Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is the largest park in Westchester County. Native Americans built a fenced-in enclosure into which they drove deer; this provided the “pound” in the name of the park. The park supposedly has 41.9 miles of trails, though I wonder if that includes the ones that aren’t on the map. (More about that later.) The park charges $8 admission for a car, but no one was there to collect the fee, so I got in for free.
I drove to the middle of the park, to the parking circle at the end of Michigan Road, to access the trails at the southern half. I had grand plans, but due to one trail running for far longer than is shown on their map, and due to the temperature being in the 90s, I only covered about half the trails that I wanted to hike. I still estimate that I got in around 8 miles, between 9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
This is an open/wetland area adjacent to the parking lot and just before the trailhead:
This is the trailhead for the red and green trails. The kiosk did not have any maps (other than the one hanging up behind glass), so I was glad that I had brought my own that I printed off from the Internet.
At first I thought that the trails were all going to be well-marked:
There were several wet areas in the park:
The principal trails are clearly woods roads and are not badly eroded, either. That is, it’s entirely possible that some are still traveled by county vehicles if required, such as for maintenance. On the other hand, there are smaller trails that are not former roads, such as this path:
The footpath I am on is called the Leatherman Loop. There is a 10K run here every year. The Leatherman was a homeless guy who wore clothing that he patched together out of leather. He apparently walked ten miles a day, covering a 365-mile circle every five weeks, accepting meals from farmers and sleeping in caves in New York and Connecticut.
I walked by a huge rock wall, and thought that one way of showing that it was taller than a human was to photograph myself in front of it:
This is the Leatherman’s cave in this park:
It is not very big inside:
I left the Leatherman’s loop and returned to the red and green trail. The trail ran over a stream (they installed a culvert so that the water runs under the trail/woods road).
I took a detour off the red loop, taking a trail that led under power lines to a lookout called Spy Ridge. Along the way, I believe I saw a white-tailed deer running away from me. It was really just a flash of red and white. I reached Spy Ridge; I believe looking south:
There was a big bird also enjoying the view, which I believe was a black vulture:
I backtracked from the Spy Ridge, and continued on the minor trail until I came to the Bear Rock Petroglyph:
I then continued on, and then took a short side trail to Dancing Rock. I thought the name was describing the rock, such as “balancing rock,” and was wondering how a rock could dance. I found a huge flat spot, and realized that it was perhaps a place where people had danced, or at least a place suitable for dancing. I later read a description that said there’s a kiosk there, but I sure didn’t see any kiosk. The kiosk supposedly says that farmers did hold dances there. So I was able to correctly discern the meaning from the name.
Here’s a side view showing that the rock is pretty thick.
I continued on the minor trail, which then joined the red trail. I then made the mistake of taking a minor side trail leading to “Castle Rock.” I thought perhaps this would be another overlook or some impressive sight. I later passed a sign nailed to a tree that read “Castle Rock,” but I didn’t see anything of interest nearby. I later learned that Castle Rock is a large rock formation. Either I didn’t see it or I wasn’t impressed. I kept going on the trail, which was not well-traveled, at least not in some places, and was not blazed all that well. But I was able to continue on by looking for crushed leaves and the occasional white blaze. The map that I had showed that the trail should have ended after about 1/2 mile, at Castle Rock, whereas it kept going and going and going. [I later learned that the trail had been extended before the map was updated.]
At one point, there was a fenced-in enclosure. It bothered me that they used a tree for one corner of it. This can’t be too healthy for a tree. I don’t know what they are fencing in. It reminded me of a fence at Mianus River Gorge where they wanted to see how the plants would grow if deer couldn’t get to them. I don’t understand the point of that, as deer are native to the area—it’s not as though deer are an invasive species.
In addition to the trails being blazed by the park, there were a few trails that were marked BRLA. I had no idea what that was, but later learned that these are trails used by the Bedford Riding Lanes Association, and may be used by either equestrians or hikers. I don’t see any maps on their website, though.
About 0.7 miles past the Castle Rock sign, I reached a nice boardwalk beside Stone Hill River. There was a nice bench there, and I had a late lunch. Looking upstream:
I like the contrast of the texture and colors of this rusted metal piece sitting on the rock, with the greenery in the background.
There were a number of stone walls in the park. More than 30 farms once existed here, and they were eventually consolidated into this giant park by Westchester County. I hope to return someday, in cooler weather, to explore more of this park.
After the hike, I wanted to visit the Trailside Nature Museum, but it was closed.