug River Valley and to enhance the community’s connection with nature. SRA is entirely funded by donations from visitors.


History:

In the Spring of 1889, just as he was about to break ground on his own country house in Washington, Connecticut, a well-known architect of the period, Ehrick Rossiter discovered that the wooded hillsides in his dramatic view to the west were slated for clear cutting. He bought the threatened land from the timber company and saved forever the 100 acres that now form the heart of the Steep Rock Reservation. During his 36 years of ownership, Rossiter built carriage roads and small river crossings and invited his friends and fellow townspeople to enjoy the wild beauty of this section of the Shepaug River Valley.

In 1925, Rossiter no longer wished to be the sole custodian of Steep Rock and gave the property over to the care of nine of his friends. One of those was Adrian van Sinderen who, at this time, undoubtedly inspired by Rossiter’s preservation motives and civic generosity, was taking similar steps to preserve the natural lands around his home.

By 1928, Adrian Van Sinderen had accumulated 650 acres and named the property “Hidden Valley” after a place in the mountains of Utah, which he had visited on a trip out West.

For the rest of his life, Adrian Van Sinderen remained an active Trustee of Steep Rock, guiding the preserve through many changes, the acquisition of new lands, the planting of new trees and the transition of Steep Rock into a public land trust. It is thus not surprising that in 1963 Adrian Van Sinderen donated 650 acres of Hidden Valley as a gift to Steep Rock Association for the continual enjoyment of the public.


Trails Overview:

Hidden Valley Preserve offers nearly 17 miles of connecting hiking trails, making it a perfect spot for hikers of all levels. The level trail lying alongside the eastern bank of the river, runs along the old railroad bed. Passenger and freight trains once rumbled through the entire length of the reservation from 1872 to 1948. Trails and woods roads remaining from the Van Sinderens’ equestrian and carriage-driving days criss-cross this tract of hardwoods, pine groves, and hemlocks. The trails are well marked and for the most part, easy to follow. There are some unmarked trails throughout the property that may not appear on the trail map.

An easy loop hike of about 1.5 miles can be done utilizing the Bee Brook Loop and the old railroad bed, crossing both bridges over the Shepaug River.

Please Note: Trails may be periodically closed due to their conditions or to protect plants and wildlife. 


Points of Interest:

  • The Thoreau Footbridge: A cable stayed, mass timber suspension bridge spanning 134′ across the Shepaug River. The bridge deck rises to clear the 500 year flood level and then sweeps 90 degrees as it gently ramps down to the north side of the river. Quotes from Thoreau’s seminal writings, inscribed by water jet into a bench at the cliff base and along the bridge’s steel handrails, offer moments for reflection.

Thoreau Footbridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

  • Pinnacle: A rocky high point that rises to about 841 feet above sea level. The view is stunning with patches of fields and forest placed among the distant hills. A plaque honors Van Sinderen’s donation of the property.

Pinnacle - Hidden Valley Preserve

Pinnacle – Hidden Valley Preserve

  • The Lookout: is a semi-circular terrace providing scenic views of the valley to the west. It was constructed as a lookout and rest spot along the carriage roads built by Adrian Van Sinderen. Overhung by trees in places, this is a great spot for a picnic.

The Lookout - Hidden Valley Preserve

The Lookout – Hidden Valley Preserve

  • The Quartz Mine: once helped support a small mining industry in the 19th Century. This surface mine was active from the 1800’s until it was abandoned in 1915. The quartz, used as a filler in paint and as an abrasive, was initially transported from here to the Hudson River by wagon and, later, by train. Quartz normally forms beautiful hexagonal crystals, but the mineral developed at Hidden Valley Preserve as a massive white vein.

Quartz Mine - Hidden Valley Preserve

Quartz Mine – Hidden Valley Preserve

  • Shepaug River: Deriving its name from the Mohegan word for “rocky water,” the Shepaug River extends for 26 miles across northwestern Connecticut. It originates in Warren and runs south through Washington, Roxbury, and Southbury where it finally joins the Housatonic River.

Shepaug River - Hidden Valley Preserve

Shepaug River – Hidden Valley Preserve

  • Stephen C. Reich Memorial Bridge: In 2007, a new footbridge, replacing the 1987 bridge (which in turn replaced one from 1977) washed away in 2005 flooding, was dedicated to the memory of Major Stephen C. Reich, on New Year’s Day. Major Reich grew up in Washington, graduated from Shepaug Valley High School in 1989 and the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1993. He was commanding a U.S. Army Special Forces rescue operation in eastern Afghanistan when his Chinook helicopter was shot down June 28, 2005, killing all 16 aboard.

Reich Memorial Bridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Reich Memorial Bridge – Hidden Valley Preserve


Hike Overview:

This particular hike is a good introduction to Hidden Valley Preserve as it hits all of the main points of interest. This hike begins at the smaller parking area, just north of the main entrance. This parking lot can fit about 12 vehicles if everyone parks correctly. The reason for beginning here was to cross the Thoreau Footbridge early before the place got busy. This hike can also be done from the main parking lot, crossing the Thoreau Footbridge at the end.

We began and ended the hike on the white-circle-blazed Bee Brook Loop Trail. For most of the hike, we followed the yellow-circle-blazed Van Sinderen Loop Trail. Which climbs to the Pinnacle then heads north across the Lookout and through the Quartz Mine. We also followed the blue-circle-blazed Pinnacle Trail briefly to the viewpoint and utilized the white-diamond-blazed connector trail to reach the river after passing through the Quartz Mine.

This hike was done counterclockwise from Bee Brook Road, just north of the Rt. 47 highway bridge.

Hidden Valley Preserve Loop

Hidden Valley Preserve Loop

elevation profile - Hidden Valley Preserve Loop

elevation profile – Hidden Valley Preserve Loop


The Hike:

The hike begins by crossing the footbridge that spans Bee Brook. In 1976, this small wooden footbridge was built over Bee Brook to allow dry access to the Hidden Valley entrance just north of the Rt. 47 highway bridge.

wooden footbridge over Bee Brook

wooden footbridge over Bee Brook

Bee Brook - Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook – Hidden Valley Preserve

After crossing the small footbridge over Bee Brook, we turned right on the white-circle-blazed Bee Brook Loop Trail which heads uphill on a woods road then descends and parallels the Shepaug River. In about 250 yards, the Bee Brook Loop Trail reaches the Thoreau Bridge. Leaving the Bee Brook Loop Trail, we crossed the 134-ft. suspension bridge to the eastern section of Hidden Valley Preserve.

Bee Brook Loop - Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop – Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop - Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop – Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop - Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop – Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

A cast iron bench on the eastern side of the bridge has a Henry David Thoreau quote that anyone who has explored the woods can relate to: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

bench on the eastern end of the Thoreau Bridge

bench on the eastern end of the Thoreau Bridge

“The universe is wider than our views of it.”

Thoreau Footbridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Thoreau Footbridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

After crossing Thoreau Bridge, we turned right and headed south towards the main entrance. The yellow-circle-blazed Van Sinderen Loop begins here. If starting the hike from this parking lot, this is where you would begin. The Van Sinderen Loop climbs on a woods road, passes through a wooden barrier and continues north with Thoreau Bridge visible through the trees below.

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

A short distance later, the trail comes to a fork and the Van Sinderen Loop Trail splits. This is where the loop portion of the Van Sinderen Loop begins. If you were to follow only the yellow circle blazes, you would end up back at this spot. Although there are no visible blazes on the right fork, it is coaligned with the white-diamond-blazed Connector Trail. I misread the map and continued straight and used an unmarked trail to back track. Take the right fork as it climbs steeply.

bear right at the fork

bear right at the fork

In about another 520 feet, the two coaligned trails split. We turned right to continue following the yellow circle blazes, which continue to climb towards the Pinnacle.

bear right at the fork

bear right at the fork

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

In about another 275 feet, the Van Sinderen Loop Trail comes to a junction with the blue-blazed Pinnacle Trail. We turned right on the Pinnacle Trail which climbs steeply for about 210 feet and comes out onto a rock outcrop with views to the northwest.

turn right on Pinnacle Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

turn right on Pinnacle Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Pinnacle Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Pinnacle Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

A plaque honors Van Sinderen’s donation of “this hidden valley woodland with gratitude for his foresight in developing its beauty.”

Pinnacle Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Pinnacle Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Pinnacle - Hidden Valley Preserve

Pinnacle – Hidden Valley Preserve

We retraced our steps back to the Van Sinderen Loop Trail which is now coaligned for a short distance with the Pinnacle Trail. When the two trails split, we veered left, following the yellow blazes which descend gradually through the dense woods, soon passing one of the white diamond connector trails on the left.

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

In about 0.4 mile, the Van Sinderen Loop Trail passes through an open field with a private residence to the right and a west-facing viewpoint to the left. The trail reenters the woods, descends, levels off slightly, then climbs again, soon reaching the Lookout, with more west-facing views.

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

The circular terrace marked with a small stone wall, showcases a scenic view across the hills of Washington. According to the Steep Rock Association, the Lookout was built by Adrian Van Sinderen as a resting spot along his carriage road. Old houses, fields and farms can be seen in the distant hills.

The Lookout - Hidden Valley Preserve

The Lookout – Hidden Valley Preserve

The Van Sinderen Loop Trail descends then levels off, passing junctions with several trails. It then turns left and descends again, heading in a westerly direction. At the base of the descent, the trail turns right and passes through the area of the Quartz Mine.

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Quartz Mine - Van Sinderen Loop Trail

Quartz Mine – Van Sinderen Loop Trail

Quartz Mine - Van Sinderen Loop Trail

Quartz Mine – Van Sinderen Loop Trail

Quartz Mine - Hidden Valley Preserve

Quartz Mine – Hidden Valley Preserve

According to the Steep Rock Association, the mine was active from the 1800’s until 1915, transporting quartz to the Hudson River by wagon and train. The quartz was used as a filler in paint and as an abrasive. A huge vein of quartz remains exposed, and the trail is littered with snow-white tailings that crunch under your boots.

Quartz Mine - Van Sinderen Loop Trail

Quartz Mine – Van Sinderen Loop Trail

The trail passes through an area that is built up with stone walls and possibly foundations that were associated with the abandoned Quartz Mine.

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail - Hidden Valley Preserve

Van Sinderen Loop Trail – Hidden Valley Preserve

The yellow-circle-blazed Van Sinderen Loop Trail comes to a T-intersection and turns right. We turned left on a poorly blazed white-diamond-blazed connector trail which heads in a southerly direction.

turn left on White Diamond Connector Trail

turn left on White Diamond Connector Trail

In just under 500 yards, the connector trail ends at a T-intersection with the Van Sinderen Loop Trail. Here we turned left and followed the trail south. This section of the trail runs along the old Shepaug Valley Railroad bed. The 32-mile railroad once known as the “crookedest east of California” with its 200 curves and 32-mile length to cover a route 18 miles long as the crow flies.

turn left on Van Sinderen Loop Trail

turn left on Van Sinderen Loop Trail

A short distance later, the trail reaches the Stephen C. Reich Memorial Bridge. Major Reich was a Washington resident who died in 2005 as part of an Army Night Stalker team that was trying to rescue an eight-member Navy Seal team in Afghanistan. The mission was depicted in the 2014 movie, “Lone Survivor.” A plaque dedicates the bench and bridge to Reich with the quote, “If you would seek his monument, look about you.”

Reich Memorial Bridge - Hidden Valley Preserve

Reich Memorial Bridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

We crossed the bridge and climbed the wooden steps on the western side of the Shepaug River. The bridge connects the Van Sinderen Loop Trail with the Bee Brook Loop.

Reich Memorial Bridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

Reich Memorial Bridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

Shepaug River - Hidden Valley Preserve

Shepaug River – Hidden Valley Preserve

Reich Memorial Bridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

Reich Memorial Bridge – Hidden Valley Preserve

After crossing the bridge and climbing the stairs, we turned left on the Bee Brook Loop Trail which soon descends to river level as it heads south.

Bee Brook Loop - Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop – Hidden Valley Preserve

Shepaug River – Hidden Valley Preserve

Shepaug River – Hidden Valley Preserve

In about 0.6 mile (from the Reich Memorial Bridge), the Bee Brook Loop Trail passes the Thoreau Bridge. If you parked in the main lot, you would cross the bridge, turn right and head for the parking lot.

Bee Brook Loop - Hidden Valley Preserve

Bee Brook Loop – Hidden Valley Preserve

If you began the hike where we did, continue past the bridge for another 250 yards, up and down the hill, cross the small wooden footbridge over Bee Brook and back to the parking area where the hike began.

wooden footbridge over Bree Brook - Hidden Valley Preserve

wooden footbridge over Bree Brook – Hidden Valley Preserve


Review:

A really good hike in a well maintained preserve. The points of interest are plentiful and the landscape is quite scenic. The trails are well marked with the exception of most of the junctions, which could use some blazes closer to the turnoffs. By using the free Avenza Maps app, it makes it much easier to navigate the trails. This is a popular hiking location on weekends, especially on nice days and can get crowded. An early start is recommended or even weekdays to avoid any crowds. The preserve was litter free on the day of our visit, let’s keep it that way. Do not litter, please carry out what you carry in.

Pros:

Scenic landscape, well maintained trails, historical features, scenic views, Thoreau Bridge, Quartz Mine, Pinnacle, Shepaug River.

Cons:

Some junctions are not well marked, can hear some road noise, attracts crowds on nice days.


Take a hike!

Hidden Valley Preserve Loop

Hidden Valley Preserve Loop

Sources:

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park

November 8, 2020 – Hopewell Junction, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 4.7 miles

Max elevation: 1,282 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 701 ft.

Route type: Out and back

Buy Map: East Hudson Trails Map

Free Web Map: Fahnestock State Park Trail Map

Avenza App Map (FREE): Fahnestock State Park Map for Avenza

Trailhead parking: 101-91 Long Hill Rd, Hopewell Junction, NY 12533


Overview:

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, also known as Fahnestock State Park, is a 14,337-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.

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park

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. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail crosses the park in a southwest-northeast direction for over ten miles. The park receives substantial local use, and serves the New York City Metropolitan area to the south, as well as out-of-state users.


Trail Overview:

The Appalachian Trail traverses Fahnestock State Park for 10.24 miles, entering from the southern boundary of the park east of Catfish Pond, north across Route 301 past Canopus Lake, and exiting the northern end of the park at Long Hill Road, near the Dutchess-Putnam County boundary. There is parking on Long Hill Road where the trail crosses. The AT within state parkland is cooperatively managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the NYNJTC, under a formal Memorandum of Understanding with OPRHP and other entities.


Hike Overview:

Two weeks earlier, we did a hike to Canopus Lake Overlook, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to improvise and created a different hike on the fly. Long Hill Road is a good spot to do an out and back hike, entirely on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Please keep in mind that the approach to the parking area on Long Hill Road is not paved, steep, and in places, rutted. The road itself climbs on switchbacks with some extremely sharp curves. I would not recommend a low-lying vehicle to travel along this road. I would be hesitant as well if there is snow or heavy rain. There is room for about 8-10 cars, right where the AT crosses the road.

Long Hill Road trailhead

Long Hill Road trailhead

This is a straightforward out and back hike, entirely on the AT, that leads to several good scenic viewpoints. This long ridge is Shenandoah Mountain although the highpoint (1282 ft. above sea level), near Long Hill Road, is labeled as Looking Benchmark (Mountain?) on the USGS survey benchmark. The AT is well blazed and easy to follow, and for the most part, an unfrequented section of trail. We encountered three southbound through-hikers and several day hikers

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park

Once the initial steep climb to the ridge is completed, it’s mostly a gradual downhill until the trail nears Canopus Lake, then it’s uphill to the Canopus Lake Overlook. From there, it’s simply a matter of retracing your steps back the way you came, to Long Hill Road.

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park


The Hike:

From the parking area, cross the road and head south on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, which you will be following for the entire hike. Here, the trail enters Fahnestock State Park at its northern end and climbs Shenandoah Mountain, gradually at first then more steeply on rock steps.

Appalachian Trail - Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail - Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

The trail levels off briefly, then continues its steep ascent. In about 0.4 mile, the AT reaches the 1282-ft. open summit of Shenandoah Mountain, marked by a USGS survey benchmark.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Looking Benchmark - Appalachian Trail

Looking Benchmark – Appalachian Trail

If you look closely, it is stamped LOOKING 1933. I have heard this spot referred to as Looking Rock and/or Looking Mountain, but on maps it is labeled as Shenandoah Mountain. When I inquired about it to the NY-NJ Trail Conference, I was told that the long ridge is all Shenandoah Mountain.

Looking Benchmark - Appalachian Trail

Looking Benchmark – Appalachian Trail

At the summit of Shenandoah Mountain, there is an American flag painted on the rock, in memory of September 11, 2001.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

You have now hiked about 0.4 mile, with more than 250-ft. of elevation gain. This makes a good spot to take a breather and enjoy the views. The view southeast from the summit of Shenandoah Mountain.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

The view northeast towards Dutchess County from the summit of Shenandoah Mountain.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

South-facing view of the East Hudson Highlands.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

When you are ready to continue, proceed south on the AT as it leaves the summit and reenters the woods. The trail descends, dipping down into the valley and turns left on an old woods road, bordered by a stone wall. As you continue along the AT, you may notice more stone walls and some cellar holes from homesteads long ago. Imagine folks, that called this home, cultivating the rugged landscape in order to survive.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

In just over a mile from the summit, the AT comes to a junction with a blue-blazed trail and turns right. Continue to follow the white blazes as they begin a steady climb, gradually at first, then more steeply, passing some interesting rock formations along the way.

turn right to remain on Appalachian Trail

turn right to remain on Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

In another 0.6 mile, look for a short unmarked spur trail to the right that leads to a west-facing view of the surrounding hills.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

When you are ready to proceed, continue south on the AT about another 750 feet to the Canopus Lake Overlook.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

From this south-facing viewpoint, you can see most of Canopus Lake. Canopus Lake at an elevation of 915 feet, is a 104-acre lake with a shoreline of approximately 3.7 miles. The lake was created in the mid-1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). If you look down below to the left, Canopus Beach is visible through the trees. This is your turn around spot and makes an excellent place to relax and enjoy a snack.

Canopus Lake Overlook Loop - Appalachian Trail

Canopus Lake Overlook Loop – Appalachian Trail

When you are done soaking in the scenery, retrace your steps along the AT (heading north), and in about 1.8 miles, you will be back at the Looking Rock Benchmark, where you may want to snap some more pics.

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah Mountain

From the summit, it’s only 0.4 mile to the parking area on Long Hill Road, where the hike began.

Appalachian Trail - Long Hill Road trailhead

Appalachian Trail – Long Hill Road trailhead

While eating and drinking post hike, we ran into an AT south bounder, trail name “Trouble.” We had a nice conversation and offered him some food and drink. A nice guy, hope he made it to his destination.

Trouble - AT south bounder

Trouble – AT south bounder


Review:

A very enjoyable hike along the Appalachian Trail. No crowds, great views and a September 11 Memorial at the summit. Even though I prefer loop hikes, this out and back was quite nice. The best thing about it was that we mostly had the trail to ourselves as well as the viewpoints. A good alternative to some of the more popular (and crowded) trails in the Hudson Valley.

Pros:

Appalachian Trail, scenic views, Shenandoah Mountain, lesser trafficked area.

Cons:

Long Hill Road can be treacherous in bad weather or with the wrong vehicle.


Take a hike!

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Overlook from Long Hill Road – Fahnestock State Park


Sources:

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

October 31, 2020 – Lloyd Harbor, NY

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 3.5 miles

Max elevation: 163 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 186 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Map: Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge Trail MapTarget Rock Trail Guide

Trailhead parking: 12 Target Rock Rd, Lloyd Harbor, NY 11743

 

Overview:

The Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge is located on the north shore of Long Island, 25 miles east of New York City. This 80-acre refuge is composed of mature oak-hickory forest, a half-mile rocky beach, a brackish pond, and several vernal ponds. The land and waters support a variety of songbirds (particularly warblers during spring migration), mammals, shorebirds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. During the colder months, diving ducks are common offshore, while harbor seals occasionally use the beach and nearby rocks as resting sites. NY State and Federally protected piping plover, least tern, and common tern depend on the Refuge’s rocky shore for foraging and rearing young. The spring bloom at Target Rock is a reminder of its days as a garden estate, with flowering rhododendrons and mountain laurel.

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

The Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which consists of seven national wildlife refuges, two refuge sub-units and one wildlife management area. Collectively, the ten units are approximately 6,500 acres in size. Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge is home to the refuge complex headquarters and visitor center. These units are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 and administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System is a diverse network of lands and waters dedicated to conserving America’s rich fish and wildlife heritage.

National Wildlife Refuge System

National Wildlife Refuge System

Visitor Activities:

  • Fishing – Fishing is allowed from the shoreline. A free New York state salt water fishing license is required. Common fish species include striped bass (striper or rockfish), weakfish, summer flounder (fluke), bluefish, blackfish (tautog) and porgy (scup).
    Please clean your fish at home. The refuge does NOT maintain a fish cleaning station.
  • Wildlife Viewing – Most wildlife viewing is done from one of three hiking trails. Catbirds, cardinals, common yellowthroats and Carolina wrens use the dense understory formed by azaleas, rhododendrons and yews.
  • Environmental Education – Limited interactive, student oriented activities are offered. Please contact the headquarters office in order to set up programming for your private group. (631) 286-0485.
  • Photography – Nature based photography is permitted along any of the trails and along the beach. Please stay on marked trails and do not disturb resting wildlife.

The refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

History:

The 80-acre refuge is named for the massive shoreline rock, one of the island’s boulders that remain from the glacial deposits. Legend has it the British Navy used the 14-foot high “Target Rock” for target practice during the War of 1812. Long Island’s geography was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, forming bluffs, dunes, necks and bays. At the time of the Revolutionary War, Target Rock was part of the bluffs that overlook Huntington Bay. Over the centuries, constant movement of the winds and waters eroded the massive boulder away from the bluff, consigning it to stand individually just offshore. 

Target Rock

Target Rock

In 1654, the Matinecock Native Americans sold 3,000 acres of what is now called Lloyd Neck to English settlers from Oyster Bay. In 1676, James Lloyd acquired the neck, which was then taken over by his son Henry. Henry Lloyd farmed the land and erected a house, which still survives in Caumsett State Park.

During the Revolutionary War, the town of Huntington along with the village of Lloyd Neck was occupied by the British. A fort (Fort Franklin 1777-1780, now known as Fort Hill) was built by the British on the western end of Lloyd Neck overlooking the entrance to Cold Spring Harbor. Another fortification (East Fort) was built on the east side of Lloyd Neck near the site of Target Rock. The forts were designed by the British to defend the harbors from French and American forces who attacked the forts several times. Despite the bloody battles there, the Revolutionaries never took Fort Franklin, and it was eventually abandoned after the war.

Target Rock was known to have been a target for cannon practice by British warships during the War of 1812. This glacial erratic which once sat on the side of the cliff, along with the ground that East Fort stood on, receded into the ocean over time, due to erosion.

In the 1880’s, Lloyd Neck became a stop for steamboats coming from New York City, bringing tourists and wealthy New Yorkers.

The 1900’s ushered the era of the Long Island Gold Coast, and various wealthy families began to buy land and build seaside mansions and estates.

In the early 20th century, an estate with 300 acres and 2 miles of waterfront, was established at the eastern end of Lloyd Neck, the site where East Fort once stood. Originally built by Rudolph and Olga (Von Neufville) Flinsch, it was called Target Rock Farm. It was then purchased from the Flinsches by Ambassador James W. Gerard in 1921 who made extensive improvements to the property.

In 1936 the property was sold to Investment Banker and pioneering mutual fund proprietor Ferdinand Eberstadt who constructed a new 40,000 square ft. Georgian style home, designed by Delano and Aldrich in 1937-1938. Under Eberstadt’s ownership Target Rock Farm would become known for its magnificent gardens. 

In 1967 he donated this property to the Federal government under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Although it was first considered as the potential site of a future nuclear power plant, the estate was ultimately destined for use as a wildlife refuge with the goal of preserving endangered plant and animal species and promoting a migratory route for birds. The donated land was to be the formal legal basis that halted the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) in 1970.

After being declared too deteriorated to be repaired and despite attempts by preservationists to save the mansion, it was demolished in 1995 by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which said that it had deteriorated and that repairing it was “not the purpose the refuge was established for.”

 

Trails Overview:

The Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge has about 1.5 miles of woodland trails plus a half-mile of rocky beach. The adjacent East Beach provides almost another mile of continuous shoreline to walk on if one wants to extend the distance. 

  • Gardener’s Path (0.3 mile) is a wide, gentle walk past the former vegetable and cutting garden of Ferdinand and Mary Eberstadt. Access to this trail is from the Rocky Beach Trail.
  • Warbler’s Loop (0.5 mile) descends gradually from the parking area, through the woods and ends at a junction with the Rocky Beach Trail.
  • Rocky Beach Trail (0.5 mile) descends gradually from the parking lot, passing the two access points for the Gardener’s Path, the terminus of the Warbler’s Loop and ends at the Rocky Beach.
  • Beach Access Trail (500 feet) can be accessed from the Rocky Beach Trail or the Rocky Beach, near the area of the Beach Access Stairs.
  • Rocky Beach (0.5 mile) although not a trail, provides an area for walking along the shoreline or just for sitting on the sand.
  • East Beach (0.9 mile) technically not part of Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, but provides some extra shoreline for walking along if so desired. 

Hike Overview:

We arrived shortly before 10:30am on a cool Halloween morning. The temperature was hovering around 40° and there was only one car in the parking lot, which left as we were pulling in. We planned on doing a loop incorporating East Beach to lengthen the walk. We began on the Warbler’s Loop Trail, connecting to the Rocky Beach Trail towards the beach, and walking south as far as possible along East Beach. Retracing our steps along East Beach to Rocky Beach for a view of Target Rock, then returning via the Beach Access Stairs to the upper portion of the Rocky Beach Trail and back to the parking area. We did not walk on the Gardener’s Path during our visit.

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

The Hike:

From the parking area, we proceeded east on the Warbler’s Loop Trail which leads gradually downhill on a wide path.

Warbler's Loop

Warbler’s Loop

 

Warbler's Loop Trail

Warbler’s Loop Trail

 

Warbler's Loop Trail

Warbler’s Loop Trail

 

Warbler's Loop Trail

Warbler’s Loop Trail

In about 0.5 mile, The Warbler’s Loop Trail ends at a T-intersection with the Rocky Beach Trail, marked by a bench and a sign. Here we turned right and followed the Rocky Beach Trail downhill. 

turn right on Rocky Beach Trail

turn right on Rocky Beach Trail

 

Rocky Beach Trail

Rocky Beach Trail

 

Rocky Beach Trail

Rocky Beach Trail

In approximately another 200 yards, the Rocky Beach Trail comes to another T-intersection, marked by a kiosk. To the left is the Beach Access Trail, which would be our return route. We stayed right to continue on the Rocky Beach Trail.

turn right on Rocky Beach Trail

turn right on Rocky Beach Trail

 

turn right on Rocky Beach Trail

turn right on Rocky Beach Trail

 

Rocky Beach Trail

Rocky Beach Trail

In about another 215 yards (past the kiosk), the trail reaches the Brackish Pond. Here, a bird blind is positioned overlooking the pond to observe wildlife.

Brackish Pond

Brackish Pond

 

bird blind - Brackish Pond

bird blind – Brackish Pond

The tide from Huntington Bay floods this pond daily and mixes with the freshwater from the surrounding watershed. The result is a pond with salinity lower than that of the Bay, teeming with life from plants to birds, turtles, mammals, and fish.

Brackish Pond

Brackish Pond

 

Brackish Pond

Brackish Pond

A short distance from the Brackish Pond, the Rocky Beach Trail ends at the beach. We turned right and began to walk the shoreline in a southerly direction.

Rocky Beach

Rocky Beach

 

Rocky Beach

Rocky Beach

After about 550 feet, we reached the boundary of the refuge and continued past it, Now walking on East Beach.

boundary of Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

boundary of Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

 

East Beach

East Beach

 

East Beach

East Beach

To the south, off in the distance, is the Huntington Harbor Lighthouse which was completed in 1912.

Huntington Harbor Lighthouse

Huntington Harbor Lighthouse

 

East Beach

East Beach

We continued following the shoreline of East Beach, stopping to observe the tidal flats of Lloyd Harbor, to the west.

tidal flats - Lloyd Harbor

tidal flats – Lloyd Harbor

We walked as far south as the sand and tide would let us.

East Beach

East Beach

Just ahead, the remains of the Lloyd Harbor Light (1857-1912) can be seen. The lighthouse once marked the entrance to Lloyd Harbor. In lower tides, these ruins may be able to be reached on foot.

Lloyd Harbor Light ruins

Lloyd Harbor Light ruins

Lloyd Harbor Lighthouse was finished in 1857 and consisted of a two-story, wood-frame dwelling built on a brick foundation and attached at one corner to a square brick tower. A kitchen, dining room, and sitting room were found on the dwelling’s first floor, and three bedrooms on the second. The original beacon was a fifth-order, Henry-Lepaute Fresnel lens showing a fixed white light at a focal plane of forty-eight feet.

Lloyd Harbor Light - 1885

Lloyd Harbor Light – 1885

We then retraced our steps along East Beach, passing the junction with the Rocky Beach Trail and the Beach Access Stairs.

East Beach

East Beach

 

East Beach

East Beach

 

Rocky Beach

Rocky Beach

Just past the stairs, is Target Rock. During low tide, one can walk right up to the 14-ft. glacial erratic. 

Target Rock

Target Rock

We then ascended the Beach Access Stairs and stopped on the platform that overlooks Huntington Bay.

Beach Access Stairs

Beach Access Stairs

 

Beach Access Stairs

Beach Access Stairs

We walked along the Beach Access Trail and after about 100 feet, there is a spur trail that leads to a viewing area overlooking the beach. 

Beach Access Trail

Beach Access Trail

The overlook is equipped with two benches and a viewing scope that lets you easily see birds perched atop Target Rock or the beach houses across the harbor.

Overlook

Overlook

Heading west, the Beach Access Trail ends at the junction with the Rocky Beach Trail (marked by a kiosk), where we veered right. Soon the trail passes the junction with the Warbler’s Loop Trail and the two access points of the Gardener’s Path. We stayed right each time to remain on the Rocky Beach Trail.

Beach Access Trail

Beach Access Trail

Soon the trail passes by an overgrown field. I believe that this was the site of the Eberstadt mansion. 

Rocky Beach Trail

Rocky Beach Trail

A short distance later, the trail passes a kiosk and two private residences on either side of the trail, and then reaches the parking area, where the hike began.

Rocky Beach Trail

Rocky Beach Trail

 

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Review:

A well kept area that is far enough off the beaten path that it doesn’t see a lot of foot traffic. We had the place mostly to ourselves for the duration of our visit. Walking along East Beach was a bonus with only one other person in that area while we were there. The area around the Beach Access Stairs and Target Rock was a little busier, but still nowhere near crowded. This is definitely worth the road trip to spend a few hours outdoors.

Pros:

Historical features, Target Rock, Brackish Pond, well maintained trails, lovely landscape, scenic shoreline.

Cons:

With the exception of a hawk, a few deer and a dead raccoon, not much wildlife was moving around on the day that we visited.

 

Take a walk!

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Sources:

 

 

Canopus Lake Overlook Loop – Fahnestock State Park

October 25, 2020 – Cold Spring, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 4.6 miles

Max elevation: 1156 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 568 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Buy Map: East Hudson Trails Map

Free Web Map: Fahnestock State Park Trail Map

Avenza App Map (FREE): Fahnestock State Park Map for Avenza

Trailhead parking: Pelton Pond Picnic Area – Cold Spring, NY 10516


Park Overview:

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, also known as Fahnestock State Park, is a 14,337-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.

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park

The Canopus Beach, Winter Park and the campground are located in close proximity to the intersection of Route 301 and the Taconic State Parkway. Other developed parts of the park are accessed from the parkway (Stillwater Lake), Route 301 (Pelton Picnic Area and Park Office), Indian Brook Road (Taconic Outdoor Education Center) and Route 9 (Hubbard Lodge). Access to the park’s trail network is provided at small parking areas throughout the park. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail crosses the park in a southwest-northeast direction for over ten miles. The park receives substantial local use, and serves the New York City Metropolitan area to the south, as well as out-of-state users.

Pelton Pond Picnic Area - Fahnestock State Park

Pelton Pond Picnic Area – Fahnestock State Park

The Canopus Lake Area in Fahnestock State Park is a high-use area year-round. During the warmer months, the beach and camping areas are very popular and often filled to capacity. In addition, the lake is used for fishing.

Canopus Beach - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Beach – Fahnestock State Park

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 1,300 feet on a ridge west of Canopus Lake. The majority of the park is at elevations greater than 600 feet.

There are eight lakes and ponds located wholly within Fahnestock and two that are partially located within the park’s boundaries. All are man-made lakes constructed either prior to the park’s beginning or early in its history.

Canopus Lake at an elevation of 915 feet, is a 104-acre lake with a shoreline of approximately 3.7 miles. The maximum depth is about 19 feet and averages about 7 feet. The lake is used for swimming, boating, and fishing. A section of the lake’s shoreline is directly adjacent to Route 301 and the the Appalachian Trail parallels the west side of the lake.

Canopus Lake - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake – Fahnestock State Park


History:

The park was established in conjunction with the design and construction of the Eastern (Taconic) State Parkway. It was the first State Park in Putnam County and the second park on the parkway. In 1929, a 300-acre parcel containing an attractive stretch of Roaring Brook was acquired north of Peekskill Hollow Road for the parkway alignment entering the Highlands of central Putnam County, and the surrounding area was briefly known as Roaring Brook State Park. The following year, Dr. Ernest Fahnestock and his wife donated nearly 2,400 acres for the parkway and a park in memory of Dr. Clarence Fahnestock. Development of the park for picnicking, hiking and equestrian trails, fishing and camping commenced in 1931 and coincided with the ground-breaking for the first section of the parkway at the Westchester-Putnam boundary. Civilian Conservation Corps camps established in the park in 1933, advanced the park development, reconstruction of the Carmel-Cold Spring Road (Route 301), and the parkway. The parkway was opened as a two lane drive to Route 301 in 1936. The park began expanding in the 1960’s and is now one of New York’s larger State Parks at 14,337 acres.

Canopus Lake was created in the mid-1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with the construction of a dam at the southern end. Route 301 was relocated on top of this dam. In the 1970’s, a swimming beach was constructed on the northern end of Canopus Lake. This was undertaken by the placement of another dam structure near the midpoint of the lake which would serve to raise the water level in the north end. This structure was to have included pumps to increase circulation, however these were never installed. A large beach and bathhouse was constructed on the northeast side of “Upper Canopus” to complete the project.


Trails Overview:

Fahnestock State Park has more than 51 miles (including AT) of designated trails. All designated trails in the park are marked with colored markers or blazes. Designated trailheads and designated trail intersections are generally well marked with signage and the trails well maintained because of the on-going efforts of New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (NYNJTC) volunteers, other user groups and OPRHP staff.

Appalachian Access Trail - Canopus Lake

Appalachian Access Trail – Canopus Lake

There are many undesignated trails throughout the park consisting of wood roads and narrower singletrack trails (trails with a tread width of approximately 18-30 inches). These trails are generally in poor condition as they are not maintained and they are unmarked which causes disorientation for visitors unfamiliar with the parks’ trail systems.

The Appalachian Trail traverses Fahnestock State Park for 10.24 miles, entering from the southern boundary of the park east of Catfish Pond, north across Route 301 past Canopus Lake along the long ridge of Shenandoah Mountain, and exiting the park at Long Hill Road, near the Dutchess-Putnam County boundary. The AT within state parkland is cooperatively managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the NYNJTC, under a formal Memorandum of Understanding with OPRHP and other entities.

Appalachian Trail - Fahnestock State Park

Appalachian Trail – Fahnestock State Park


Hike Overview:

Originally this hike was supposed to begin at Canopus Lake Beach, connecting to the AT from there, and following the AT north towards Long Hill Road, then returning to the Canopus Lake Beach parking area. Unfortunately, when we arrived at Canopus Lake Beach, the parking area was closed. We were informed by a park employee that it will remain closed until 2021.

Canopus Lake Recreation Area - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Recreation Area – Fahnestock State Park

That certainly threw a monkey wrench in our plans, but not to be deterred, we drove down the road to the Pelton Pond Picnic Area to figure out our next move. We decided that we would begin the hike from Pelton Pond, and play it by ear on the route that we would take. This lot holds about 80 cars, but fills up quickly on nice days, especially when Canopus Beach is open. People often park here (no parking fee) to avoid paying for parking at the Canopus Lake Beach Complex.

Pelton Pond Picnic Area - Fahnestock State Park

Pelton Pond Picnic Area – Fahnestock State Park

Looking at the map, I thought that if we made our way across the dam, we could bushwack up to the AT, which follows the ridge above Canopus Lake, and head north. I was hoping that maybe there was a footpath that others may have used, but that was not the case. Once we got there, I decided to abandon that idea due to the thick brush and brambles that blanket the hillside. The AT is only about 500 feet up the steep rocky slope, with about 130 feet of elevation gain from the western end of the Canopus Lake Dam, but it didn’t seem worth the effort.

So using a combination of woods roads, unmarked footpaths and a short bushwack, we made our way back towards Canopus Lake Beach, eliminating as much of the 0.8 mile road walk along Route 301 as possible. From there we took the Appalachian Trail Connector (ATC) to the AT and headed north to a great south facing viewpoint of Canopus Lake. We continued north on the AT, turning right on the other end of the ATC and made our way back to Pelton Pond. This hike does include a short roadwalk of about 700 feet, which can be eliminated by using a woods road that I didn’t realize was there.

Not the exact hike that I had originally mapped out, but it turned out to be a good hike nonetheless, considering that it was done on the fly.

This hike was done clockwise from the Pelton Pond Picnic Area.

Canopus Lake Overlook Loop – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Overlook Loop – Fahnestock State Park


The Hike:

From the parking lot, we walked out of the entrance, directly across from the Park Office, crossed the road and turned right on NYS Route 301. In about 425 feet, there is a woods road on the left (west) that leads downhill behind the Park Office and to the Canopus Lake Dam.  In just over 300 ft., another woods road comes in from the right. We continued straight, following the road downhill. In about 800 ft. from NYS Route 301, we turned sharp right onto another woods road that leads to the dam. We walked across the dam, which provides excellent views of Canopus Lake.

woods road - Fahnestock State Park

woods road – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Dam - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake Dam – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake – Fahnestock State Park

We then retraced our steps back up the hill on the woods road. When we came to the junction we had passed just moments earlier, we veered left on another woods road which runs parallel to the lake, then descends to its shoreline, providing more views of Canopus Lake.

woods road - Fahnestock State Park

woods road – Fahnestock State Park

woods road - Fahnestock State Park

woods road – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake – Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake - Fahnestock State Park

Canopus Lake – Fahnestock State Park

The woods road then veers away from the lake and begins to climb. As the road turns a sharp right to ascend towards NYS Route 301, we left the road and continued straight on a faint footpath. Soon the footpath becomes hard to follow and we began bushwacking in a northwesterly direction towards Canopus Lake Beach. We came to a picnic area complete with tables and grills. We stopped here briefly to take a break.

woods road - Fahnestock State Park

woods road – Fahnestock State Park