Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

August 1, 2020 – Seymour, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 2.3 miles

Max elevation: 547 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 314 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Maps: Seymour Land Trust Trail Guide

Trailhead parking: At the end of the road, just past 99 Tibbets Road, Seymour, CT 06483


Park Overview:

Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park is a 209-acre park that is owned and managed by the town of Seymour. Part of the Seymour Land Trust, the park features a unique ridge-top ecosystem dominated by chestnut oak, pitch pine and mountain laurel. The old mining roads lead to the ruins of an early 1800’s colonial limestone kiln, marble caves, stone shelters and quarries. The topography is characterized by rolling hills with intermittent steep slopes that offer spectacular views of the Housatonic River Valley from rock outcrops. There is no park signage currently, at the end of Tibbets Road (the main access point) and there are no facilities. This is a Carry In – Carry Out park.

view of the Housatonic River - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

view of the Housatonic River – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

History:

Two hundred million years ago, the state was covered by an ocean that included a large coral reef that surrounded a volcanic island. Eventually, the reef metamorphosed into the marble that can still be seen in the park today. Local farmers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries made use of this marble to “sweeten” their crop fields and enhance plant growth by lowering soil acidity. But first they had to burn the marble in a kiln for six to seven days to drive off carbon dioxide and produce “burnt lime.” Two local lime kilns were constructed for this purpose, with one remaining in Seymour.

lime kiln ruins - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

lime kiln ruins – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park was purchased by the Town of Seymour in 1977 with Federal and state grants. Further funding was obtained by members of the Seymour Land Trust, a nonprofit that conserves nature in the Naugatuck River Valley in Connecticut. It was named for Jane Little, a local conservationist who saw the unique historical and ecological importance of preserving the area, the abundance of mountain laurel, the marble (lime) found on the property, and for the ridge that runs above the Housatonic River.


Trails Overview:

Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park has an extensive network of blazed and unblazed woods roads and footpaths. The trail guide lists three main trails: The Southern Loop, Northern Loop and the Boundary Loop Trails, which total about 5.1 miles. There are other ATV trails and footpaths which are not depicted on the map that is provided by the Seymour Land Trust. The blazed trails are not clearly marked and are at times, hard to follow.

To better navigate this park, download the free Gaia GPS app on your smartphone and use the “Gaia Streets” or “Open Street Map” layers. As you zoom in, the points of interest will come into view. There are intersecting trails/woods roads that lead to public streets and by using the app, you are less likely to take a wrong turn or get lost.

Below is an image from the Gaia GPS app that was used during our visit. Some of the points of interest can only be seen when you zoom in while using the app.

Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Hike Overview:

This is a great place to visit and explore. On our visit, we did not encounter any other hikers, nor were there any cars in the parking area at the end of Tibbetts Road when we arrived or when we left. Although I have read reports of unauthorized ATV use, we didn’t encounter any, nor did we hear any motorized vehicles in the park. We arrived shortly before 8:30 am on a Saturday morning and it was very quiet and peaceful throughout our visit.


The Hike:

Normally I do turn by turn descriptions of my hikes. With so many poorly blazed and unmarked trails and woods roads in the park, it is difficult to direct others. Even using the paper map and the app, I was confused at times which way to go.

The hike was done clockwise from Tibbetts Road and I will list the points of interest in that order.

The start of the Blue Trail at the end of Tibbets Road.

Blue Trail - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

In about 500 yards, the Blue Trail splits. We took the left leg of the Blue Trail, doing the loop clockwise. The right leg was our return route, but if you just want to visit the “caves” and the view, it’s a much shorter distance if you take the right leg.

Blue Trail - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

The area of the south quarry.

south quarry - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

south quarry – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

south quarry - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

south quarry – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Interesting rock formation on the hillside above the Blue Trail.

rock formation - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

rock formation – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

A wrecked car just below the Blue Trail.

car wreck - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

car wreck – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

The Blue Trail descending in a southerly direction, in the center of the park, near its southern boundary.

Blue Trail - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

A moss covered rock formation along the Blue Trail.

moss covered boulder - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

moss covered boulder – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

The Blue Trail descends more steeply as it heads west, along a seasonal streaming cascade.

Blue Trail - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

An unmarked trail that heads in a northerly direction towards the area of the viewpoint. The Blue Trail continues its steep descent, but since we were headed to the viewpoint, We turned right onto the unmarked trail. The Blue Trail after descending steeply, ascends to the viewpoint. By taking the unmarked trail, we eliminated some elevation gain.

unmarked trail - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

unmarked trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

After climbing steeply along an unmarked footpath, a large open rock outcrop appears.

rock outcrop - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

rock outcrop – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Spent fireworks left behind from previous visitors.

rock outcrop - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

rock outcrop – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Looking north, up the Housatonic River. This is a good place to take a break and relax.

view of the Housatonic River - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

view of the Housatonic River – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

view of the Housatonic River – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

view of the Housatonic River – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

view of the Housatonic River – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

view of the Housatonic River – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

The Blue Trail passes by the viewpoint, and heads northeast near the park’s northern boundary, as it ducks back into the woods.

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

The Blue Trail runs along an old mining road, leading to the ruins of an early 1800’s colonial limestone kiln.

lime kiln ruins - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

lime kiln ruins – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

As the Blue Trail heads south, not far from the kiln ruins, it passes alongside the northen quarry.

marble quarry - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

marble quarry – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

marble quarry - Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

marble quarry – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

The Blue Trail continues south, through the center of the park……..

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

…..soon passing some interesting rock formations, rock shelters and marble caves.

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

If you’re expecting some deep caverns to walk into and explore, you will be sorely disappointed. These “holes in the rock” are still a very interesting geological feature to see.

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Blue Trail – Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park

Review:

A quiet place to explore with many points of interest. With the myriad of trails and old mining roads, along with ATV trails, one can spend a good deal of time in this park. The rock formations, quarries, caves and views of the Housatonic River make Little-Laurel Lime Ridge Park a worthwhile place to check out. The trails could be better blazed and an up-to-date trail map would be helpful, but all in all, a few hours well spent on the trails.


Pros:

Scenic views, rock formations, historical features, quarries, marble caves, not much foot traffic.


Cons:

Trails are not well marked and no updated trail map.


Sources:

Leon Levy Preserve

June 20, 2020 – South Salem, NY

Difficulty: Easy – moderate

Length: Approximately 4 miles

Max elevation: 764 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 485 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Map: Leon Levy Preserve Trail Map

Trailhead parking: Smith Ridge Rd (NY-123) South Salem, NY 10590

The main entrance and parking lot is on Route 123 (Smith Ridge Road), just south of the intersection with Route 35. A white sign marks the entrance.

 

Preserve Overview:

The Leon Levy Preserve, formerly the Bell property, is 370 acres of forest and wetlands, located in the watersheds of both New York City and Stamford. About 90 acres lie within the watershed of New York City’s Croton Reservoir system, and the rest of the land drains into Stamford’s reservoirs. Leon Levy Preserve is owned by the Town of Lewisboro.

Leon Levy Preserve

Leon Levy Preserve

The preserve is maintained by the Lewisboro Trail Volunteers, of the town Open Space and Preserves Advisory Committee. They work over 1,000 hours yearly, building, improving and maintaining the trails and features at Leon Levy Preserve.

Lewisboro Trail Volunteers

Lewisboro Trail Volunteers

The preserve features wetlands rich in wildlife, a ravine with 75’ cliffs, diverse hardwood forest, rare plants such as Purple Milkweed and Blue Cohosh and a native plant garden adjacent to parking lot. The preserve has an extensive trail system, the ruins of the Black Mansion (1899-1979) and other outbuildings. In 2015, the Leon Levy Native Plant Garden was added by Lewisboro Land Trust.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

 

History:

Long before there was a Leon Levy Preserve, the area was home to bands of Algonkian-speaking Kitchawancs. Lake Kitchawan and streams provided a water source; Native Peoples were gone by the early 1700’s.

Part of the property, known in Revolutionary times as Keeler’s Ridge, was the encampment of Colonel Elisha Sheldon and his Second Continental Regiment of Light Dragoons.

  • Circa 1790 – 1874 ~ First recorded property owner was Sgt. Jeremiah Keeler (1760 – 1835) who saw much action in the Revolutionary War. The property passed to his son Thaddeus at Jeremiah’s death in 1853.
  • Circa 1890 – 1923 ~ Dr. James M. Crafts (1839 – 1917) purchased the property from the Keeler heirs and built the house on the hilltop between 1890 and 1900. He was called the first of the “City People” to build a summer home in South Salem.
  • 1923 – 1959 ~ Abram I. Kaplan purchased the property from the Crafts heirs. The Kaplan family spent one season in the house and moved full time to another house on the property.
  • 1959 ~ The property was purchased by the Bell/Lyden Partnership as an investment. No development followed.
  • Circa Early 1960’s to 1979 ~ Mansion remained unoccupied and acquired the name “Black Mansion” by locals.
  • January 28, 1979 ~ Black Mansion was destroyed by fire.
  • 2005 ~ The property was purchased by Town of Lewisboro with contributions from the Jerome Levy Foundation, NYCDEP, and the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation.

Professor James Mason Crafts was an organic chemist and the fifth president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1897 to 1900. Crafts was a professor of chemistry at Cornell College (1867-1870) and at MIT (1870-1880 and 1892-1897). He was one of the most highly regarded chemists of his era.

James Mason Crafts - image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

James Mason Crafts – image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

It was Dr. Crafts who built the mansion and many of the property’s enhancements. The Black Mansion, as it is known today, sat atop the hill, about 700 feet above sea level, one of the highest spots in Lewisboro, but so far up a winding drive that it was not easily seen from the highways.

In addition to the mansion, Professor Crafts built a coach house, a garage, an ice house and a laboratory. A cottage was built later for Mrs. Crafts’ daughter to spend weekends. The garage had six bays and a grease pit. The Keeler-era cow barn survived until about 2000, when it mysteriously burned as it was being restored.

In 1923, Mr. Crafts’ heirs sold the property to Mr. Abram Kaplan. The Kaplan family fortunes were tied to the sugar and molasses business in the Caribbean and to lumbering in New Mexico. Mrs. Kaplan did not like the house because the only heat in the mansion was generated from the fireplaces and she found it cold and drafty.

For whatever reason, the grand house on top of the hill was abandoned by the family and left derelict with all its furnishings and accessories in place. This made the empty house a target for vandals and adventure seekers out for a good time and a few souvenirs. Perhaps it was during this period that the house started being known as The Black Mansion. During the forties and fifties, it was called the Kaplan place.

Black Mansion - Leon Levy Preserve taken by Carol Gracie circa 1973

Black Mansion – Leon Levy Preserve taken by Carol Gracie circa 1973

The Kaplans, in turn, sold the property to Robert Bell and his partner, Mr. Leyden. The acreage at the time reached from Route 35, all the way to Lake Kitchawan, and wandered along Ridgefield Avenue. Little by little parts were sold off, until it stood as it does today. Several attempts were made to develop the land, but none were successful. On a very cold winter night, January 28, 1979, at 12:35 a.m., the alarm bell rang at the South Salem fire house, the mansion is on fire! By the time the firemen arrived, the Black Mansion was “totally involved.” There was little to do but pump water on the blaze and try to contain the flames. The cause of the fire was never determined.

Black Mansion - January 28, 1979 - image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

Black Mansion – January 28, 1979 – image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

Black Mansion Aerial - image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

Black Mansion Aerial – image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

In 2005, a partnership of public and private organizations succeeded in buying the former “Bell Property” and the Leon Levy Preserve came into existence. Lewisboro and Westchester Land Trusts worked with the Town of Lewisboro to negotiate the $8.3 million acquisition. The purchase was made possible because of a $5 million contribution from the Jerome Levy Foundation; $1 million each from the Town of Lewisboro and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection; and $500,000 over five years from the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation.

The land was named the Leon Levy Preserve in honor of the well-known Wall Street investor and founder of Oppenheimer Funds. The late Mr. Levy was the Jerome Levy Foundation’s primary benefactor. His widow, Shelby White, arranged the gift. “Our involvement in the project is a fitting tribute to Leon’s love for Lewisboro, and he would have been proud and pleased to see this land protected.”

An interesting side-note involving a member of the Kaplan family:

Joel David Kaplan, one of Abram’s sons, was arrested in Mexico in November 1961, at the age of 35. He was convicted in 1962 of killing a man, and sentenced to 28 years in Acatitla prison. After nine years in the Mexican prison, on August 19, 1971, a helicopter landed in the prison yard. The guards mistakenly thought this was an official visit. In two minutes, Kaplan and Kaplan’s cellmate Carlos Antonio Contreras Castro, a Venezuelan counterfeiter, boarded the craft and were piloted away. No shots were fired. Both men were flown to Texas and then different planes flew Kaplan to California and Castro to Guatemala.

Joel David Kaplan

Joel David Kaplan

The Mexican government never initiated extradition proceedings against Kaplan. The escape is recounted in a book, “The 10-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape of Joel David Kaplan.” It also inspired the 1975 action movie “Breakout” which starred Charles Bronson and Robert Duvall.

The 10-Second Jailbreak - image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

The 10-Second Jailbreak – image courtesy of Maureen Koehl

Trails Overview:

A combination of footpaths and carriage roads make up the approximately 5.5 miles of hiking trails that are within the preserve. They will be adding more trails over the next few years.

Some of the carriage roads on this former estate are wide enough to allow walking two or three abreast. Extensive stonework is apparent on the many at-grade raised roadbeds. The narrower footpaths require walking single file.

The trails are well marked as are the junctions, which are numbered and some have maps. The numbered trail junctions correspond with those on the trail map, making the trails easy to follow. The trail blazes consist of 2” x 6” pieces of colored aluminum of the appropriate trail color. Red blazes appear co-aligned with some of the marked carriage roads sporadically throughout the preserve, but there isn’t a Red Trail listed on the map. The red blazes are Lewisboro Horsemen’s Association permissible trails.

Silver Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Silver Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

As of 2018, there are new trails on the east side of Route 123, directly across from the main entrance. Cross the road carefully, and ascend the steps on the other side to access these new trails.

Leon Levy Preserve

Leon Levy Preserve

Hike Overview:

I visited the Leon Levy Preserve in May of 2016, when I first started this blog and enjoyed the experience. In keeping with the recent trend of hiking local, I decided to pay it a return visit. The preserve is well maintained, the trails are mostly all shaded and the landscape is quite scenic.

Due to Covid, the parking has been reduced to 14 cars and the preserve is only open to NYS residents.

Leon Levy Preserve

Leon Levy Preserve

This hike is mostly a loop, with only retracing of steps on short sections of trails. It covers all of the main points of interest, including the Black Mansion ruins.

Leon Levy Preserve

Leon Levy Preserve

The Hike:

The hike begins at the northwest end of the parking lot, to the left of the kiosk. The three blue blazes on the tree, mark the start of the Blue Trail (Main Trail). Follow the blue blazes as they head west into the preserve. In about 200 feet, the trail reaches Junction 1, where the Blue Trail turns right, which will be your return route. For now, turn left on the White Entrance Trail as it leads southwest on a woods road, gradually climbing the hillside. The White Entrance Trail curves to the north and in 0.3 mile, ends at Junction 19 (Blue Trail).

Trailhead - Leon Levy Preserve

Trailhead – Leon Levy Preserve

start of Blue Trail - Trailhead - Leon Levy Preserve

start of Blue Trail – Trailhead – Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 1 - Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 1 – Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 1 - White Entrance Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 1 – White Entrance Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

White Entrance Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

White Entrance Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

White Entrance Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

White Entrance Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 19 - White Entrance Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 19 – White Entrance Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Turn right on the Blue Trail as it heads northeast on another woods road. The Blue Trail is joined by another road that comes in from the left (not on trail map). Continue straight on the Blue Trail, soon passing Junction 23 (pink-blazed Cottage Trail). Stay on the Blue Trail and approximately 0.3 mile from where you began on the Blue Trail, it reaches Junction 3 (Yellow Trail). Turn left here, leaving the Blue Trail and now follow the yellow blazes up the hill.

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

turn left on Yellow Trail

turn left on Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Yellow Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

In about 210 feet, there is an unmarked woods road on the left with the Black Mansion ruins visible about 130 feet away. You may want to take some time to view this interesting structure.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

This 3-story fieldstone and shingle mansion was built as a luxurious summer home, the only heat was from large fireplaces. On the main floor were several large reception rooms, a grand entry, a paneled library and a music room with an Aeolian organ.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

This is the lone remaining column, of the pair that once adorned the front entrance.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

This brick enclosure may have been a root cellar. The roof, which was collapsing, was removed in recent years.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

The ceiling was decorated with blue sky and birds. To the rear was an elevator encircled by a staircase. On the second floor, a long hall led to the bedrooms and an art gallery. From the attic the view extended to Long Island Sound. The electricity was produced by acetylene gas.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

On the north end, there was a circular atrium or garden room/porch.

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

When you are done examining the Black Mansion ruins, continue on the Yellow Trail near the north end of the ruins, passing Junction 4 (pink-blazed Cottage Trail). In just under 700 feet, the Yellow Trail reaches Junction 5 (Green Trail). Turn right here, leaving the Yellow Trail and turn right on the Green Trail. Follow the green blazes downhill as they head north then gradually curve to the south. When you reach Junction 9, continue straight (turning right leads to Ridgefield Ave.). The Green Trail winds its way through the woods as it descends into the valley, crossing through, then bordering a stone wall.

Yellow Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Yellow Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

turn right on Green Trail

turn right on Green Trail

Green Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Green Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Green Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Green Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Green Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Green Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

At the base of the descent, the Green Trail reaches Junction 7 (purple-blazed West Valley Trail). Turn right here, leaving the Green Trail and proceed ahead on the Purple Trail. The Purple Trail (West Valley Trail), travels through a remote and tranquil valley with wetlands, along the western edge of preserve.

Junction 7 - turn right on Purple Trail

Junction 7 – turn right on Purple Trail

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

The Purple Trail crosses a small stream on a log bridge and a short distance later, reaches Junction 25 (White Stream Trail). Continue straight, still following the Purple Trail and crossing another small stream on a log bridge. The trail then borders a stone wall as it continues south.

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

In about 0.3 mile, the Purple Trail turns left, climbs a little, then turns left again, crossing through a stone wall at Junction 9 (Yellow-Purple Trail). Stay to the right bordering the stone wall to remain on the Purple Trail, which turns right as it passes a high section of the stone wall.

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

The trail heads in a southerly direction and soon crosses through another stone wall. Next to the stone wall is the Shepherd’s Hut ruins.

Purple Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Purple Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

According to Maureen Koehl, Lewisboro Town Historian: The “Shepherd’s Hut” is another fanciful name given by the trails’ head just for want of what else to call the ruin. I don’t think there was ever a bona fide herdsman on the land! It may have been some sort of animal enclosure when the property was more used for farmland during the Keeler ownership.

Shepherd's Hut ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Shepherd’s Hut ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Soon the Purple Trail veers southeast and ends at Junction 10 (Blue Trail). Turn left on the Blue Trail which heads northeast on a woods road. In about 140 yards, the Blue Trail reaches Junction 12 (Yellow Trail – South Gorge Rim Trail).

terminus of Purple Trail at Junction 10 - Leon Levy Preserve

terminus of Purple Trail at Junction 10 – Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

The Yellow Trail (South Gorge Rim Trail) travels on a footpath along the edge of the cliffs, high above the gorge. The map shows that there is a view of the gorge (★), but perhaps only during leaf-off season. The trail curves around and ends at Junction 13 (Blue Trail). Turn right on the Blue Trail and follow it as it crosses over the gorge on a stone bridge.

Junction 12 - South Gorge Rim Trail

Junction 12 – South Gorge Rim Trail

Yellow Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Yellow Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

The Blue Trail ascends a little and soon reaches Junction 14 (silver-blazed Gorge Overlook Trail). Turn right on the Silver Trail and follow it to the end. There is an interesting rock formation near the edge of cliffs that is worth seeing. Again, the map shows that there are two viewpoints from this trail, but only during leaf-off season. Follow the silver blazes as the trail loops around and returns to Junction 14 (Blue Trail).

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 14 - Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 14 – Leon Levy Preserve

Gorge Overlook Trail Loop - Leon Levy Preserve

Gorge Overlook Trail Loop – Leon Levy Preserve

Gorge Overlook Trail Loop - Leon Levy Preserve

Gorge Overlook Trail Loop – Leon Levy Preserve

Gorge Overlook Trail Loop - Leon Levy Preserve

Gorge Overlook Trail Loop – Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 14 - Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 14 – Leon Levy Preserve

Proceed northeast on the Blue Trail for about 0.4 mile, passing Junction 19 (White Trail) and then reaching Junction 23 (pink-blazed Cottage Trail).

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Turn left on the Pink Trail and follow the footpath in a northerly direction, soon arriving at the Cottage ruins.

Junction 23 - Cottage Trail

Junction 23 – Cottage Trail

Cottage Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

The “cottage” appears to be a dwelling that at one time had a small patio on the NE side, probably built late 19th or early 20th century. We did find ‘modern’ heating and plumbing debris when we did an exploratory dig several years ago, but who lived there is another unknown. ~Maureen Koehl – Lewisboro Town Historian

Cottage ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

The Pink Trail continues around the southwest side of the ruins and soon ends at Junction 4 (Yellow Trail). Turn right on the Yellow Trail, passing the Black Mansion ruins and continue downhill on the road.

Cottage Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Cottage Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 4 - Leon Levy Preserve

Junction 4 – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins - Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Black Mansion ruins – Leon Levy Preserve

Yellow Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Yellow Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

The Yellow Trail ends at Junction 3 (Blue Trail). Continue downhill, now following the blue blazes and turn right at Junction 2 (Blue Trail). Follow the blue blazes downhill and in a very short distance, the trail passes another set of ruins.

Continue straight past junction 3 onto Blue Trail

Continue straight past junction 3 onto Blue Trail

Turn right at junction 2, remaining on Blue Trail

Turn right at junction 2, remaining on Blue Trail

The ruins with the tall chimney along the Blue Trail was a small house with an attached garage on the north side. It was surrounded by a flagstone walk/patio so we believe it was used as a dwelling at one time. During the ownership of Dr. Crafts, the builder of the mansion, the building was quite likely used as his chem lab in the early 1900’s. We did not find any lab detritus (debris) during several digs in this area, but found mid-century plumbing and heating artifacts and lots of burned and melted glass. This structure may have burned in the 1970’s as well. I have been told that it was rented during the 1950’s as a dwelling. ~Maureen Koehl – Lewisboro Town Historian

stone ruins on Blue Trail

stone ruins on Blue Trail

Continue downhill on the Blue Trail turning left at Junction 1 and returning to the parking area, where the hike began.

Blue Trail - Leon Levy Preserve

Blue Trail – Leon Levy Preserve

Turn left at junction 1

Turn left at junction 1

Review:

This is a really good hike with a very interesting history. The combination of woods roads and footpaths compliment each other. The hike is almost entirely shaded, with the exception of the Black Mansion ruins, which is perfect for a hot and humid day. The scenic woods, stone walls, rock formations and ruins make this lovely preserve worth a visit. This hike was done on a Saturday morning and although there were several cars in the lot when we arrived at about 9:00 am, we only saw a couple of people on the trails during our visit. Extremely quiet and a very enjoyable day on the trails.

Pros:

Historical features, Black Mansion ruins, rock formations, well marked trails and junctions, lightly trafficked and well maintained preserve.

Cons:

None.

 

Take a hike!

Leon Levy Preserve

Leon Levy Preserve

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larchmont Manor Park

June 16, 2020 – Larchmont, NY

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 0.5 mile

Address: 65 Park Ave, Larchmont, NY 10538

 

Park Overview:

Manor Park is in the Village of Larchmont, New York. It consists of about 13 acres of land, with a shoreline of more than 5,000 feet, that lies along the Long Island Sound and Larchmont Harbor. It is well known for its striated rocks, walking pathways, scenic views and gazebos.

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

North Gazebo - Larchmont Manor Park

North Gazebo – Larchmont Manor Park

It’s one of the most beautiful and scenic places to visit in the Village of Larchmont. Located along Park Avenue, this lovely tree-lined masterpiece overlooks the Long Island Sound. Walk along its pathways, or relax on one of its many benches, it’s sure to be a time that you won’t soon forget!

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park is privately owned and maintained by the Larchmont Manor Park Society, a not-for-profit organization. This park was formed as a contemplation and passive use park. Although Manor Park is privately owned, it is open to the public year-round, from dawn to dusk.

South Gazebo - Larchmont Manor Park

South Gazebo – Larchmont Manor Park

South Gazebo - Larchmont Manor Park

South Gazebo – Larchmont Manor Park

South Gazebo - Larchmont Manor Park

South Gazebo – Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park is one of the most picturesque settings in all of New York, located on a beautiful stretch of the Long Island Sound.

Umbrella Point - Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point – Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point - Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point – Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point - Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point – Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point - Larchmont Manor Park

Umbrella Point – Larchmont Manor Park

Bordered by a private beach, a yacht club and the stately Victorian homes that line the street, Manor Park is the only place in the village where the public can go, to admire the scenery and walk along the water.

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

The sweeping views of the Long Island Sound, make this park an idyllic place to spend a few hours.

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Great Egret - Larchmont Manor Park

Great Egret – Larchmont Manor Park

The melting glaciers left behind the rocks that you see today. All along the Park’s coastline, you will see deposits of sandstone, limestone and shale, but most evident are the deposits of granite.

South Gazebo - Larchmont Manor Park

South Gazebo – Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

If you visit:

  • On street parking only, please park only where permissible. The area is heavily patrolled and vehicles parked illegally will be ticketed or towed.
  • Larchmont Manor Park does not have restroom facilities so please plan accordingly. Both Manor Beach and HHYC Yacht Club are not permitted to allow outsiders to enter their facility for this purpose. There are no exceptions.

For the rest of the park rules and there are quite a few, click HERE.

 

Take a walk!

Larchmont Manor Park

Larchmont Manor Park

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

June 13, 2020 – Bedford, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 3 miles

Max elevation: 618 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 500 ft.

Route type: Triple Lollipop Loop

Map: Glebe and Ketchum Trails Map

Trailhead parking: 382 Cantitoe St, Bedford, NY 10506

 

Overview:

St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands in Bedford, NY, consists of The Glebe and the Ketchum Sanctuary, totaling 67-acres, that are nestled between ridges and surrounded by private estates. These two parcels of land were set aside for reflection and the quiet enjoyment of nature. The Glebe and Ketchum Trails are privately owned by St. Matthew’s Church but are open to the public for the enjoyment of nature and contemplation. They do ask that visitors respect the beauty of the flora and fauna. Please keep dogs on leashes and the trails clean.

St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

History:

In 1803 forty acres of land (the Glebe) was purchased and construction began on “the Brick Church” that would lead to the consecration of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in 1810. The rectory was built the following year.

St. Matthew's Church

St. Matthew’s Church

The Churchyard, the burial ground for St. Matthew’s, was officially established in the northwest corner of the property in 1812, and has been extended several times toward the eastern edge of the glebe, bordered by the Beaver Dam River. In 2004, a new memorial garden was built and consecrated in the Churchyard.

The Churchyard

The Churchyard

The Churchyard

The Churchyard

The Children’s Chapel, consecrated on September 14, 2013, was built for worship by the youngest children in the parish. Every child in the church school contributed a stone that is incorporated into the stonework.

The Children’s Chapel

The Children’s Chapel

The Children’s Chapel

The Children’s Chapel

The Children’s Chapel

The Children’s Chapel

The 25-acre Ketchum Preserve was given to the Church in 2003 by the Nature Conservancy. Along with the Parsonage Glebe, St. Matthew’s owns a total of 67 acres and maintains both properties.

For a more detailed history of the church, click here.

Trails Overview:

There are approximately 3 miles of hiking trails in St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands. They are well blazed with directional signs at the junctions. The Glebe and Ketchum Sanctuary’s trails are marked with blue blazes except for the Summit Trail in the Ketchum Sanctuary, which is blazed in red. The Summit Trail bisects the Lower and Upper Loop sections of the trail and can be used to create a shorter loop.

Glebe and Ketchum Sanctuary Trails

Glebe and Ketchum Sanctuary Trails

The trail that connects the two pieces of land is a BRLA horse trail marked in yellow and blue.

Glebe and Ketchum Sanctuary Trails

Glebe and Ketchum Sanctuary Trails

There are other BRLA horse trails in both parcels that are marked in yellow. Except for the the trail between the two parcels, hikers should only follow the red and blue trail markers.

BRLA horse trail

BRLA horse trail

Hike Overview:

Keeping with the recent trend of hiking local, I decided to give this place a try. We got there fairly early, about 8:30 am on a Saturday morning. The large parking lot had one car in the lot and the groundskeepers were working on the main church property. It was very quiet an peaceful. When we walked over to take a look at the Children’s Chapel, one of the groundskeepers told us that we could go inside and have a look, so we did.

The Blue Trails consist of three loops, with the trail that connects the two parcels, the stick. We did the hike clockwise, doing the west leg of the three loops on the way up and returning on the east leg. We stopped at the summit (no views) twice, where there is a bench. Once on the way up and again on the way back. We were the only ones in the woods during our hike and the scenic woods were quiet. Once back at the parking lot, where we stayed for a bit, several cars pulled up with persons that headed off on the trails.

This is a hike that is probably better done on any day other than a Sunday, when they hold services.

St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

The Hike:

The hike begins at the northwest end of the parking lot on a gravel road. Follow the road a short distance in and you will see a large sign with a map and description of the trails, along with a mailbox containing trail maps (always print one at home just in case). This is the start of the Glebe Trail. Follow the gravel road as it heads downhill past the cemetery. When the road comes to a fork, bear left and continue downhill, soon passing the outdoor chapel, with wooden benches and a large bell.

Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

bear left - Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

bear left – Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

In 1939, Rector Arthur Ketchum had a vision for an outdoor chapel to further capture the beauty of St. Matthew’s. The result was the rustic Chapel in the Woods with its rough-hewn benches and an altar made of fieldstone slab. The Chapel is used for summer services and for weddings, baptisms, and special events.

Outdoor Chapel - Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Outdoor Chapel – Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Outdoor Chapel - Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Outdoor Chapel – Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Continue downhill past the chapel and after 0.2 mile, the Glebe Trail reaches the Beaver Dam River. Cross the wooden footbridge and turn right as the trail leads steeply uphill on the Glebe – Ketchum Connector Trail, marked with both yellow BRLA and blue blazes.

Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Glebe Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Foley Bridge - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Foley Bridge – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Foley Bridge - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Foley Bridge – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Foley Bridge - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Foley Bridge – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

In another 0.2 mile, the Glebe – Ketchum Connector Trail comes to the start of the Lower Loop Trail, marked with arrows and signs. There is a bench to the left of the trail. The right leg of the loop is your return route, for now stay left and follow the Lower Loop Trail as it climbs steeply. The trail soon passes a rock outcrop with a bench that overlooks the woods, you may want to stop here and catch your breath.

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Continue following the blue blazes uphill and at 0.3 mile from the start of the Lower Loop, the trail comes to a Y-intersection with the Upper Loop and Summit trails. Turn right and follow the red-blazed Summit Trail for 0.1 mile, to its terminus where there is another wooden bench.

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop/Upper Loop junction - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop/Upper Loop junction – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Summit Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Summit Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Summit Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Summit Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Summit Trail - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Summit Trail – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

When you are ready to proceed, retrace your steps back to the Y-intersection and turn right, leaving the Lower Loop Trail and proceed ahead on the Upper Loop Trail (also blue). The Upper Loop Trail crosses through a stone wall and soon approaches private property, but veers right, away from it and heads downhill and through a wet area on rocks. The trail curves to the south and soon crosses two short footbridges in quick succession and heads to higher ground. The trail climbs gradually, crosses through a stone wall, turning left and soon parallels a stone wall. In about 0.8 mile from the start of the Upper Loop Trail, it goes through another stone wall and reaches a junction with the Lower Loop/Summit Trails.

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Upper Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Upper Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop/Upper Loop/Summit Trail junction - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop/Upper Loop/Summit Trail junction – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Straight ahead is an unmarked trail that leads to the wooden bench at the summit. You can choose to take or bypass this detour. If visiting this spot, when you are done, retrace your steps back to the junction and turn right, now following the Lower Loop Trail.

unmarked footpath to summit - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

unmarked footpath to summit – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

summit - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

summit – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

The eastern leg of the Lower Loop Trail parallels a stone wall and soon descends steeply. If you look up to the right, that large rock formation that you see, is the summit where the bench is located. Follow the Lower Loop Trail downhill to where a wooden bench is located at the junction with Glebe – Ketchum Connector Trail closing the loop. Turn left and retrace your steps on the Glebe – Ketchum Connector Trail for 0.2 mile, crossing the Foley Bridge and turn left on the Glebe Trail.

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

Glebe - Ketchum Connector

Glebe – Ketchum Connector

The Glebe Trail heads upstream on a woods road, along the Beaver Dam River, passing a bench along the way. The trail soon climbs a little, passing a BRLA wooden bridge. Do not cross the bridge. Continue uphill on the woods road, passing a lovely cascade. The trail soon turns right, leaving the woods road and enters the woods. In a short distance, the Glebe Trail turns right, paralleling the parking lot and in a couple of hundred feet, ends at the northeast end of the parking lot. Continue across the parking lot, back to where you parked your vehicle.

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

terminus of Lower Loop - St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

terminus of Lower Loop – St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Review:

A really nice hike through a quiet and peaceful area. The heavily forested woods offers respite from the sun on a hot day. Although there are no views, the summit makes a nice place to sit and relax for a bit. The well manicured grounds as well as the architecture are worth exploring as well. The Upper Loop Trail was somewhat uninteresting, wet and a little overgrown in spots, but since there are only three miles of trails, it is worth doing. I would recommend wearing long pants as your shins would be brushing up against the overgrowth in certain areas. The well marked trails and junctions make this a good hike for the novice hiker.

Pros:

Scenic landscape, well marked trails, shaded trails, Beaver Dam River, small waterfall, quiet and peaceful, not heavily trafficked.

Cons:

No views.

 

Take a hike!

St. Matthew's Church Woodlands

St. Matthew’s Church Woodlands

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salt Hill State Forest

June 7, 2020 – Cortlandt, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 6 miles

Max elevation: 699 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 680 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Map: None available

Trailhead parking: Croton Ave, Cortlandt, NY 10567

Please note: There is only room for 3 cars at the GPS location listed above. Pull-off parking for two cars on the western side of Croton Avenue and pull-off parking for one car directly opposite. There is more pull-off parking available, both north and south of the GPS location listed above.

Please note: A portion of this hike takes place on NYC watershed property and may require a DEP Access Permit, which comes with a mirror hanger parking permit. It is free and takes about five minutes to fill out and can be printed off your home computer.

 

Overview:

Salt Hill State Forest consists of 269.7-acres of rocky ridgelines cloaked in a green forest, with wetlands, fields, and associated wildlife and plant communities. The tract of land is bounded to the east by the Croton Reservoir, making it part of the New York City water supply system’s Croton Watershed. It is otherwise surrounded by dense residential development, and forms the nexus of a major corridor that ecologically links the Town of Cortlandt with Yorktown. There are roughly 15-acres of New York State protected wetlands on the property.

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest is a deciduous forest that climbs unbroken from Croton Avenue and Route 129, to the 699 ft. summit of Salt Hill, encompassing rocky outcrops, rolling hills, brooks, vernal pools and swamps. The centerpiece of Salt Hill State Forest is the picturesque Blue Lake, with its variety of fish including perch, brown trout and rainbow trout. Blue Lake is approximately 8-acres and was created/enhanced by a low dam. The area is peppered with old stone walls and some root cellars, as well as remnants of stone cottages.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

History:

Most of Salt Hill was owned by a man named John R. Nelson for many years until his death on October 2, 1971. Mr. Nelson also owned other lands in the area, including the Croton Airpark, just across Route 129. Mining for emery (corundum) was done on the property at some time and John Nelson operated the Cortlandt Complex emery mines for two years, just southwest of Salt Hill. The area was logged by Mr. Nelson and and as early as 1930 and through WW II, a sawmill was being operated for lumbering purposes and the cutting of large timber for sale. One of his customers was the U.S. Government. Mr. Nelson also constructed the small summer cottages, the foundations of which can still be seen, along the shore of Blue Lake, which he would rent out during the summer.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

In 1950, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation erected a fire tower at the summit of Salt Hill. Known as the Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill, the tower was placed into service in 1951, reporting 22 fires and 70 visitors. With the advent of aerial detection, this tower was closed at the end of the 1971 season. Some time following that date, the tower was cut down or pulled over by persons unknown, and its twisted remains are still at the summit of Salt Hill.

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill - image courtesy of Westchester County Historical Society

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill – image courtesy of Westchester County Historical Society

The 73′ Aermotor LS-40 tower had 11 flights of stairs. The LS-40 was the preferred fire tower of the officials in the Bureau of Forest Fire Control.

73′ Aermotor LS40 - Copyright 1984 - 2010 Unpublished Work by Bill Starr

73′ Aermotor LS40 – Copyright 1984 – 2010 Unpublished Work by Bill Starr

The Roster of the NYS Forest Fire Observers that were employed during its time in service.

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower - Copyright 1984 - 2010 Unpublished Work by Bill Starr

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower – Copyright 1984 – 2010 Unpublished Work by Bill Starr

After John R. Nelson died in 1971, the land was sold off to developers, but opposition from locals and conservation groups, the land stood idle and switched ownership several times. In 1997, Gov. George E. Pataki pledged $7.5 million to acquire environmentally sensitive lands in the Croton Watershed. In 2002, NY State purchased the 269-acre parcel for $2,940,000. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and NYSDEC hold conservation easements restricting development on this property.

The NYSDEC bought the property for transfer to the NY City Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protect its watershed. However, property transfer has been delayed due to a lack of funding and the difficulty of access to the site, especially to the summit of Salt Hill where a building and collapsed firetower are located.

The property is open to hiking, fishing and hunting. Because of the ongoing intent to transfer the property to the NYC DEP, NY State is not advertising the property.

Trails Overview:

There are several footpaths throughout the forest, some with faded blazes, but mostly unmarked. The trails climb Salt Hill in big looping switchbacks and possibly connect to other properties. The trails were probably cut by mountain bikers, which I have encountered there in the past. An old woods road winds its way down from the summit. This old road was used to access the fire tower and passes by Blue Lake and comes out on Route 129. Another woods road circles the lake.

Hike Overview:

If you enjoy navigating your own path through the open woods with little undergrowth, this is an ideal hike. We basically bushwacked west up the rocky hillside, occasionally jumping on a trail when the cliffs became too steep. We stopped at the the summit, where there are no views, to see the mangled fire tower. From there we took the the woods road down to Blue Lake and enjoyed an early lunch. We circled the lake, exploring the stone ruins then made our way to Route 129 via the woods road. Approximately a 1 mile road walk along Route 129, Short Hill Road and Croton Avenue took us back to the vehicle. In hindsight, a bushwack would have been preferable to the road walk, but at the time, we didn’t know where the woods road would come out at. This hike was done counterclockwise.

UPDATED: The road walk is not necessary and this post has been updated to reflect that. 

A good app for this hike is Gaia GPS with the USGS Topo map (see image below). It is the only map that I found that shows the location of the fire tower, Blue Lake and the woods road that connects them. It is very helpful with the bushwack to make sure you are headed in the right direction. The small black squares around Blue Lake depicts the ruined structures.

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

The Hike:

From the parking area, walk south along the road a short distance until you see a narrow footpath that leads into the woods. Follow this unblazed trail as it heads southwest. Although the trail is unmarked, it is well defined at the start. As the trail starts to head more south, you can follow it or do as we did, leave the trail and bushwack west. During this bushwack, we crossed several trails along the way, but we continued west, climbing over and around rocks, trying to hike the shortest (albeit more difficult) distance to the summit.

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Once we got to an area where the cliffs were really steep, we jumped on the trail and headed in a southwesterly direction. The footpath curves around the cliffs as it continues to climb. In leaf off season there are views of the Croton Reservoir from rock outcrops along the way.

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

If you continue to follow the footpath, it will take you the long way to the summit. Once we saw the rusty top of the fire tower, we left the trail and made a beeline for it, climbing over some rock formations.

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

The concrete footings make a good spot to take a break. You have now hiked (bushwacked) about a mile and gained well over 500 feet of elevation. The hard part of the hike is over and the rest of the hike is a breeze.

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

Nelson Mountain Fire Tower at Salt Hill

All along the woods, on either side of the open summit, there is scattered debris, including barrels, steel and foundations of structures that once stood near the fire tower. You may want to take some time to explore the woods in this area.

Salt Hill summit

Salt Hill summit

ruins - Salt Hill summit

ruins – Salt Hill summit

ruins - Salt Hill summit

ruins – Salt Hill summit

When you are ready to proceed, follow the woods road that begins near the northern end of the summit.

start of woods road - Salt Hill summit

start of woods road – Salt Hill summit

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

The front end of an old truck, perhaps Mr. Nelson’s, that was used to haul materials to build what now lies in ruins at the summit.

truck ruins on woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

truck ruins on woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

The woods road descends on big looping switchbacks, that were created to reduce the steepness of the road, in order to make it easier for vehicles to ascend and descend Salt Hill.

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

We saw a Box Turtle crossing the road on the way down.

Box Turtle on woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

Box Turtle on woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

Soon the road borders some wetlands and levels off a bit. Some sections of the road are rutted, wet and muddy in this area.

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

In about 1.4 miles from the summit, the woods road reaches Blue Lake. This scenic lake makes a perfect setting to enjoy a picnic.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

What appears to be what is left of an old BBQ grill, makes a good place to sit and take in the view.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

Looking east.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

Follow the road counter clockwise along the shore of Blue Lake.

woods road around Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road around Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

You may want to stop and explore the old stone structures that line the northern shore of Blue Lake.

ruins at Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

Looking northeast.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

The road hugs the shoreline, offering many views of the lake.

woods road around Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road around Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

Looking north with Salt Hill in the background.

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

This stone structure appears to have been a pump house that was used to supply water to the cottages around the lake.

ruins at Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

There is a trail to the left of this stone structure that ascends the hill steeply. At the top of the rise, the trail comes to a T-intersection. If you turn left at the intersection, you can take this trail all the way back to your starting point, eliminating the road walk. This trail is somewhat rugged with lots of ups and downs, but is only about 0.6 miles compared to the 1 mile road walk. There is an easier trail a little farther, at the eastern side of the lake that is less than 0.5 mile to the parking area.

unmarked trail alongside ruin

unmarked trail alongside ruin

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

At the eastern end of the lake, if you look to the right, you’ll see a faint footpath that leads into the woods. This footpath which is well defined once entering the woods and easy to follow, is a more direct and mostly level route back to your starting point. It eliminates the road walk and also the elevation gain of the unmarked trail next to the stone ruin.

unmarked trail at east end of Blue Lake

unmarked trail at east end of Blue Lake

truck hood - Salt Hill State Forest

truck hood – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

After looping around the lake, continue on the road to the southern end of the lake. When you come to a fork, veer right and follow the road uphill past more stone ruins.

woods road around Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road around Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

bear right at the fork

bear right at the fork

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

ruins near Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins near Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

ruins near Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins near Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

ruins near Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins near Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

From this point you can retrace your steps and walk along the south side of Blue Lake and take the trail alongside the pump house ruin, climbing the hill and turning left, following the unmarked trail back to your starting point or take the easier trail which is about 270 feet past the pump house ruins. You can also choose to continue ahead as described below.

Follow the road as it goes through an overgrown field, which at one time was a driving range.

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

Soon the road climbs a little and joins a paved road. Follow the paved road a short distance and turn left near another set of ruins and follow the unpaved road.

asphalt road - Salt Hill State Forest

asphalt road – Salt Hill State Forest

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

Soon the road passes alongside a pond and a short distance later ends at Route 129. Turn left then veer left onto Short Hill Road, then left on Croton Avenue and follow it until you return to the parking area, where the hike began. The road is very narrow, with not much of a shoulder so great care should be taken while walking on the road. If you would prefer to avoid the road walk, retrace your steps back to Blue Lake and follow the directions below.

woods road - Salt Hill State Forest

woods road – Salt Hill State Forest

pond - Salt Hill State Forest

pond – Salt Hill State Forest

terminus of woods road at Route 129

terminus of woods road at Route 129

When you return to Blue Lake, turn right and walk along the south side of the lake. When you get to the pump house ruins, you can take the trail just to the left and climb steeply up the hill or take the easier route by walking approximately 270 feet past the stone pump house, turn right on an unmarked footpath, that was pointed out earlier.

ruins at Blue Lake - Salt Hill State Forest

ruins at Blue Lake – Salt Hill State Forest

I will call this the Blue Lake Trail, as it leads directly from Blue Lake to Croton Avenue.

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Once in the woods, the trail becomes well defined and you may occasionally see a red blaze on the trees. There is minimal elevation gain as this trail goes through the valley. The trail proceeds in a northeasterly direction through the woods. In about 300 yards, the trail turns left and there is an old car door on the left. Almost immediately, the trail turns right, passes a stone structure and continues northeast.

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Soon the trail passes through wetlands, climbs slightly then descends gradually, bordering a seasonal stream. In just under 0.5 mile from Blue Lake, the trail reaches Croton Avenue. Turn left on Croton Avenue and walk about 225 feet back to the parking area, where the hike began.

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail - Salt Hill State Forest

Blue Lake Trail – Salt Hill State Forest

Croton Avenue

Croton Avenue

Review:

With the exception of the road walk (which can be averted), this is a great hike with lots to see. The woods were real quiet on our visit with hardly a soul around. We saw two mountain bikers coming down on a trail some distance away as we were bushwacking and a father and his sons fishing at Blue Lake. With the limited roadside parking along Croton Avenue, which is mostly used by fisherman, this place should never see crowds. The canopied forest makes this a good hike when the sun is hot. Blue Lake with its interesting stone ruins, makes it worth the trip on its own.

Pros:

Fire tower ruins, stone ruins, Blue Lake, off the beaten path.

Cons:

No trail map or official trails, road walk.

 

Take a hike!

Salt Hill State Forest

Salt Hill State Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whippoorwill Park Loop

May 31, 2020 – Chappaqua, NY

Difficulty: Easy – moderate

Length: Approximately 3.5 miles

Max elevation: 650 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 447 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Map: Whippoorwill Park Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 403-399 Whippoorwill Rd, Chappaqua, NY 10514

 

Park Overview:

Whippoorwill Park, New Castle’s largest park, encompasses 169-acres. The topography is primarily heavily forested hillsides and steep slopes with rocky ridges and valleys. The Woodlands are primarily hardwoods, with some mature trees and some areas of young growth. The low elevation areas include wetlands, streams and a pond that is dammed at its north end. The higher elevations are more rugged terrain with rock outcroppings and glacial erratics.

Whippoorwill Park

Whippoorwill Park

History:

Originally part of the Henry Berol Estate, it was purchased by the town in 1964 for $270,415.73, in part with State funds and designated as passive parkland. Berol’s 500-acre estate, used primarily as a game preserve, was broken up after 1966 into Whippoorwill park (169 acres) and the Stornawaye residential area.

Henry Berol (Berolzheimer until 1947) (1896-1976), was the fifth generation of his family to run the Eagle Pencil Company, later called the Berol Corporation, which was founded by Mr. Berol’s great-grandfather, Heinrich Berolzheimer, in Bavaria, and was moved to New York City in 1856.

Henry Berol

Henry Berol

The Eagle Pencil Co. was one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of Pencils. The company produced many writing instruments, including Copying, Indelible, and Woodcase graphite pencils. It also produced erasers, and other drawing/writing accesories.

Eagle Pencil Company

Eagle Pencil Company

After the Depression drastically lowered property values, Charles T. Butler found himself obliged to sell 57-acres on Whippoorwill Road at a loss to Henry Berol in 1932. Mr. Berol named the house “Berol Lodge” and acquired much additional property in the area, ultimately creating a 500-acre game preserve. He made several improvements of his own to the estate, such as facilities for raising game pheasants, exotic birds, English Pointers, and Cocker Spaniels. He donated part of the property to the town to create Whippoorwill Park. All the rest was sold in the 1960’s, and has been subsequently developed into such neighborhoods as Stornawaye and Whippoorwill Lake. The house which is located just west of Whippoorwill Lake, has since had four owners, but has changed little since it belonged to Mr. Berol.

Henry Berol was a man who adored Cocker Spaniels and along with his wife Gem, contributed greatly to Cocker field trials following World War II. He was one of the most important breeders of dogs that performed exceptionally well in trials and he was a respected leader who, as head of the Field Trial Committee of the American Spaniel Club for many years, organized the first National Cocker Field Trial Championship in 1953.

According to Sports Illustrated, by 1954 Berol Lodge Kennels had 75 cockers in its kennel in Chappaqua, NY. All of his cockers were large, strong, field-bred American Cockers, a type that no longer exists and they were known to be marvelous hunting companions and/or field trial competitors. Eleven became field trial champions, including three which won the National Cocker Field Trial Championships in 1957, 1960 and 1961.

GUNS Magazine August 1962

GUNS Magazine August 1962

By the late 1950’s, Henry Berol decided to relocate from New York to the other bird dog capital of the world besides Grand Junction, Waynesboro, Georgia. There Mr. Berol purchased a plantation which he named Di-Lane Plantation in honor of his two daughters, Diane and Elaine, and he became actively involved in pointer/setter field trials. Today the plantation is a public wildlife area and on it is a cemetery where over 70 of Mr. Berol’s dogs are laid to rest, each with its own headstone.

Di-Lane Plantation

Di-Lane Plantation

Trails Overview:

The trails are a combination of footpaths and old dirt roads from the former estate. The trails are relatively well marked with the exception of a few turns that are lacking blazes. The trail map accurately represents the trails, which are marked with colored diamond blazes. The trail map shows the park as having 4 miles of trails, but there are some unmarked trails within the property that one can explore as well.

Hike Overview:

With all the popular hiking spots being overwhelmed these days, I have been exploring some smaller and more local parks and preserves. Trying to keep the driving within 30 minutes of home, I have discovered some nice places to spend a little time in the woods. There are no stunning views or notable points of interests, but each of these local jaunts have their own allure. From the history to the charming woods, they are all worth a visit. The smaller parking areas assure that some of these places do not become overcrowded as some of the larger and more well-known parks.

Whippoorwill Park has a gravel parking area with room for about 10 vehicles. It is surrounded by private property which means that the local residents frequent the park via the connecting trails from residential streets.

We tried to hit every trail in the park and tried to make it as long a loop as feasible, retracing our steps as little as possible. This hike was done counterclockwise, beginning on the Red Trail.

Whippoorwill Park Loop

Whippoorwill Park Loop

The Hike:

There is a call box at the trailhead in case of an emergency or maybe if you spot a Coyote.

call box - Whippoorwill Park

call box – Whippoorwill Park

Whippoorwill Park

Whippoorwill Park

The Red Trail begins at the northeast corner of the parking lot and heads downhill on a narrow footpath. At the base of the descent, the Red Trail reaches a fork with the Blue Trail, that begins on the right.

Trailhead - Whippoorwill Park

Trailhead – Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail – Whippoorwill Park

turn right on Blue Trail

turn right on Blue Trail

Turn right on the Blue Trail, heading south, which skirts an extensive wetland and parallels a stone wall on the right. Soon the trail climbs a little and comes to a Y-intersection with the Purple Trail. There are no visible purple blazes until you walk a short distance in. Follow the Purple Trail which soon crosses a wooden footbridge over a stream.

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

turn right on Purple Trail

turn right on Purple Trail

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

A short distance after crossing the stream, the Purple Trail ends at Whippoorwill Lake Road, a residential street. Cross the road to the northern edge of the scenic Whippoorwill Lake. The area around the lake is private property, so it’s a good idea to take in the view and keep it moving.

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Whippoorwill Lake Road

Whippoorwill Lake Road

Whippoorwill Lake

Whippoorwill Lake

Whippoorwill Lake

Whippoorwill Lake

Return to the Purple Trail and retrace your steps. Shortly after recrossing the footbridge, there is a footpath that veers off to the right and heads uphill. This is the other leg of the Purple Trail. You may see some faded purple blazes on several trees. Follow the trail a short distance to its terminus at the Blue Trail.

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

veer right on Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

veer right on Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Purple Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Turn right on the Blue Trail as it heads downhill. In a short distance, at the base of the descent, the Blue Trail splits. Take the right leg of the Blue Trail which passes through a large fallen tree. Soon the Blue Trail crosses a stream on a wooden footbridge and immediately turns sharp left.

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

After crossing a wet section on rocks along the stream, the Blue Trail ascends on a woods road. In about 0.25 mile, as the Blue Trail turns left, the Orange Trail begins on the right. This junction is easy to miss as there was an orange marker hanging on a thin branch and covered by leaves on our visit.

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

The Orange Trail climbs along the hillside on an old woods road, heading southwest. In about 0.4 mile, the Orange Trail ends at a junction with the Green Trail. If you continue straight on the Green Trail (south), you will come out on Whippoorwill Lake Road. Instead, turn left on the Green Trail and follow it as it climbs the hill rather steeply.

turn right on Orange Trail - Whippoorwill Park

turn right on Orange Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Orange Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Orange Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Orange Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Orange Trail – Whippoorwill Park

After a short but steep ascent, the trail levels off briefly, then continues to climb on a rocky footpath. At the top of the rise, there is a balanced boulder alongside the trail.

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

From here, the trail descends on a footpath along the rocky ridge. The Green Trail ends at a junction with the Blue Trail, a few feet from where the Orange Trail starts.

Green Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Green Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Turn right on the Blue Trail which heads north on an extremely eroded and rocky woods road. In about 240 yards, the Blue Trail turns left, leaving the woods road and proceeds on a footpath. This turn is also easy to miss.

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

The Blue Trail turns left again, joining another woods road, crosses an intermittent stream on rocks, then crosses the outlet stream of the pond on rocks.

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Almost immediately after crossing the stream, the Yellow Trail crosses the Blue Trail just before the Blue Trail turns left. Turn left on the Yellow Trail which follows the stream up to the ruined dam of the pond. The Yellow Trail then hugs the shoreline of the pond (there are no good views of the pond from the trail) and soon ends at a T-intersection with the Blue Trail.

turn left on Yellow Trail

turn left on Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Turn right on the Blue Trail and follow it a short distance to the intersection with the yellow Trail. When the Blue Trail turns right, proceed ahead on the Yellow Trail. A short distance later, there is a footpath on the right. This is the start of the White Trail. It is not marked at the junction, but you will see white markers a short distance in.

Blue Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Blue Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

The White Trail parallels the outlet stream of the pond, then veers away and crosses through stone walls. There are white informational signs along the trail which you may want to stop and read. Soon the trail passes an unmarked footpath on the right that leads to Kitchel Road. A short distance later, with houses visible through the trees on the right, the trail crosses an intermittent stream on rocks. The trail soon begins a steady climb through the woods then ends at a T-intersection with the Yellow Trail.

White Trail - Whippoorwill Park

White Trail – Whippoorwill Park

White Trail - Whippoorwill Park

White Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Turn right on the Yellow Trail and follow the footpath as it heads southwest. In about 0.2 mile, the Yellow Trail ends at a T-intersection with the Red Trail.

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Yellow Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Turn right on the Red Trail and in about 175 yards, it passes the junction with the Blue Trail, which is on the left. Continue following the red blazes, now retracing your steps, and returning back to the parking area, where the hike began.

Red Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail - Whippoorwill Park

Red Trail – Whippoorwill Park

Review:

This is a nice hike through some scenic woods. The terrain is rugged enough to keep it interesting. The Green Trail is steep and rocky, and in my opinion, the highlight of the hike. The walk out to Whippoorwill Lake is a nice detour and quite scenic, the pond, not so much. There were quite a few people with dogs, a lot of them unleashed, that were probably from the adjacent neighborhoods. The park was more crowded than the previous places I have written about, but not in an uncomfortable way. I for one, go into the woods to get away from people and prefer not to see anyone while I’m there. When we arrived at about 8:20 am on a Sunday morning, the lot was just about full. When we arrived back at 10:30 am, the lot was full and there were several cars along the road.

Pros:

Well marked trails, scenic landscape, stream crossings.

Cons:

Some junctions can be better blazed, a lot of unleashed dogs, popular local spot which can get crowded.

 

Take a hike!

Whippoorwill Park Loop

Whippoorwill Park Loop

Sources:

 

 

 

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

May 25, 2020 – Putnam Valley, NY

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 3 miles

Max elevation: 758 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 151 ft.

Route type: Out and back

Map: None available

Trailhead parking: Indian Hill Rd, Mahopac, NY 10541

Park Overview:

There are two sections of Donald J. Trump State Park, the French Hill Section and the Indian Hill Section. Both are adjacent to the Taconic State Parkway, but are almost 7 miles apart with separate entrances.

The 282-acre Indian Hill property in northern Jefferson Valley, straddles the Westchester County/Putnam County border with 54 acres in the Town of Yorktown, Westchester County, and 228 acres in the Town of Putnam Valley, Putnam County. It is situated east of the Taconic State Parkway, in close proximity to both the Clarence Fahnestock and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) State Parks. The new parkland is a mix of heavily wooded lands, large open meadows, and a large wetland running north/south along the eastern boundary.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

It has a gravel parking lot (16 car capacity) and a kiosk with a stone slab bench, but no restrooms. The property has never been developed into a full-fledged park. It was briefly closed along with other parks in 2010 during a NY State cash flow crisis and has remained largely undeveloped since. Some recent improvements in 2019 to the entrance include an asphalt driveway, gravel parking lot, entrance gates and wood fencing, native tree and shrub plantings, an access path from the parking lot to the kiosk area and gravel spread out on the main walking path behind the kiosk.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

While the park remains officially open, it isn’t listed on the official NY State Parks website. It is managed as an undeveloped, passive park to preserve open space and provide low-impact recreation, such as hiking and birdwatching. For someone who loves to take quiet walks in the woods, the Indian Hill Section provides opportunities for walking miles on relatively level unmarked woods roads and ATV trails.

History:

Indian Hill is an expansive mountain stretching from Osceola Lake and Route 6 on the south, to almost Bryant Pond Road on the north in Putnam County. It borders the Taconic State Parkway on the west and parts of Wood Street on the east. The highest point is listed at 758 feet above sea level.

Yorktown’s first inhabitants were deer, wild turkeys, other wild animals and Indians. These Indians were subdivisions of the great Mohegan Tribe and the last known Indian encampment in Westchester County, was on Indian Hill.

By the early 18th century, white settlers of Yorktown had forced the native Mohegan Indians to withdraw to high ground above Osceola Lake. There on the elevation known as Indian Hill, a band of Indians made their final stand on Westchester soil. It is said that on the south side of Indian Hill, there is an Indian burial ground.

There is not a lot of later history readily available on the lands that make up this park. The stone walls that criss-cross the property is an indication that the park is made up of many farmsteads that once occupied the land. Below is a Frederick W. Beers map from 1867, of southeastern Putnam Valley, just above the Westchester County line. The area below Barger Pond and east of Barger Road is the area of the current park today. As you can see there are numerous landowners on the map. Notice at the bottom, just right of center is “Indian Hill.”

Frederick Beers map - Yorktown 1867

Frederick Beers map – Yorktown 1867

In the years that followed, the property, at various times, hosted a mink farm, cattle ranch and an equestrian center.

In 1998 Donald Trump bought the first parcel, 282 acres known as Indian Hill that straddle Westchester and Putnam counties, from an estate sale for $1.75 million. He also bought 154 acres in Westchester County known as French Hill, also part of an estate sale, for $750,000. In 2000, he bought 58 acres of a nearby “surplus” stretch of the Taconic State Parkway from the New York State Department of Transportation for $250,000.

By 2002, local authorities had rejected his plans for two 18-hole championship golf courses on Indian Hill and French Hill, on the grounds that the courses would drain the area’s water supply as well as affect the water supply of New York City downstream.

In 2006 Donald Trump donated the two parcels in Westchester and Putnam counties that became New York’s 174th state park. As part of the deal, New York State agreed that Trump’s name “will be prominently displayed at least, at each entrance to each property.”

In 2010, a budget crisis leads to closings at 58 parks and historic sites across the state, Donald J. Trump State Park, still mostly wetlands and forest, is included on the chopping block. The park eventually reopened and remains open to present day.

As of May 2020, at the time of this writing, the park remains open with some maintenance evident, such as grass mowing, downed trees cut and cleared.

Trails Overview:

The former farm fields in the 282-acre Indian Hill section are thick with brush and brambles which are, in places, quite dense. It is possible to walk along rutted ATV tracks or on former farm roads. In spring, the flowering apple trees and an occasional dogwood add a splash of color to the vast expanse of green. Birding opportunities abound for birders who are intrepid enough to venture into the expanse of invasive plants. These fields provide habitat for shrub-dependent bird species whose number have declined.

Hike Overview:

Not knowing what to expect, we had no real plan going in. We figured that we would just wander around and explore a bit. Knowing it was previously farmland, we didn’t expect much elevation gain. The mostly level main road that travels north through the overgrown field, eventually enters the woods and continues north. We walked as far as the power lines and then headed back. At the time I wasn’t sure how far the property extends, but the main road goes past the power lines and continues through the woods. We also ventured a bit on two other roads that branch off the main road and head towards the Taconic State Parkway. It was quiet in the woods and we only saw two dog walkers while we were there.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

The Hike:

There are no formal trails in the Indian Hill section of Donald J. Trump State Park. There is however, a wide gravel road that leads into the property from the kiosk.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

The gravel road heads west from the kiosk to a hilltop field from where there is a limited view over the trees of the Hudson Highlands.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

There are ATV trails that have been cut through the head high brush, and in places forming tunnel-like trails.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

The main farm road bisects the center of the property south to north. It begins from the open field as a grassy surfaced road and soon becomes a crater filled dirt road as it travels across the farm land, bordered by thick brush.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

The road eventually leaves the overgrown former farm fields and enters into an open and verdant forest. There are trails that lead west, towards the Taconic State Parkway that one could explore.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Or Continue north along the main woods road, which crosses numerous stone walls.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

The old dirt road will eventually come out to a power lines cut that runs west to east. This was our turn around point, but the road continues past the power lines cut and there are more woods to explore. At the time I was not sure of the park boundary, but as you can tell from the map above, the park continues for some distance past the power lines.

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Review:

A nice place to take a walk in the woods. Although at times, road noise from the parkway can be heard, it’s not too much of a bother. It’s seems to be a lightly trafficked area, at least on the day that I was there. The area was known for ATV riding, but I am not sure if that is still the case. I did not hear any motorized vehicles or bikes while we were there.

Pros: 

Quiet place for a walk, lush green forest, the woods have a lot of tree cover for hot days.

Cons:

No real views, overgrown fields, could use more trails.

Take a hike!

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Donald J. Trump State Park – Indian Hill Section

Sources:

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

May 25, 2020 – Pound Ridge, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 6 miles

Max elevation: 579 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 600 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Maps: Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve Trail Map

Trailhead parking: Upper Shad Rd, Pound Ridge, NY 10576

 

Preserve Overview:

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve is the largest of Westchester Land Trust’s preserves. Its 150-acres encompasses rocky woods, hillside streams, lakes and wetlands. The preserve is shoehorned between residential lots in Pound Ridge, a mile from the Connecticut border, but rarely will you catch a glimpse of a house, road or car. Although it is dwarfed by the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation a few miles to the north, it has a similar look and feel. The large rock formations and glacial erratics that are predominant in this section of Westchester, forms a rugged and picturesque landscape. The Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve is owned and maintained by the Westchester Land Trust.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

The Westchester Wilderness Walk might not fit the dictionary definition of “wilderness.” The area is criss-crossed with stone walls, remnants of the early settlements in the area, and houses may occasionally be seen from the trails. But remarkably, for nearly the entire hike, one is entirely removed from the surrounding civilization of Westchester County.

Northern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Northern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

ATTENTION: The Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve has two parking lots. One lot is on Upper Shad Road, about a quarter mile from Long Ridge Road. The lot can be muddy after rain and there are a few extra spots on the road shoulder.

Upper Shad Road parking lot

Upper Shad Road parking lot

The second lot is a five-car gravel lot on Joshua Hobby Lane, just off Upper Shad Road. Visitors must follow parking regulations. Signs have been installed by the Pound Ridge Police Department. If the lots are full, please come back another time or visit a different trail. Vehicles that ignore the signs will be ticketed or towed.

Joshua Hobby Road parking lot

Joshua Hobby Road parking lot

FYI: When we returned to our cars at the conclusion of the hike, there was a police officer that drove by us, turned around and parked a short distance from us, watching us like a hawk. We were parked legally along the very narrow shoulder and the tires may have been partially on the road surface. Not sure what the issue was, but be forewarned that there is police presence in the area and given all the “No Parking” signs, they will most likely either ticket or tow your vehicle if you choose to park illegally.

 

History:

Paul Zofnass, a Manhattan investment banker, Pound Ridge resident and a member of the Westchester Land Trust’s Board of Directors, first conceived the idea of creating a trail preserve here and worked for over 10 years to put the project together. Paul and his family donated land, persuaded their neighbors to donate land, and created the impressive trail system.

Mr. Zofnass, who bought his six-acre place in 1982, would walk through the woods behind the house on weekends and began seeing surveyors’ markers in the trees. He and a neighbor bought several small parcels from a developer in order to preserve the land. Mr. Zofnass did not stop there, in the following years he hammered together a patchwork of property fragments trimmed from the abutting ends of neighboring lots, some donated through easements, some sold or given away.

Paul Gallay, executive director (Feb 2000 – Jun 2008) of the Westchester Land Trust, which was founded in 1988 and which now owns or holds easements on 8,600 acres across the county, said this project which received no county or state assistance, was “one of the most complex and rewarding” the trust had ever tackled.

In October 2019 with funding from the Land Trust Alliance/New York State Conservation Partnership Program, a five-car gravel parking opened on Joshua Hobby Road providing access to the Eastern Loop section.

In December 2019 Westchester Land Trust announced the acquisition of a 3-acre parcel adjacent to Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve. The new acquisition features an arboretum established by Zofnass over the past 10 years. It includes roughly 250 different species of trees, plants and grasses, all identified, along a winding foot path which will become part of the Southern Loop Trail.

 

Trails Overview:

The trails have been routed, often quite circuitously, to pass many unusual and interesting natural features, resulting in a hike that will probably seem longer than the map appears to indicate. There are a number of named natural features along the trail, many of which are marked by signs.

Total walking distance in the preserve is listed as 10 miles. The trails in the preserve form five loops and are shown on the map in various colors, but the entire trail system is blazed with the same green Westchester Land Trust markers and some blue paint blazes on rocks.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

The junctions are clearly marked with wooden signs that correspond with those on the map, along with a copy of the trail map with a “You Are Here” written on it.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

There are white circular markers throughout the preserve. These are not trail markers, they are used to provide information about certain points of interest or a helpful hint about the trail, such as an alternate route, if available.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

Many of the trails are bordered by logs. However, the hiker should be alert for sharp turns, some of which are easily missed, especially if the ground is covered with snow.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

Even in places that the trail travels over rocks, such as the “streambed steps,” it is bordered by logs. This is good to know as it took us several wrong turns to figure this out. There are a lot of unmarked trails throughout the preserve, but the main trails are well blazed. If you don’t see a green marker or logs bordering the trail, there is a good chance that you have strayed from the main trail.

Streambed Steps - Southern Loop

Streambed Steps – Southern Loop

Hike Overview:

The goal was to hike all of the main trails, but unfortunately, a section of the Western Loop was closed on our visit, so we skipped that entire trail.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

Nevertheless, the remaining trails were enough and we were exhausted afterwards. The terrain is rugged enough for even the more seasoned hiker and the way the loops are designed, make it easy to do shorter hikes if so desired. With the limited parking, don’t expect to see crowds swarming the trails like at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

We started out at the parking area on Upper Shad Road and took the west leg of the Southern Loop (blue on map) to the Central Roundabout (yellow on map). We intended to take the eastern leg of the Southern Loop, but after crossing “Becky’s Brook,” we lost the main trail (which climbs over rocks) and took an unmarked trail instead. That was before we figured out the log border system. We turned right on the Central Roundabout (yellow on map) and then right on the Eastern Loop (purple on map) going counter clockwise. After returning to the Central Roundabout and turning right, we turned right again onto the Northern Loop (green on map) going counter clockwise, then returned to the Central Roundabout, turned right and proceeded past the first junction with the Southern Loop (that’s the way we came up) and turned right at “Jessica’s Junction” and onto the east leg of the Southern Loop and back to Upper Shad Road, where the hike began.

Westchester Wilderness Walk - Zofnass Family Preserve

Westchester Wilderness Walk – Zofnass Family Preserve

There are a lot of rocks, roots, wet and/or muddy areas, uneven stone stairs and stepping stones on this hike. A good pair of boots is highly recommended. There are also numerous points of interest on this hike, some of which we missed. As this hike can be a little difficult to guide someone through, I will highlight some of the scenes and points of interest that we encountered on our hike. For a detailed description (The one that I partially followed) click HERE.

 

The Hike:

A brief description of the various loops and some of the more interesting sights along the various trails.

  • Southern Loop ~ 2.7 miles

The trail begins at a kiosk just beyond the parking area, where a map of the preserve is posted. It continues along a woods road, with a wetland on the left, soon passing the start of the West Loop. A short distance beyond, a sign on the right (behind a deer exclosure) marks the Princess Pine Grove – named for the tiny club moss found in the area. This is the first of a number of named natural features along the trail, many of which are marked by signs.

Southern Loop Trailhead - Upper Shad Road

Southern Loop Trailhead – Upper Shad Road

Southern Loop Trailhead - Upper Shad Road

Southern Loop Trailhead – Upper Shad Road

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Soon, the trail narrows to a footpath and crosses several streams on rocks. When you reach a T-intersection, with a wooden bridge on the right, turn left and cross a rock causeway, with a wooden handrail, over a stream.

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Just beyond, you’ll come to a junction, where the South Loop begins. You can go either way here, to either follow the loop clockwise or in a counter-clockwise direction. The suggested route is counter-clockwise, but we lost the trail after Becky’s Brook, and ended up on an unmarked trail. We ended up catching the main trail up by Lichen Ledge and proceeded clockwise. I will just show some of the points of interest in this area.

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Lichen Ledge - Southern Loop

Lichen Ledge – Southern Loop

Layer Cake Rock - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Layer Cake Rock – Westchester Wilderness Walk

The trail runs near the edge of an escarpment, with views over a wetland below, passes Jurassic Rock, Pauley’s Point Rock and Fowler Rock then descends rock steps.

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Jurassic Rock - Southern Loop

Jurassic Rock – Southern Loop

Fowler Rock - Southern Loop

Fowler Rock – Southern Loop

Fowler Rock - Southern Loop

Fowler Rock – Southern Loop

This section of the trail is called the Streambed Steps and is marked with blue paint blazes.

Streambed Steps - Southern Loop

Streambed Steps – Southern Loop

Campfire Rock - Southern Loop

Campfire Rock – Southern Loop

The trail goes through Wedge Walk Rock, a narrow passage between two boulders.

Wedge Walk Rock - Southern Loop

Wedge Walk Rock – Southern Loop

After descending through Wedge Walk Rock, the western leg of the Southern Loop Trail ends at the Central Roundabout. Turn right and walk about 300 feet to Jessica’s Junction and turn right again to resume the Southern Loop.

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Jessica's Junction - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Jessica’s Junction – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Crossing a wet area on rocks.

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

The arboretum, a new addition to the Southern Loop Trail.

arboretum - Southern Loop

arboretum – Southern Loop

arboretum - Southern Loop

arboretum – Southern Loop

A short distance beyond, you’ll ascend a small hill, reach Trudeau’s Point of View and descend rock steps in a narrow passage between two rocks.

Trudeau’s Point of View - Southern Loop

Trudeau’s Point of View – Southern Loop

Trudeau’s Point of View - Southern Loop

Trudeau’s Point of View – Southern Loop

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

The ruins of Tom’s Cabin.

Tom’s Cabin - Southern Loop

Tom’s Cabin – Southern Loop

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Southern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

  • Central Roundabout ~ 1 mile

Forming a hub, the Central Roundabout connects the Southern, Eastern and Northern Loops. Beginning at a junction with the Southern Loop called Jessica’s Junction, follow the Roundabout in a counter-clockwise direction. The trail heads uphill, climbs a knoll with a stone bench and at 0.2 mile, passes through a stone wall and reaches the junction of the Eastern Loop. Turning left to continue on the Central Roundabout, the trail heads downhill, paralleling a stone wall.

Jessica's Junction - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Jessica’s Junction – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Mossy Knoll - Central Roundabout

Mossy Knoll – Central Roundabout

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

The trail descends to cross a stream on large rocks. A short distance beyond, it climbs to Over the Top (a rock outcrop to the left of the trail) and descends to Moss Falls, a huge boulder covered with moss. It then climbs to Razor Ridge Rock.

stream crossing - Central Roundabout

stream crossing – Central Roundabout

Over the Top - Central Roundabout

Over the Top – Central Roundabout

Over the Top - Central Roundabout

Over the Top – Central Roundabout

Over the Top - Central Roundabout

Over the Top – Central Roundabout

Moss Falls - Central Roundabout

Moss Falls – Central Roundabout

Moss Falls - Central Roundabout

Moss Falls – Central Roundabout

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Razor Ridge Rock - Central Roundabout

Razor Ridge Rock – Central Roundabout

After paralleling a stone wall, the trail turns left, making a sharp U-turn, and descends. The trail circles the interesting Roundabout Rock and soon arrives at another junction, the start of the Northern Loop. Turning left, immediately, you’ll cross a stream on rocks. After briefly paralleling the stream, the trail bears left and begins to head south. The trail comes to another junction, the western leg of the Southern Loop at Wedge Walk Rock then continues southwest on stepping stones. At approximately 1 mile, it closes the loop at Jessica’s Junction.

Roundabout Rock - Central Roundabout

Roundabout Rock – Central Roundabout

Central Roundabout - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Central Roundabout – Westchester Wilderness Walk

  • Eastern Loop ~ 1 mile

Beginning from the Central Roundabout, this is the “lollipop stick” of the Eastern Loop. After a relatively level section, the trail crosses through a stone wall and reaches the top of the Grand Stone Staircase. Two routes are provided to descend this interesting feature, with the left route designated as “easier” and the right route “harder.” Neither route is particularly difficult, but you will be returning this way, so you may wish to select the “harder” route for the descent and the “easier” route for the ascent on the return.

Eastern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Eastern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Eastern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Eastern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk

Eastern Loop - Westchester Wilderness Walk

Eastern Loop – Westchester Wilderness Walk