Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

October 10, 2020 – Rhinebeck, NY

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 2.6 miles

Max elevation: 350 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 189 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Map: Ferncliff Forest Trail Map 2019

Map: Ferncliff Forest Trail Map (Official)

Trailhead parking: 68 Mt. Rutsen Rd, Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Overview:

Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve is a 200-acre old-growth forest preserve of deciduous and hemlock trees located in Rhinebeck, in the northern part of Dutchess County, NY. It is a free public recreation area offering hiking, mountain biking, skiing, fishing, camping and picnicking.

Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve

Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve

More commonly known as Ferncliff Forest, it bills itself as “Rhinebeck’s Number-One Free Attraction.” Ferncliff Forest today remains one of the few areas of old-growth forest in the region that is open to the public. Because the woodlands have never been clear cut, the plant life is quite varied, with many outstanding examples of large deciduous trees and numerous wildflower species. It’s an excellent spot for bird watching and nature study, especially in the spring.

Ferncliff Forest

Ferncliff Forest

At the highest point in the preserve, about 350 feet above sea level, stands an 80-ft. steel observation tower. Those who climb it, are rewarded with spectacular views of the Hudson River, Catskill Mountains and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. Ferncliff Forest also offers miles of woodland trails to explore, along with a pond and a recently completed pavilion.

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower


Mt. Rutsen Pond - Ferncliff Forest

Mt. Rutsen Pond – Ferncliff Forest


Pavilion - Ferncliff Forest

Pavilion – Ferncliff Forest

Ferncliff Forest is open year-round from dawn to dusk and is used by a number of local organizations, including scouting groups, conservation organizations, senior citizens and schools. It is managed and maintained by Ferncliff Forest, Inc.

History:

The land that is now Ferncliff Forest was too remote, hilly, and heavily wooded to be settled, and it stayed largely untouched until the early 1800’s. Small farms eventually grew up on land that is now part of the forest. In the 1850’s William Backhouse Astor, Jr., the grandson of John Jacob Astor (the richest man in America at the time and the fourth-richest American ever) bought up several of the farms on that part of the Forest and consolidated them into an estate called Ferncliff Farm. Over the years, William added more acres to the Ferncliff estate, eventually acquiring holdings that spread east of River and Mt. Rutsen roads all the way to the Old Post Road and what is now Route 9.

Another part of the land that is now Ferncliff Forest was owned by Thomas Suckley, known locally as the man who built Wilderstein, the Queen Anne style mansion on Morton Road that is now open to the public. In 1878, Suckley donated the farm on his property to the New York Methodist Conference as a retreat for retired clergy. The clergymen built cottages and a chapel and tried their hand at agriculture. They were notably unsuccessful as farmers, however, and by 1900, the colony was shut down.

In the meantime, William Backhouse Astor’s son John Jacob Astor IV had decided to increase his family’s holdings in the area; the 106 acres of the Methodist colony were sold to him in 1900 for $5,500 and incorporated into Ferncliff Farm. The Methodist chapel continued in use as a Sunday school for a few years beginning in 1902, but the cottage homes were torn down. The chapel fell into disuse and was eventually demolished. When Jack Astor went down with the Titanic in 1912, Ferncliff Farm went to his son Vincent, who continued to expand the family holdings until, by 1940, the estate had grown to 2,800 acres.

Vincent Astor died in 1959, leaving Ferncliff Farm to his wife, Brooke. Mrs. Astor (1902-2007) decided to break up the land, selling some of it and donating the rest. In 1963, Homer K. Staley, a local real estate broker who had spent some of his boyhood on the estate, asked Mrs. Astor to donate the 190-acre area known as Mt. Rutsen. She agreed, giving the land to the Rhinebeck Rotary for a forest preserve and game refuge that would remain forever wild. Homer K. Staley was named Ferncliff’s first Forest Ranger, a voluntary post he held for 30 years. In 1988, Ferncliff Forest was transferred from the Rotary, and became a nonprofit corporation known as Ferncliff Forest, Inc., funded entirely by donations.

History of the Fire Tower:

Ferncliff Forest has been the home of several towers over the last century. Each Tower has served a special purpose of its own. The first tower was a stone tower built by the Astors. That tower, now reduced to a pile of rocks perched high atop Mt. Rutsen, served as a point of reference for all who visited. The second tower was erected by the Geodetic Survey to aid in map-making. The third tower was built by the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II and served as a strategic watch tower to provide early warning of attacks, particularly on President Roosevelt’s home and planes that could be headed to New York City. That tower sadly, after serving its noble purpose, was deemed unsafe, and had to be removed in 2006. John Ochs came to Rhinebeck in 1942 with 5 other men from the Army Air Corp to serve on the Ferncliff Observation Tower. They manned the tower 24 hours a day until the day of President Roosevelt’s death.

Ferncliff Forest’s current tower was constructed in the summer of 2007. The tower, a 1933 International Derrick fire tower made of Carnegie steel, was moved from its original site in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The tower is 80 feet tall and offers spectacular views of the Hudson River, Catskill Mountains and the surrounding area.

Looking northwest - Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Trails Overview:

Alongside the 11 miles of marked trails you can find the remains of the former chapel, as well as hand-dug wells, cisterns, root cellars and old foundations from the land’s farmsteading days. The trails are easy to moderate and can be covered in a few hours, making this a great place for hiking with kids. Overnight camping is allowed by permit.

The tower is a very popular attraction and the highlight of any visit to Ferncliff Forest. The Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower can be climbed by visitors to enjoy the 360° views. The tower is open everyday all year long and is an easy hike of about 0.6 mile from the Ferncliff Forest parking lot, on the Yellow Circle Trail.

Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest

Hike Overview:

I hiked to the Fire Tower in 2014 and the trails were poorly marked and a little confusing to navigate. Fast forward to 2020, the trails are now well blazed and well maintained. I’ve been wanting to get up here for some time and with most of the popular trails in the Hudson Valley being overly crowded in recent months, I decided to make the 1-1/2 hour drive from the lower Hudson Valley.

Arriving shortly before 8:30am on a Saturday morning, there were several vehicles in the parking lot. We didn’t encounter any other hikers during our visit, only a lone fisherman at Mt. Rutsen Pond near the end of our hike. 

Although we kept the hike on the short side, with about 11 miles of trails available, one can log some more mileage if desired.

This hike was done counterclockwise from the Mt. Rutsen Parking lot.

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

The Hike:

From the parking area, walk towards the kiosk and past the gate, this is the start of the yellow-blazed trail. It has been called by different names (Circle Trail, East Tower Trail etc.) For the purpose of this hike description, I will refer to it as the Yellow Circle Trail. Proceed ahead on the Yellow Circle Trail as it climbs gradually on a gravel road.

start of Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

start of Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest

In about 700 feet from the gate, the Yellow Circle Trail crosses a gravel road (a white-blazed trail) with Mt. Rutsen Pond just beyond. You may want to stop for a moment and take in the beauty of this scenic spot.

Mt. Rutsen Pond - Ferncliff Forest

Mt. Rutsen Pond – Ferncliff Forest


Mt. Rutsen Pond - Ferncliff Forest

Mt. Rutsen Pond – Ferncliff Forest

When you are ready to continue, stay right, past the lean-to, and continue to follow the yellow blazes. The road continues to climb gradually and soon passes another lean-to. In about 0.6 mile from the start of the hike, there is a short footpath on the left that climbs to the site of the fire tower. This is a shortcut to the tower, but if you miss it, don’t worry because the Yellow Circle Trail continues ahead and turns left, passing right by the tower.

Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


veer left on footpath

veer left on footpath

There are no views from the base of the tower, so you’ll have to climb it if you want to see some.

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

This International Derrick Model 1933, was developed through a cooperative effort between the Aermotor Company and the U.S. Forest service. The model 1933 was made by each of the major fire tower manufacturers inluding the International Derrick Company. The Aermotor MC-39 is essentially the same design as the 1933 model. This 80-ft. steel tower has 7 flights of stairs and a 7’x7’ metal cab.

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

The 1933 design of the International Derrick Fire Towers is arranged so that the flights of stairs, except for the lowest and highest, are oriented from one corner of the tower towards the corner diagonally opposite from it.

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

The Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower was never used for forest fire detection in NY State.

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower


Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

The panoramic views from the cab of the tower are outstanding.

Looking northwest - Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northwest, the Hudson River, Catskill Mountains and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.

Looking northwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower


Looking northwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking southwest.

Looking southwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking southwest – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northeast.

Looking northeast – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Looking northeast – Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Once you are done enjoying the views, turn left after leaving the tower and continue on the Yellow Circle Trail as it weaves its way through the woods.

Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


wetlands - Yellow Circle Trail

wetlands – Yellow Circle Trail


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest

After another mile (from the fire tower), the Yellow Circle Trail reaches the southwest shore of Mt. Rutsen Pond and turns left. Leave the Yellow Circle Trail and bear right onto the orange-blazed Scout Trail, soon crossing a small wooden footbridge. When the trail comes to a fork, veer left and follow the orange blazes until you come to a junction with the White Trail. Turn left on the White Trail, now heading north.

Orange Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Orange Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Mt. Rutsen Pond - Ferncliff Forest

Mt. Rutsen Pond – Ferncliff Forest


Orange Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Orange Trail – Ferncliff Forest

In a short distance, the White Trail passes a lean-to with a fireplace along Mt. Rutsen Pond. As you continue north, you will pass another lean-to as well. 

White Trail - Ferncliff Forest

White Trail – Ferncliff Forest


White Trail - Ferncliff Forest

White Trail – Ferncliff Forest


White Trail - Ferncliff Forest

White Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Mt. Rutsen Pond - Ferncliff Forest

Mt. Rutsen Pond – Ferncliff Forest

Continue north on the White Trail and near the northeast shore of the pond is a large pavilion with a fireplace.

Pavilion - Ferncliff Forest

Pavilion – Ferncliff Forest


White Trail - Ferncliff Forest

White Trail – Ferncliff Forest


Mt. Rutsen Pond - Ferncliff Forest

Mt. Rutsen Pond – Ferncliff Forest

When you reach the northern end of Mt. Rutsen Pond, the White Trail crosses the the Yellow Circle Trail. Turning right will lead you back to the parking lot. Continue straight through the intersection on the White Trail and a short distance up ahead is an old root cellar and a stone lined well. Relics from the 1825 farm colony that was owned by Thomas Suckley. The root cellar has filled in over the last six years since the last time I visited.

root cellar - Ferncliff Forest

root cellar – Ferncliff Forest

This is how it looked in December of 2014.

root cellar in December 2014

root cellar in December 2014


old well - Ferncliff Forest

old well – Ferncliff Forest


old well - Ferncliff Forest

old well – Ferncliff Forest

Retrace your steps back to the intersection with the Yellow Circle Trail and turn left. Follow the yellow blazes for about 700 feet down the hill, back to the parking lot, where the hike began.

Yellow Circle Trail - Ferncliff Forest

Yellow Circle Trail – Ferncliff Forest

Review:

A quiet and lesser traveled area with well blazed trails that are easy to follow. The area is well maintained with no trash in sight. The highlight of the hike is the fire tower, with its outstanding Hudson River Valley views. The area around Mt. Rutsen Pond is very scenic and worth spending a little time at. This place is definitely worth a visit.

Pros:

Fire Tower, Mt. Rutsen Pond, scenic views, little foot traffic, picturesque landscape, well maintained property, well marked and easy to follow trails.

Cons:

None

Take a hike!

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower

Sources:

Black Rock State Park

September 26, 2020 – Watertown, Connecticut

Difficulty: Easy – moderate

Length: Approximately 2.3 miles

Max elevation: 709 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 409 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Maps: Black Rock State Park Trail Map (DEEP)

Avenza App Map (FREE): Black Rock State Park Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 2065 Thomaston Rd, Watertown, CT 06795

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

The park is open from 8am to sunset. Gates are open on weekends only, from the second Saturday in April until Memorial Day, 8am to sunset. From Memorial Day to October 1st, they are open daily between 8am and sunset.


Park Overview:

Black Rock State Park is a seasonal public recreation area adjoining Mattatuck State Forest in the town of Watertown, Connecticut. The state park covers 439 acres and is known for its large rock face, Black Rock, that affords views of Thomaston, Watertown, and portions of Waterbury.

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock State Park offers excellent swimming, hiking, scenic views, and Indian legend all tucked into the scenic rolling hills of the western highlands of Connecticut. Black Rock Campground has 96 sites in a wooded setting. The camping season is mid-April through September 30. This is a designated trout park. Activities include picnicking, field sports, swimming, and pond fishing.

Facilities: bathrooms, food concessions, picnic tables and charcoal grills. The park is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park


History:

The land that is now Black Rock State Park, was originally home to several Native American Tribes such as the Paugussett, Mohegan, and Tunxis. In fact, tribal artifacts such as arrowheads and carved stone tools are still being found in the park today.

In 1657, the tribes granted early settlers to the Naugatuck Valley, access to their lands and gave them permission to mine the area for “black rock,” more commonly known today as graphite lead. This dark black mineral inspired the park’s name and it stuck throughout the years.

Black Rock was given to the people of Connecticut in 1926 through the efforts of Black Rock Forest, Incorporated, a citizen’s conservation group interested in woodland preservation. Development of access roads and facilities later became part of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ economic recovery program.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp Roberts, which housed Company #175, was stationed at Black Rock State Park in Thomaston, Connecticut. The camp was established May 30, 1933 and was discontinued Sept. 28, 1937. The camp’s main projects were: building miles of truck trails, survey and boundary work, gypsy moth removal, tree planting.


Trails Overview:

The park is crossed by the Mattatuck Trail, part of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system, managed by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). The Mattatuck Trail offers scenic views of the Naugatuck Valley; side trails have views of Black Rock Lake and Black Rock Pond.

There is one other marked trail in the park, blazed red (0.4 mile), that can be combined with the Mattatuck Trail to form a short loop hike. There are numerous unmarked woods roads and footpaths throughout the park and around Black Rock Pond that one can explore as well.

Hiking trails are maintained in cooperation with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA), which provides volunteer assistance.


Hike Overview:

Dealing with some foot issues, I was looking for a short hike with some decent views. This hike fit the bill perfectly. Since we visited after Labor Day, we didn’t have to pay the out-of-state vehicle fee. It was extremely foggy in the morning and when got up to Black Rock, there was no view. We decided to wait out the fog and it eventually dissipated, displaying the view that we came here for. The entire time that we were there, not another soul around.

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock

After the hike, we found a picnic table by a small pond and enjoyed a nice lunch.

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park

We walked to Black Rock Pond both at the start and at the end of the hike.

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park

Please keep in mind that most of the elevation gained during this hike occurs in less than a 1/2 mile section of the Mattatuck Trail.

Black Rock State Park Elevation Graph

Black Rock State Park Elevation Graph


The Hike:

We drove in and parked just past the paved park road that leads to the beach (Black Rock Pond). You can see the closed gate to the left of the booth. If the gate is open, there is parking closer to the pond.

ticket booth - Black Rock State Park

ticket booth – Black Rock State Park

We walked past the gate and proceeded up the paved park road towards Black Rock Pond. Since it was extremely foggy, we were in no hurry to get to the viewpoint.

paved park road - Black Rock State Park

paved park road – Black Rock State Park

paved park road - Black Rock State Park

paved park road – Black Rock State Park

beach parking area - Black Rock State Park

beach parking area – Black Rock State Park

Black Rock Pond (9.5 acres), is a popular spot for fishing and swimming. From the “Report of the State Park and Forest Commission to the Governor – 1926” – “a small pond of clean water, known locally as the “Sand Dam.” It was a popular swimming “hole” before it came into the State park system.”

Black Rock Pond

Black Rock Pond

A nice spot to grill some food.

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park

After lingering about, we made our way across the steel footbridge and turned left on a woods road, crossing a small wooden footbridge.

footbridge - Black Rock State Park

footbridge – Black Rock State Park

footbridge - Black Rock State Park

footbridge – Black Rock State Park

woods road - Black Rock State Park

woods road – Black Rock State Park

woods road - Black Rock State Park

woods road – Black Rock State Park

In about 280 feet (from the steel bridge), the blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail crosses the woods road. We turned right and began following the blue blazes, which run along another woods road. In a short distance, The Red Trail begins on the right. That would be our return route, for now, we followed the blue blazes all the way to Black Rock.

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

The Mattatuck Trail climbs gradually at first then the grade steepens on the extremely eroded and rocky woods road. The more the trail climbs, the steeper it gets.

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

After a particularly steep section, the trail levels off briefly, turns right and continues to climb, then levels off again.

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

The trail steepens again just before reaching Black Rock.

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

When we got to Black Rock, it was so foggy that you couldn’t see anything beyond Black Rock itself. We were a little bummed, but decided to see if we could wait out the fog.

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock

This rock made a good spot to sit and gaze out at the fog.

Black Rock

Black Rock

In due time, the fog began to roll away and the views opened up. The field in the distance, is alongside the entrance road, adjacent to where we parked. On the far right is Black Rock Pond, looking like a small dot.

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock

Black Rock

When we were ready to go, we continued ahead on the Mattatuck Trail as it descends Black Rock.

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

In about 500 feet, the Mattatuck Trail crosses a power line corridor and reenters the woods on a woods road.

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail - Black Rock State Park

Mattatuck Trail – Black Rock State Park

In about 400 feet, the Mattatuck Trail crosses another woods road. The Red Trail begins here, so we turned right, leaving the Mattatuck Trail and now following the red blazes. In another 400 feet, the Red Trail crosses the power line corridor again as it heads southeast.

turn right on Red Trail

turn right on Red Trail

Red Trail - Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

Red Trail - Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

Red Trail - Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

Red Trail - Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

Red Trail - Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

An interesting rock formation along the Red Trail.

Red Trail - Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

Red Trail – Black Rock State Park

We followed the Red Trail until its terminus, at a junction with the Mattatuck Trail, where we turned left, now retracing our steps from earlier in the hike.

turn left on Mattatuck Trail

turn left on Mattatuck Trail

As the blue blazes veer right, we turned left on the unmarked woods road, crossing the small wooden footbridge, then turning right and crossing the steel footbridge.

turn left on woods road

turn left on woods road

woods road - Black Rock State Park

woods road – Black Rock State Park

footbridge – Black Rock State Park

footbridge – Black Rock State Park

We took a walk over by Black Rock Pond to get another look then made our way back to the parking lot via the paved park road.

Black Rock Pond

Black Rock Pond

On the way back down the park road, Black Rock is visible in the distance.

Black Rock

Black Rock

After walking to the vehicle and gathering up our lunch supplies. We walked back to this spot and spent a few hours here. There are several picnic tables and grills scattered about for one to enjoy a picnic or a barbecue.

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock Pond

Black Rock Pond  


Review:

A truly beautiful park with lots of available activities. The marked trails in the park don’t provide a lot of distance, but the Mattatuck Trail offers hikers choosing to extend their hike, an option. Although the majority of the hike is on woods roads, it is still rugged enough to keep you focused. The view from Black Rock is first-rate as is the surrounding landscape. This park is definitely worth a visit if only for the view.

Pros:

Black Rock, Black Rock Pond, scenic views, rugged terrain, well marked trails.

Cons:

N/A


Take a hike!

Black Rock State Park

Black Rock State Park


Sources:

Macricostas Preserve

September 20, 2020 – Washington, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 5 miles

Max elevation: 1,280 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 712 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Map: Macricostas Preserve Trail Map 2020

Avenza App Map (FREE): Macricostas Preserve Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 124 Christian St, New Preston, CT 06777

The preserve is open daily, Sunrise to Sunset

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


Overview:

The Macricostas Preserve is home to 490 acres of breathtaking landscapes, rare species of birds and blooming wildflowers. This patchwork of contrasting terrains; forest, ridges, swamplands, meadows, and running water, encompass a taste of all those landscapes that hikers have come to love. All starting from a single trailhead tucked away in the hills of Washington, Connecticut.

Meeker Swamp is located in the center of the preserve and essentially splits the remainder of Macricostas Preserve in two halves. The rocky ridge and woodlands to the north and the meadows to the south. The swamp itself acts as the headwaters of Bee Brook, which emerges from the wetlands to meander throughout the southern half of the Preserve on its way to feed the nearby Shepaug River.

Macricostas Preserve

Macricostas Preserve

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


History:

At one time, the property was slated for subdivision, destined to hold hundreds of private homes. In a 1978 development project known as The Washington Glen, investors envisioned an adult community of 265 one to three bedroom homes, 190 acres of shared recreational space and a community waste treatment plant.

Purchased in 2000 in a “bargain sale” from Constantine Macricostas, the 238-acre parcel was also commonly known as “Meeker Swamp.” It was bought with a combination of funds from the Town of Washington, Connecticut’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program, and the Steep Rock Association, via individual contributions. Contiguous to four other previously donated parcels and subsequent adjacent land acquisitions, have expanded Macricostas Preserve to its current 490 acres.

Constantine “Dino” Macricostas is a Greek-born, award-winning entrepreneur who has held private business in Brookfield since 1960, before which he attended University in Hartford and served in the US Army. He is no stranger to philanthropy, and has given generously to Western Connecticut State University, The American School of Classical Studies in Athens and to the Steep Rock Association.


Trails Overview:

There are 6 miles of trails in Macricostas Preserve, with some new trails being established which would add to the total in the near future.

Hiking trails in the northern section of Macricostas Preserve ascend the slope of Waramaug’s Rock, a forested ridge that rises to an elevation of 1280 feet and rewards those who reach the summit with an excellent overlook of picturesque Lake Waramaug in the distance.

In the southern section, the trails loop around a hay field, with a short spur trail leading to a viewing platform over Meeker Swamp.


Hike Overview:

I happen to see an image of the view from Waramaug’s Rock online and decided that I wanted to hike to that spot. I was not disappointed, as this was worth the 70 minute drive from the Lower Hudson Valley in New York. As usual in this day and age of trails being crowded, we got an early start and arrived at the trailhead shortly after 8am on a Sunday morning. There were several cars in the ample parking lot when we arrived, but when we returned to the trailhead at approximately 12:30pm, the lot was full, and vehicles waiting to park.

The plan was to hit as many of the trails and points of interest as possible. With the exception of the Pinnacle Valley Trail (0.5 mile) and the Waramaug’s Trail (1 mile), we did just that.

This hike is mostly a loop that was done clockwise, but several times we did retrace our steps.

Macricostas Preserve Loop

Macricostas Preserve Loop

Macricostas Preserve Elevation Graph

Macricostas Preserve Elevation Graph


The Hike:

On the day of our hike, they were working on a new section of boardwalk from the parking lot to the kiosk. The work has since been completed.

trailhead - Macricostas Preserve

trailhead – Macricostas Preserve

trailhead - Macricostas Preserve

trailhead – Macricostas Preserve

Macricostas Preserve Boardwalk

Macricostas Preserve Boardwalk

At the northern end of the parking lot, proceed ahead on a footpath that leads to the boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk there is a kiosk marked with a yellow circle blaze. This is the start of the Meeker Trail. You will be following the yellow circles for the next 1.6 miles until you reach Waramaug’s Rock.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Continue ahead on the Meeker Trail which starts out level, crosses Bee Brook on a small footbridge and meanders through a large wildlife meadow. In about 450 feet after crossing the footbridge, The Meeker Trail reaches the hayfield and turns left, skirting the hayfield along the edge of the forest.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve 

Bee Brook - Macricostas Preserve

Bee Brook – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

In another 620 yards, the Meeker Trail turns left and passes through Meeker Swamp on wooden planks, crosses Bee Brook again on a wooden footbridge and continues on a boardwalk and more planks.

turn left to stay on Meeker Trail

turn left to stay on Meeker Trail

turn left to stay on Meeker Trail

turn left to stay on Meeker Trail

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

In about another 860 feet, the Meeker Trail comes to a junction with the orange-circle-blazed Ridgeline Trail, which begins on the right. The Ridgeline Trail is your return route, for now, bear left at this junction and continue following the yellow circles.

turn left to remain on Meeker Trail

turn left to remain on Meeker Trail

turn left to remain on Meeker Trail

turn left to remain on Meeker Trail

The Meeker Trail ascends gradually at first and in about 460 yards, passes a junction with the white-square-blazed Pinnacle Valley Trail (this trail can be used as a shortcut to Waramaug’s Rock, bypassing the first viewpoint). The Meeker Trail turns right and climbs steeply along a series of switchbacks before emerging at the Lookout.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

The Lookout is a rock outcrop that provides southeast-facing views over the hayfield below and the surrounding countryside. You have now hiked just over a mile and gained about 440 feet in elevation. This is a good place to take a break and enjoy the view.

Lookout - Macricostas Preserve

Lookout – Macricostas Preserve

Lookout - Macricostas Preserve

Lookout – Macricostas Preserve

Lookout - Macricostas Preserve

Lookout – Macricostas Preserve

When you are ready to proceed, follow the yellow circle blazes of the Meeker Trail which turn left and continue to climb, but now more gradually.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

In a short distance, the Meeker Trail comes to a junction with the other end of the Ridgeline Trail. You will return back to this spot on your way back from Waramaug’s Rock. For now continue following the yellow circles as they head in a westerly direction.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

In another 250 feet, the Meeker Trail passes a junction with the other end of the Pinnacle Valley Trail, which begins on the left. In about another 590 feet, the Meeker Trail turns left and heads in a southwesterly direction.

continue past the junction with the Pinnacle Valley Trail

continue past the junction with the Pinnacle Valley Trail

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

The Meeker Trail climbs a little over rock slabs and ends at the bald summit of Waramaug’s Rock.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Waramaug’s Rock - Macricostas Preserve

Waramaug’s Rock – Macricostas Preserve

At an elevation of 1,280 feet, Waramaug’s Rock rewards hikers with panoramic views of Lake Waramaug and the surrounding countryside. The open summit has few trees so if visiting on a hot day, be prepared to be exposed to the sun while you’re here.

Lake Waramaug from Waramaug’s Rock

Lake Waramaug from Waramaug’s Rock

Looking southwest from Waramaug’s Rock.

view southwest from Waramaug’s Rock

view southwest from Waramaug’s Rock

Lake Waramaug is a 656-acre lake occupying parts of the towns of Kent, Warren and Washington in Litchfield County. Waramaug is the name of an Indian chief (1650-1735) of the Wyantenock tribe who had hunting grounds near falls on the Housatonic River, now referred to as “Lover’s Leap,” in the town of New Milford. Chief Waramaug and his followers wintered in the area now covered by Lake Lillinonah, which was later created by damming the Housatonic, and made Lake Waramaug their summer residence.

Lake Waramaug from Waramaug’s Rock

Lake Waramaug from Waramaug’s Rock

Possibly a summit marker.

Waramaug’s Rock - Macricostas Preserve

Waramaug’s Rock – Macricostas Preserve

When you are ready to continue, retrace your steps on the Meeker Trail.

turn left on Meeker Trail

turn left on Meeker Trail

In about 0.4 mile, the trail reaches the junction with the Ridgeline Trail that you passed earlier.

turn left on Ridgeline Trail

turn left on Ridgeline Trail

To continue on this loop hike, bear left, leaving the Meeker Trail and follow the orange-circle-blazed Ridgeline Trail. If you want to cut the hike short, bear right and continue following the yellow circles and retrace your steps the rest of the way back to the parking lot.

turn left on Ridgeline Trail

turn left on Ridgeline Trail

The Ridgeline Trail (1.1 miles) climbs briefly over rocks, then begins a steady descent along the rocky ridge, losing the elevation that you gained on the way up. For the next mile or so, you will be following the orange circles as they descend the ridge, sometimes steeply.

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Along the way, you’ll pass some interesting rock formations and boulders.

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Ridgeline Trail – Macricostas Preserve

In 1.1 miles, the Ridgeline Trail ends at the junction with the Meeker Trail, that you passed at the beginning of the hike. Continue ahead, now following the yellow circle blazes as they lead gradually downhill.

terminus of Ridgeline Trail

terminus of Ridgeline Trail

Cross the wooden planks, boardwalk and footbridge through Meeker Swamp until you come out to the hayfield.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

To continue on the loop, turn left and follow the Hay Field Loop along the edge of the woods. To return to the parking lot, turn right and follow the Meeker Trail.

turn left on Hay Field Loop

turn left on Hay Field Loop

The Hay Field Loop runs along the edge of the woods on a mowed path. In about 900 feet, the trail comes to the entrance of Meeker Swamp.

Hay Field Loop - Macricostas Preserve

Hay Field Loop – Macricostas Preserve

turn left to Meeker Swamp

turn left to Meeker Swamp

This short spur trail is part of the Hay Field Loop and is only about 400 feet long. The trail runs on wooden planks and leads to a wooden viewing platform that was closed due to unsafe structural conditions.

Meeker Swamp - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp is a unique calcareous wetland, a chalky limestone-based geology rarely found east of the Appalachian Mountains. One of the last significant calcareous ecosystems in the Northeast Hills, it encompasses over 300 acres and includes part of the Bee Brook stream, wet meadows and agricultural fields as well as an adjacent ridge of talus slopes and rocky outcroppings. An excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife, the preserve overlies one of Washington’s largest aquifers and protects the town’s drinking water supply.

Meeker Swamp - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Swamp – Macricostas Preserve

Retrace your steps back out to the hayfield and turn left. The Hay Field Loop continues along the edge of the woods and in about 420 yards, cuts across the field, heading west along another wooded section.

Hay Field Loop - Macricostas Preserve

Hay Field Loop – Macricostas Preserve

Hay Field Loop - Macricostas Preserve

Hay Field Loop – Macricostas Preserve

Looking north across the field, you can see the ridge that you just hiked.

Hay Field Loop - Macricostas Preserve

Hay Field Loop – Macricostas Preserve

Continue heading west on the Hay Field Loop. When you reach a wooded area in front of you, turn right then take the next left on the StoryWalk Trail.

Hay Field Loop - Macricostas Preserve

Hay Field Loop – Macricostas Preserve

turn left on Story Walk Trail

turn left on Story Walk Trail

Story Walk Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Story Walk Trail – Macricostas Preserve

At the end of the StoryWalk Trail, turn left on the Meeker Trail, and follow it back through the meadow, crossing the footbridge and returning back to the parking lot, where the hike began.

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail - Macricostas Preserve

Meeker Trail – Macricostas Preserve

trailhead - Macricostas Preserve

trailhead – Macricostas Preserve


Review:

An excellent hike through a very diverse topography. The climb up to Waramaug’s Rock is rugged, but doable by most novice hikers. The view speaks for itself and is the highlight of the hike. The bald summit is expansive enough that even with other groups up there, one can find a quiet spot to relax. The Ridgeline Trail is rocky and steep, but once you reach the Hay Field Loop, it becomes a casual stroll around the field. Meeker Swamp is worth a visit as well. It’s best to get here early or visit on a weekday as this place can get crowded on nice days. All in all, a great place for a hike and worth the drive.

Pros:

Diverse topography, Waramaug’s Rock, scenic views, Meeker Swamp, well maintained and free of trash, well marked trails.

Cons:

Meeker Swamp viewing platform in need of repair and closed on the day of our visit.


Take a hike!

Macricostas Preserve

Macricostas Preserve


Sources:

Haystack Mountain State Park

September 12, 2020 – Norfolk, Connecticut

Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

Length: Approximately 2.5 miles

Max elevation: 1716 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 495 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Free Web Maps: Haystack Mountain State Park Trail Maps (DEEP)

Avenza App Map (FREE): Haystack Mountain State Park Trail Map

Trailhead parking: Route 272 – North St, Norfolk Historic District, CT 06058

Please Note: From November 1st through the third weekend in April, this park is a “walk-in” facility with limited parking available at the entrance.


Park Overview:

Haystack Mountain is a 1,716-ft. high mountain topped with a stone observation tower that is the main feature of the 292-acre Haystack Mountain State Park, a public recreation area in the Litchfield Hills region of northwestern Connecticut, in the town of Norfolk. The mountain is called Haystack from a fancied resemblance to a stack of hay. The park is managed and maintained by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The Norfolk Land Trust maintains the trails.

Haystack Mountain State Park

Haystack Mountain State Park

The park has hiking trails, a pond, picnic tables and a compost toilet at the upper trailhead.

Haystack Park Pond

Haystack Park Pond

compost toilet - Haystack Mountain State Park

compost toilet – Haystack Mountain State Park

The 50-ft. high stone tower at the summit of Haystack Mountain (1716 feet above sea level) allows visitors to see the Berkshires, and peaks in Massachusetts, New York, and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Travel the twisting mountain road or hike the rugged trail to the top, either way you will be astounded at the beauty of mountain laurel in June and the spectacular colors of foliage in the fall.

Haystack Mountain State Park

Haystack Mountain State Park


History:

In the nineteenth century, a Norfolk resident, Robbins Battell (1819-1895), bought the mountaintop in order to preserve it. In 1886, Battell, a philanthropist and adviser to Abraham Lincoln, built a carriage road (now part of the Tower Loop Trail) to the summit and had a wooden tower erected which he called the Haystack Belvedere. He granted public access to climb the hill and admire the views, which was a very unusual move for the time. The original tower was destroyed during a storm and was no longer standing by 1924.

A single acre on the summit of Haystack Mountain was purchased for $1,200 in 1917 from Mr. and Mrs. Carl Stoeckel, in the hope that upon that slender foothold it might sometime be possible to erect a suitable observation tower to replace the earlier one constructed in 1886 by Mrs. Stoeckel’s father, Robbins Battell.

Subsequent acquisitions by the state of Connecticut of adjoining lands, increased the size of Haystack Mountain State Park to 292 acres.

After the passing of Carl Stoeckel (1858-1925), his wife Ellen donated $50,000 in 1929 to the state, to build a stone tower with a beacon light at the top. The beacon no longer exists. The Haystack Mountain Tower is also known as the Stoeckel Memorial Tower.

Haystack Mountain Tower is a stone lookout tower 22 feet in diameter and 50 feet high. It has eight window openings at the top. Erected in 1929 (the date is incised to the right of the door), it is now the centerpiece of Haystack Mountain State Park. From the first floor, which is 4 feet, 6 inches above grade, helical concrete steps three feet, three inches wide hug the wall on the way to a middle landing and an upper landing. The walls are 30 inches thick.

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

A plaque hangs over the entrance to the tower, its verse written in Latin and translated: “To thy God, state and town be thou ever faithful.” The plaque, dedicated in memory of Robbins Battell, was moved from the original wooden tower.

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

A second plaque, dedicated to Mrs. Stoeckel’s husband, Carl Stoeckel, was attached to a wall inside the tower, but is now missing. It read: “Requiem Anternam dona els Domine et lux perpetua luceat els” (Eternal rest give unto him, 0 Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him).

Stepped stone piers flank the six stone risers that lead to the 3×7 ft. doorway, which no longer has its original red oak door hung on wrought-iron butts and hinges.

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower is significant architecturally because it is a good example of a monumental Tudor Revival-style structure, showing medieval influence, designed by a well-known architect of the period, Erick K. Rossiter, who had a summer home nearby.

The paved parked road, called Stoeckel Drive, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, runs from State Route 272 (North Street) through the grounds and up the mountain to a parking area.

Haystack Mountain Tower was struck by lightning on the evening of July 3rd, 2002, setting the roof and supporting timbers on fire. While people gathered in front of the National Iron Bank to watch the flames, the volunteer firemen climbed the mountain in full gear and saved most of the structure.

Haystack Mountain Tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.


Trails Overview:

There are two ways to get to the tower. The park’s road is open the third weekend in April until the end of October and brings visitors to a parking area. The tower is a half-mile hike from the parking area. The road is closed Nov. 1 until late April so visitors can hike about two miles up the paved road or take a mile-long path along the yellow-blazed Tower Loop Trail that runs along parts of an old carriage road to the tower and sometimes rocky terrain.

The upper trailhead is at the end of the paved park road as you follow it up the mountain. There is a small parking area with a compost toilet nearby.

The lower trailhead is located to the right of the entrance gate to Haystack Mountain State Park on Route 272. Please park so as not to block the entrance gate.

Haystack Mountain State Park

Haystack Mountain State Park


The Hike:

At the rear of the parking area is the start of the connector trail. I have seen it referred to as the White Trail, but I did not notice any blazes. In about 320 yards, the connector trail comes to a T-intersection with the yellow blazed Tower Loop Trail. Here we veered left and followed the yellow blazes as they lead up towards the summit of Haystack Mountain.

upper trailhead - Haystack Mountain State Park

upper trailhead – Haystack Mountain State Park

connector trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

connector trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

In another 300 yards, the Tower Loop Trail reaches a T-intersection with a woods road. We turned left and in another 65 feet, turned right on a short footpath that leads to the summit of Haystack Mountain and the stone tower.

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain

Haystack Mountain

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

We climbed the tower and were greeted with outstanding views.

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

Haystack Mountain Tower

When we were done enjoying the majestic views from the top of Haystack Mountain Tower, we walked back to the woods road and turned right, walking around the back (northern side) of the tower. The Tower Loop Trail runs along this old woods road and descends Haystack Mountain gradually. This is the original road that was used to access the tower, built by Robbins Battell in 1886.

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

In about 0.9 mile, The Tower Loop Trail comes to a 3-way junction where the yellow blazes go both left and right. The left leg of the trail descends toward the main entrance of the park by Route 272. We turned right, leaving the woods road and began following the yellow blazes uphill on a footpath.

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

In about another 0.3 mile, The yellow-blazed Tower Loop Trail turns right, marked by two blazes on a tree. Here we turned left and followed the unmarked connector trail downhill, back to the parking area, where the hike began.

Tower Loop Trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

Tower Loop Trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

connector trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

connector trail – Haystack Mountain State Park

connector trail - Haystack Mountain State Park

connector trail – Haystack Mountain State Park


Review:

Although short, this was a really good hike, with the payoff being the 360° views from the top of the stone tower. Even though we got an early start, about 8:00am, we saw several couples in the vicinity of the tower. However, we did not see anyone else after leaving the tower until we arrived back at the trailhead. When we were done, we had a picnic lunch by the pond and spent a few hours there. All in all, a great day spent at Haystack Mountain State Park.

Pros:

Well marked trails, Haystack Mountain Tower, scenic views, not much foot traffic.

Cons:

Blue spray paint all over the trees on a section of the Tower Loop Trail.


Take a hike!

Haystack Mountain State Park

Haystack Mountain State Park


Sources:

Merestead

September 6, 2020 – Mount Kisco, NY

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 3 miles

Max elevation: 720 ft. – total elevation gain: approximately 371 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Map: Merestead Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 455 Byram Lake Road, Mount Kisco, NY 10549

Restrooms: None available


Overview:

Merestead is a Westchester County park, that is located in the Town of Bedford and Mount Kisco. It is comprised of a Georgian Revival mansion, designed by Delano and Aldrich and built in 1907. There are twelve additional out buildings on the 130-acre property, including an historic farmhouse (1850), carriage house and barn. The estate grounds includes woodlands and rolling hills that overlook the surrounding valley.

Merestead

Merestead

Access to the trail system is located across the street from the main driveway to the property. Follow the signs to the parking lot. Their website states that the grounds and trails are open seven days a week, 8am to dusk. The sign below reads differently.

Merestead

Merestead


History:

Merestead, Scottish for farmland, is the former estate of William Sloane (1873-1922), who was President of the W&J Sloane Furniture Company and his daughter Margaret Sloane Patterson (1910-2000).

On December 6, 1905, William Sloane purchased the deeds to two pieces of property, the Joseph Sarles estate and the E.V. Weeks estate on Byram Lake Road in Mount Kisco to be his legal residence. Merestead was a country estate designed for a gracious, and elegant lifestyle. Built at a time when automobiles were replacing the horse.

It includes a neo-Georgian mansion completed in 1907. It was designed by Delano and Aldrich and is a ​2-1⁄2-story, rectangular mansion with open porches on the ends and a ​1-1⁄2-story service wing. Also on the 130-acre property are 12 other contributing buildings.

Merestead mansion - 1981

Merestead mansion – 1981

In 1967 and 1973, the Pattersons deeded portions of their original estate, including a parcel given to the Nature Conservancy and another which led to the creation of the nearby Marsh Sanctuary. 

In 1982, the Pattersons deeded the property to Westchester County for use as a park, and upon Mrs. Patterson’s death in August of 2000, Westchester took full possession of the property.

In 2019, The Westchester County Board of Legislators approved $2.05 million in funding to repair and preserve Merestead.

Merestead mansion - 2020

Merestead mansion – 2020

Merestead mansion - 2020

Merestead mansion – 2020

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.


Trails Overview:

The more than 3 miles of trails meander through woodlands, open fields and gardens that offer attractive scenery. Some of the trails are original to the property and were utilized by the Patterson family during the early part of the century and follow along old farm roads. Thanks to the efforts of park staff and the County’s Youth Conservation Corps, these old trails were rehabilitated and several new trails were developed during the summer of 2003.

Blue Trail - Merestead

Blue Trail – Merestead

Red Trail - Merestead

Red Trail – Merestead

Hill to Meadow Trail - Merestead

Hill to Meadow Trail – Merestead

Garden Trail - Merestead

Garden Trail – Merestead

Farm Road - Merestead

Farm Road – Merestead

Farm Road - Merestead

Farm Road – Merestead  

Highlights along the trails include bridges that are remnants of 100-year-old farm bridges, restored fieldstone root cellars, the masonry milk spring, the old pet cemetery, and two Chinese lantern statuaries that lead the way to a magnificent vista of the Hudson Highlands. With its high terrain and varying habitats, Merestead is also an ideal site for watching local resident birds and migrating species throughout the year.

root cellar - Merestead

root cellar – Merestead

old pet cemetery - Merestead

old pet cemetery – Merestead

Chinese lantern statuary - Merestead

Chinese lantern statuary – Merestead

Hudson Highlands view - Merestead

Hudson Highlands view – Merestead

The trails at Merestead connect to the adjacent Marsh Sanctuary and the Arthur W. Butler Memorial Sanctuary.


Buildings:

The estate buildings and the entire original estate lands have remained virtually unchanged since the early twentieth century. Below are some of the buildings that are listed National Register of Historic Places. 

  • Mansion, 1906-1907

The mansion is the centerpiece of the estate. It was designed in the neo-Georgian style by the noted architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich and was completed in 1907. It is currently undergoing renovations.

Merestead mansion – 2020

Merestead mansion – 2020

  • Garden House, circa 1907

A single story frame garden pavilion with a hipped roof is located a short distance south of the mansion at the opposite side of the croquet court. Surrounded by gardens and a small rectangular pool, it has engaged columns and a paneled wainscot.

Garden House - Merestead

Garden House – Merestead

  • Carriage House, circa 1907

South of the mansion on the south side of Byram Lake Road stands a single story carriage house. The structure consists of a rectangular block with two flanking, projecting pavilions at the main (north) facade. The building is sheathed in stucco and covered by a hipped, slate roof which has several dormers, a chimney, and a rooftop octagonal cupola with a dome. Door openings are located at the center of the north facade beneath a large semi-circular fanlight which projects above the eaves of the roof.

Carriage House - Merestead

Carriage House – Merestead

Carriage House - Merestead

Carriage House – Merestead

  • Garage, circa 1907

A modest, three-bay, hipped roof garage is located immediately west of the carriage house. It includes three segmentally arched openings at the main facade, each opening filled with a pair of wooden garage doors, glazed in the upper halves. The roof is covered with slate.

Garage - Merestead

Garage – Merestead

  • Tenant Farmhouse, mid-19th century

A two-story mid-nineteenth century frame farmhouse built prior to the development of Merestead is located southeast of the mansion on the north side of Byram Lake Road. It forms the nucleus of the extant farm complex purchased by William Sloane to augment his Merestead estate. Originally built as a simple, vernacular structure at an undetermined date, it was modified around 1907 by the addition of dormer windows and a central pediment with lunette in order to make the house more architecturally compatible with the new buildings erected on the estate. The house is rectangular in form and features a full width (five-bay) front porch, a small, two-story east side extension, and gable roofs. An entrance with sidelights occurs at the center of the first story on the main facade which is flanked by two-over-two windows with shutters. The structure is sheathed with clapboard siding.

Tenant Farmhouse - Merestead

Tenant Farmhouse – Merestead

  • Cow Barn, circa 1907

North of the tenant farmhouse stands a large frame cow barn with a jerkin head gable roof. The barn is constructed above a raised stone foundation with primary entry gained through sliding barn doors at the center of the east side. A ramp with stone retaining walls leads directly to this entrance from the farmyard. The walls of the barn above the foundation are sheathed in clapboard siding and the roof is covered with asphalt shingles. Octagonal ventilation cupolas rise at each end of the roof ridge, which is itself ventilated by a low, full-length monitor.

Cow Barn - Merestead

Cow Barn – Merestead

The design of Merestead is the product of Delano & Aldrich (William A. Delano 1874-1960, Chester Holmes Aldrich 1871-1940), a New York architectural partnership established in 1903.

Please note: There are more buildings and structures not listed or pictured here that may be of interest.


Review:

A very pleasant walk through the woods, fields and rolling hills of a once grand estate. The property can be traversed in several hours at a leisurely pace, taking in all it has to offer. The old buildings and root cellars make  the trek through the grounds worthwhile. A nice day trip for families.

Pros:

Historical features, scenic landscape, mansion.

Cons:

Ongoing construction around the mansion.

Take a hike!


Sources:


Mohawk Overlook and Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

August 30, 2020 – Litchfield, Connecticut

Maps: Mohawk Mountain State Forest Maps

Parking: Toumey Rd, Litchfield, CT 06759


Overview:

From atop the 1,683-ft. Mohawk Mountain, the view is literally forever on a clear day. The summit offers panoramic views of the Taconic Mountains and Berkshire Mountains to the north and northwest including Bear Mountain, Canaan Mountain, and Cream Hill in Connecticut as well as peaks in Massachusetts (Race Mountain, Mount Everett, Mount Greylock) and the eastern Catskills in New York State.

Mohawk Overlook - Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk State Forest, also known as Mohawk Mountain State Park, encompasses over 4,000 acres in the towns of Cornwall, Goshen, and Litchfield, in the southern Berkshires of Litchfield County, Connecticut. As overseen by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the area is used for hiking, picnicking, and winter sports by the public, while being actively managed to produce timber and other forest products.

  • The forest recreation areas are open from 8 am to sunset. Other forest areas are open one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
  • Gates remain open between April-November. They close during the winter. Dates vary with the first snowfall and the end of mud season.

Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk State Forest


Trails Overview:

Both the Mattatuck and Mohawk Trails, major arteries of the Connecticut Blue Trail system, weave through Mohawk State Forest, unveiling its quiet beauty. Rustic Adirondack-style shelters, scattered about, serve thru-hikers. The forest trails brush past the Mohawk Mountain Ski Area.

Mohawk Mountain is the highest point on the blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail, which passes over the summit. The northernmost section of the 42 mile long Mattatuck Trail, travels through the Mohawk State Forest in Cornwall, one of the most scenic woodland areas in Connecticut. Meandering beside streams and through rock walls, the trail climbs Mohawk Mountain and offers outstanding panoramic views from the Mohawk Overlook. The Mattatuck’s northern terminus is at its junction with the blue-blazed Mohawk Trail.

Mattatuck Trail - Mohawk State Forest

Mattatuck Trail – Mohawk State Forest

The Mohawk Trail (24.3 miles), established as a Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail on May 8, 1988, follows the former eastern route of the Appalachian Trail. The Mohawk Trail crosses Mohawk Mountain and Housatonic Meadows State Parks and the Mohawk, Wyantenock and Housatonic State Forests. The Mohawk Trail intersects the Mattatuck Trail on Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall. Distinctive features such as Cathedral Pines, Mohawk Mountain, Red Mountain, Dean Ravine, and Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain, as well as spectacular views from many points along the trail, make it a popular hiking destination.

Mohawk Trail - Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk Trail – Mohawk State Forest


History:

In 1882, a little over one acre of land on the mountain’s peak was purchased from the Hunts Lyman Iron Company by Cynthia J. “Nina” White and Henry Norton in order to build a tower for sightseeing. Outdoor recreation and the enjoyment of nature had become popular all over the country.

Mohawk Tower opened with great fanfare on July 4, 1883 and quickly became a popular picnic site. For twenty-five cents, visitors could climb the 40-ft. tower and use a telescope to enjoy the view. By 1890, interest in maintaining the tower dwindled, and it fell into disrepair. By 1892 the tower was unsafe to climb, and the cabin was looted and began to fall into ruin. The wooden tower was finally knocked down by a strong wind in 1898.

Mohawk Tower 1883 - Cornwall Historical Society

Mohawk Tower 1883 – Cornwall Historical Society

In 1912, Litchfield resident Seymour Cunningham began acquiring land on Mohawk Mountain. After acquiring the land, Cunningham erected a new circular stone tower on the northwestern side of Mohawk Mountain, just below the summit. The new structure was thirty feet in circumference and thirty feet high, and referred to as “Aerie.”

Cunningham Tower - Cornwall Historical Society

Cunningham Tower – Cornwall Historical Society

In 1917, Cunningham’s neighbor on Mohawk, Andrew Clark, donated five acres of woodland to the Connecticut State Park Commission, the first tract of what was to become Mohawk State Forest. It was known as Mohawk Mountain Park until the 1920’s.

In 1921, the White Memorial Foundation donated approximately 1,200 acres of land on Mohawk Mountain to Connecticut. This included Seymour Cunningham’s property, which had been acquired by White Memorial in 1920. Mohawk Mountain Park was joined with this larger tract to form Mohawk State Forest. In total, the White Memorial Foundation contributed over 2,900 acres to the acquisition of the forest. One of the conditions of the gift of this forest was that a lookout station should be erected and maintained on the summit of the mountain.

During the spring of 1922, with the assistance of the White Memorial Foundation, a rough 35-ft. timber lookout tower with an enclosed cab, was constructed by contract on the summit of Mohawk Mountain. Braced by four legs on the bare glacial rock, it was ungainly looking, but it stood firm for ten years. Cornwall’s first Fire Warden, Henry J. Bouteiller walked to the tower daily during fire season.

Mohawk Mountain Fire Tower 1922 - Cornwall Historical Society

Mohawk Mountain Fire Tower 1922 – Cornwall Historical Society

The Civilian Conservation Corps’ (C.C.C.) Camp Toumey was stationed at Mohawk State Forest from June 25, 1933 to July 26, 1941. Named for James W. Toumey, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry, this camp was originally designed as a camp exclusively for veterans of World Was I and, as such, the enrollees were older. But as the veterans’ need for employment waned, younger enrollees were gradually added to the camp. Some of the projects and accomplishments included: fighting forest fires; making improvements on the Old Farm House and renovations to the Old Hart House; construction of the Western District saw mill, a sawdust storage shed, a warehouse, and the lumber shed that served the entire western half of Connecticut. The camp also included a carpentry and cabinet shop which produced furniture, doors, and trim wood.

Camp Toumey - Mohawk State Forest

Camp Toumey – Mohawk State Forest

In 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) took down the wooden 1922 tower and erected a new steel lookout tower that was 37-ft. high with a cab for fire watchers. For the next sixteen years, the public could enjoy climbing the tower on weekends and holidays for much of the year. Ted Starr served in the tower from 1945 to1953.

steel fire tower - Mohawk State Forest

steel fire tower – Mohawk State Forest

The structure, which was located by the parking area at Mohawk Overlook (at the end of Toumey Road), is no longer standing, but the concrete pillars can still be seen.

concrete pillars - 1937 fire tower

concrete pillars – 1937 fire tower

In 1953, the State of Connecticut made an arrangement with AT&T to place a booster microwave repeater at the summit. They took down the CCC tower and in order to receive permission to build one on state land, AT&T agreed to put a cab on the top of the tower for the fire lookout and the fire detection apparatus. The new 65-ft. AT&T tower was kept locked at all times and was surrounded by a ten-ft. mesh fence. On the ground floor, in the building, are the instruments for the relay station. Since repair crews must be able to reach the tower at all times, throughout the winter, Tower Road is kept plowed by Connecticut State Highway crews. This tower has changed ownership over the years and has been modified, but still stands today and is still off limits to the public.

AT&T Tower - August 2020

AT&T Tower – August 2020

During the 1960’s, a group led by Cornwall residents complained that there was no way that the public could enjoy the views from the summit of Mohawk Mountain. The vegetation was growing, blocking the view and the AT&T tower was always locked. Eventually the protest was noticed and around 1974, the former 40-ft. lookout tower on Booth Hill in Hartland was moved to the Mohawk summit. A new wooden cab was built by Edwin Palmer of Cornwall, a State Forest carpenter. An area to the south was cleared so that people could again look down on Mohawk Lake and out at the Litchfield Hills.

Booth Hill tower

Booth Hill tower

This tower was removed from Mohawk Mountain in September of 2008.

Booth Hill tower - date unknown

Booth Hill tower – date unknown

The concrete footings are still visible at the summit.

concrete footings - Booth Hill tower

concrete footings – Booth Hill tower

In 1979, a 180-ft. self-supporting telecommunication tower was erected on Mohawk summit. The tower provides emergency communications for the Department of Public safety (a division of the State Police), the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Presently, there are two towers at the Mohawk Overlook that are off limits to the general public. The now gutted Cunningham Tower sits below the summit, and offers no views.


Today:

Although there are no accessible towers at the summit, the Mohawk Overlook provides visitors with outstanding views. One can drive right up to the summit (April – November) and enjoy the scenic vistas while enjoying a picnic.

Mohawk Overlook

Mohawk Overlook

Mohawk Overlook

Mohawk Overlook

If you arrive early and are lucky enough to secure the lone grill at the summit, you can grill some breakfast while enjoying the panoramic views.

Grilling breakfast - Mohawk Overlook

Grilling breakfast – Mohawk Overlook

From atop the 1,683-foot Mohawk Mountain, the view is literally forever on a clear day.

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

View northwest.

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

View southeast.

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

Mohawk Overlook – Mohawk State Forest

When you are done admiring the views, you can drive down the road and check out Cunningham Tower. There is a gate with two stone pillars and shown on Google Maps as Cunningham Tower Trailhead. There is room for several cars along the road.

Cunningham Tower Trailhead

Cunningham Tower Trailhead

Cunningham Tower Trailhead

Cunningham Tower Trailhead

Proceed past the gate and follow the old road into the woods. Soon the road curves to the left and joins the blue-blazed Mohawk Trail, a short distance later, the tower will come into view.

Cunningham Tower trail

Cunningham Tower trail

Just ahead is the two-story fieldstone structure.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

The trees around the tower have grown tall, so there is no view of the surrounding area.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

The tower is open for all to explore, although it is mostly just a shell.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

The red tiled floor seems to have weathered well.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

The fireplace is still used on occasion.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

A keystone in the wall next to the fireplace reads: “Seymour Cunningham, Fecit, MCMXV.” Translated from Latin, the word “Fecit” is used on artwork (such as a painting, sculpture, engraving, or building) to identify its creator. “MCMXV” = 1915, the year it was built.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

The second floor and roof are long gone, just steel beams where the second floor and roof used to be.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

The stone steps leading to the second floor have been broken off and all that is left is the twisted steel railing that climbs the wall.

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest

Cunningham Tower – Mohawk State Forest


If you are in the area, or just want to take a day trip, the Mohawk Overlook in Mohawk State Forest is definitely a great place to visit. Hikers and tourists alike will enjoy the panoramic views and the historic stone tower.


Sources:

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