1) APPALACHIAN TRAIL SOUTH TO VILLAGE VISTA: Another great hike is a walk out to the Village Vista overlooking the Village of Greenwood Lake and back.
JUST DO IT: Start at any of the gravel parking lots where Route 17A crests Bellvale Mountain and locate the AT kiosk. (Hint: It’s near the second parking lot on the left, if you are coming from Greenwood Lake or first one on the right parking, if you are coming from Warwick.)(N41.14.658 W74.17.216 – Elev. 1180)
Follow the trail immediately behind the kiosk – it’s blue-blazed – and in five minutes it will lead you to the white-blazed AT. Turn right and follow the white blazes southbound. You’ll pass through an opening in a small rock wall and then across a power-line cut.
The trail wanders back into the woods and slowly ascends through rocky outcrops and stands of trees. It now climbs steeply to the crest of the ridge passing puddingstone conglomerate rock outcrops on the left.
It soon levels off, bears right at a double blaze (an unmarked path to the left leads to a clearing atop a large rock outcrop, with several cedars and a limited east-facing view). A short distance beyond, the trail passes through an area with hemlocks and mountain laurel thickets.
After a short ascent, you will notice a sign for the “Village Vista” trail with mileage south to Georgia and north to Maine painted on it. Follow that trail for a very short distance to vista overlooking the village down below.
This is a good place to sit and have some refreshments and watch the people and cars below.
Retrace your steps back to the parking lot when you are finished.
TIME: About 60 minutes out and the same coming back and throw in some time to sit and take in the view. So two-and-a-half hours in total.
TIPS: About four miles in all. Sneakers are fine but watch your step, because some parts of the trail are wet and rocky. Try to keep the young ones away from the edges when you come to the vista.
2) EASTERN PINNACLES TO LAKES ROAD: This is a continuation of Easy Hike #1, Route 17A to Eastern Pinnacles and a little bit more rugged. You will have needed to park a second car at the Lakes Road crossing and one at the top near Bellvale Creamery to make this a one-way hike.
JUST DO IT: After a break for refreshments at the Eastern Pinnacles, (Elev. 1184) continue north on the Appalachian Trail following the painted white blazes on the rocks. Be careful going down here because the path ahead is steep and narrow at spots. Hiking poles will help a lot here.
At the bottom of the rocks, turn right and follow the white blazes downhill towards a small stream. Cross carefully and within several minutes you will cross another. Then the trail rises slightly, makes a slight left turn and comes to Cat Rocks. The white blazes lead up and over Cat Rocks which is steep and a bit dangerous. But a blue-blazed trail leads around to the right, bypassing the steep part.
See that giant crack in the rock? It cuts completely through Cat Rocks for its full length. Someday soon – like, maybe in 500 years – it will tumble away to the west, joining the huge boulders already at the base.
Continue north over a small ridge and the trail begins to descend again and then rise to meet the eastern ridge. After a short walk, you cross a small stream that is actually coming from the spring the services Wildcat Shelter. Almost immediately after passing a thicket of laurel trees, you come across two signs marking the blue-blazed side trail to Wildcat Shelter (Elev. 1066).
A short walk of about 50 yards will bring you to the three-sided shelter which is a good place to take a break. In late June and July, thru-hikers are all over this place as the “bubble” passes through Orange County. Every night the shelter fills up and there are literally dozens of small tents in the area below. And every morning the place clears out and gets ready for a new batch.
The Cub Scouts of Chester keep the place clean and have anchored a “bear box” down below for hikers to place their food in. Their is a privy over to the right and a spring downhill to the left. But some knucklehead ripped the rock wall out near the spring, so now it’s mostly a muddy puddle now.
After your break, return to the AT and make a left and follow the white blazes. Shortly you will find yourself headed downhill in a series of switchbacks as the trail descends to Lakes Road where your car is parked.
TIME: It’s only about two miles to Lakes Road from the Eastern Pinnacles so leave about one hour plus time spend dawdling at Wildcat Shelter.
TIPS: This is a little more challenging than the walk in from Route 17A that got you to Eastern Pinnacles. Sturdy shoes and hiking poles are more helpful here than on the first part. Plus, you will find a lot less people out here, since most dayhikers go no further then the first set of rocks. Kids will be fine on this portion with only Cat Rocks as a place of danger.
3) FULLER MOUNTAIN: This 255-acre wooded ravine on Fuller Mountain in Warwick stretches from north of Black Rock Road to the New Jersey border. Fuller Mountain Preserve is one of Orange County’s best kept secrets.
JUST DO IT: From Rt. 17, take exit 124 to 17A, continuing on 17A/94 through Warwick. Stay on Rt. 94 when 17A turns off. Turn left onto CR 21/Warwick Turnpike (ShopRite mall on corner). Continue on CR 21 about 1.7 mi, turning left onto Bowen Road. The entrance is about 3/4 mile ahead on the right at the bottom of the hill.
Park your car along Bowen Road and check out the informational kiosk, then cross over the road and enter the woods. You will be following the Orange markers through the woods.
A stream called Fuller’s Brook runs the length of the preserve. Frogs, toads and salamanders live in the wetlands around the stream.
The woods are home to many mammals, including the long-tailed weasel and black bear, several unusual plants, and an abundance of bird life.
The preserve has a small parking area and information kiosk with maps of the preserve’s three trails: a moderate 1.75 mile round trip trail and 1.5 mile round trip trail that both lead to a fantastic vista overlooking the Warwick Valley and an enchanting ¾ mile loop that meanders along and over Fuller’s Brook.
TIME: Figure one hour in and one hour out.
TIPS:The overlook at the terminal point of the Orange Trail bears striking resemblance to the site of a 1872 painting by Jasper Cropsey, Hudson River School painter and nearby Greenwood Lake resident.
4) INDIAN HILL AT STERLING FOREST STATE PARK: Another great hike is to visit the Indian Hill part of Sterling Forest State Park and treat yourself to one of several of the loops trails around the hills.
JUST DO IT: Indian Hill is a 490-acre section of Sterling Forest State Park just off Orange Turnpike in the Town of Tuxedo. It was purchased by the Scenic Hudson organization and apended to the park in 1994.
To get there, take Route 17 north past the Tuxedo train station and bear left onto Orange Turnpike north of the hamlet of Southfields. Pass Bramertown Road on the left and enter the Indian Hill preserve on a well-marked dirt road about a mile up on the right side.
Go slow, the road is rutty and park in the dirt lot on the right at the end of the road. Do NOT block the gated woods road next to the Port-O-Potty!
Although this hike is not part of the Appalachian Trail, it is administered by the good folks at the New York / New Jersey Trail Conference and so an information kiosk is provided next to the parking lot. Check it out as there are several different loops that begin and end at the parking lot.
This hike could easily be filed under the “Difficult” category but that very much depends on which trail you choose and what kind of shape you are in.
Unlike Harriman State Park to the east, which overflows with Spandex, Yeti coolers and “bro” beards on weekends, you’ll find solitude here. For, as nice a hike as this is, the place just doesn’t seem to attract a lot of visitors.
The main loop – named the “Indian Hill” trail – is marked by a yellow blaze with a horizontal white stripe in the middle. It is approximately four miles in length and – with all the hill climbing – can take more than two-and-a-half hours to complete but it’s a good place to explore first.
Trails that branch off the main loop include an AT Connector trail to the north (blue blazed), the Warbler trail in the middle (green blazed with a yellow bird) and the Furnace Loop trail to the south (red blaze).
All are worth exploring depending on the amount of time you have to spend. But check out that kiosk map for more details and an elevation profile!
This is very cool: On all the trails, you’ll come across large, meticulously-maintained rock walls that defy description.
It seems that Indian Hill was a working farm going all the way back to 1697 when it was owned by a Mr. Oldfield – or Old Field as the deed registered in the Orange County Courthouse says. (So a good chance that it was not his real name.)
It got sold and re-sold over the years and eventually, the farm ended up being purchased by the Townsend family in 1804. The Townsend’s owned Sterling Furnace and a bunch of other mines and furnaces in the region and the farm was used to help feed the more than 400 workers who ran the various properties.
Those big rock walls were used to keep the cattle away from the crops and they must have REALLY wanted to keep the cattle away as evidenced by the height and width of some of those walls.
Deep in the woods, maybe a mile-and-a-half down the main loop, you’ll come across two parallel rock walls that are 4-foot high and 12-foot wide on either side. In fact, the main loop goes straight down the middle of these rock walls for a couple of hundred yards.
Historians now call this section “Broadway.” Apparently, the farmers used this roadway to bring the cows down to the stream for water and then back up to the shade trees for an afternoon nap.
After leaving Broadway, the trail climps steeply to an overlook to the east where you can see Harriman State Park across the valley and listen to the cars and trucks on the New York State Thruway down below. It is pretty but not peaceful.
Then the main trail then meanders to the west, where bare-rock vistas look southwest to the Ramapo Mountains, which is much quieter and much more peaceful.
Immediately after the overlook the trail descends steeply downhill to it’s intersection with the Warbler and Furnace Loop trails.
At this point, you’ve probably spent about two hours hiking and you can dictate the rest of your time in the woods.
TIME: Take the Warbler trail north past the lake and you will be back at the parking lot in 15 minutes. Take the main trail west and you have about 45 minutes more to go before reaching your car. Take the Furnace Loop trail south and you can add an additional 60 minutes to your hike.
TIPS: Good sturdy hiking shoes are a must for this hike as you’ll be crossing muddy areas, small streams and climbing up and down those rock walls and clambering onto bare rock vistas. Hiking poles aren’t a bad idea either. This is no place for flip-flops.
Bring plenty of water and a snack and take a break at those high points!
Children should be fine most of the way with only two vistas that have steep drops.
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