(Return to) Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

On October 3, YBS and I paid our first visit to Black Rock Forest, hiking through the eastern part of the preserve. We returned two weeks later, with our friend Bombastic, and checked out the western part of the preserve.

We first stopped a few miles south of the forest, at a lookout point on Highway 9W that afforded a beautiful view of the Hudson. (The asterisks below each photo indicate the camera/photographer, with the guide appearing at the end of the post.)

Hudson River from Highway 9W Overlook, Orange County, NY

Hudson River *

Continuing on, we drove past Mountain Road, where we had turned off last time, and continued on to Angola Road. We turned off there and drove west, then south on Mine Hill Road, which was extremely steep. I can’t imagine how the people who live on that road get to and from their homes when there is snow on the ground. We found a three-car parking area that luckily only had one car in it, and found the trailhead across the street:

Trailhead on Mine Hill Road, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Trailhead on Mine Hill Road *

The Mine Hill trail is marked with diamond-shaped yellow blazes, and is steep at first.

 Mine Hill Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mine Hill Trail *

After gaining some elevation, we had a peak through the trees at the surrounding area:

Scenic View from Mine Hill Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Scenic View from Mine Hill Trail *

The Mine Hill trail ended after 0.2 miles, and we turned right (southwest) onto Sackett trail, blazed with a yellow circle. (I don’t know why they didn’t switch colors instead of or in addition to shape.) We had another nice view from this trail:

Scenic View from Sackett Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Scenic View from Sackett Trail *

After 0.4 miles, the Sackett trail dead-ended at the Stillman trail, again blazed yellow, this time in a square shape. We turned right, continuing to the south. The leaves were changing color:

Tree canopy in Fall colors

Tree canopy in Fall colors *

We found a downed tree and each had to try climbing it.

Climbing a fallen tree

Climbing a fallen tree **

After 0.7 miles, the Stillman trail dead-ended at a nice overlook:

Scenic View from Stillman Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Scenic View from Stillman Trail *

We backtracked 0.4 miles to an intersection with the Short Cut trail, blazed with a yellow triangle, and turned right (east) on that. After 0.2 miles, the trail reached Hall Road, and we turned right (south) onto that. After about 0.15 miles, we reached a gate, and continued past it onto the blue-blazed Compartment trail (which was also teal-blazed, as part of the Highlands trail). We found an sign from almost 40 years earlier, when the forest had still been owned by Harvard University:

Ancient sign on Highline Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Ancient sign on Highline Trail *

Continuing about 0.2 miles from the gate, we encountered a stream. This ran off Sutherland Pond, which is the only (or one of the only) bodies of water in the forest open for swimming. I believe that most of the bodies of water are manmade and used for reservoirs, but that Sutherland Pond is natural. Downhill, the stream runs into Mineral Spring Brook.

Stream to Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Stream to Mineral Spring Brook *

Right after the spring, the blue-blazed trail ended at the white-blazed Scenic trail that made a very sharp turn at this point, so that we had a choice of either going south or southwest on the trail. The teal-blazed Highlands trail continued on the portion of the Scenic trail that led to the southwest. I actually missed this turnoff and continued northwest on what was probably a ditch formed by runoff (or perhaps it was an unmaintained trail). This was blocked by a couple of fallen logs, which should have been a clue to me that it wasn’t a trail, or at least not an active trail. Trying to show off for YBS and Bombastic, I thought I would hop over one log and then the other. Instead, I tripped over the first one and fell, partially breaking my fall with my arms but still hitting my chin on the second log. I felt stupid and was glad that they didn’t capture that on film. I had about 1/4” cut on my chin and an abrasion about the size of a dime. Luckily I had a couple of cotton handkerchiefs with me, which helped to stop the bleeding. We continued on in this unmaintained trail for about 0.2 miles, ducking another obstacle, with me even commenting that it wasn’t maintained well, until I realized that I hadn’t seen blazes in a while. I then led the group back past the obstacles and killer logs, and found the white and teal blazes of the real trail. I reminded YBS and Bombastic not to just blindly follow me, but to keep looking for blazes themselves.

After 0.6 miles, we came to a nice flat rock and broke for lunch, around 2:15. We continued on, and very soon reached Jupiter’s Boulder. YBS and I climbed it, and Bomby took our photo:

Posing on Jupiter's Boulder, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Posing on Jupiter’s Boulder ****

Here’s a self-portrait that I took of YBS and myself:

Self-Portrait on Jupiter's Boulder, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Self-Portrait on Jupiter’s Boulder *

We encouraged Bomby to climb the boulder, but she declined. It afforded a nice view of the surroundings, which I used to make this nice panorama:

View from Jupiter's Boulder, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

View from Jupiter’s Boulder *

After another 0.8 miles on the Scenic trail (and Highlands trail), we reached Mineral Spring Brook. It was pleasant hiking along the brook, as the sound of water is very relaxing.

Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Brook ***

Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Brook *

The map shows the trail crossing the brook once, but we actually crossed it three times. The first crossing to the west was a very easy crossing at a narrow point. The second and third crossings were at wider points that required some balancing, and those second and third crossings were very close together, so I would say that they were selected “for fun” rather than for any necessity. Here I demonstrate to YBS how to balance on a log:

Posing at Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Posing at Mineral Spring Brook ***

The brook continues:

Mineral Spring Brook, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Brook ***

After another 0.2 miles we reached a ridge with a change in elevation. The brook has a nice waterfall here. Before we got there, we played on the wall for a few minutes.

Rock wall on Highlands Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Rock wall on Highlands Trail ***

Rock wall on Highlands Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Rock wall on Highlands Trail ***

Here’s the waterfall. I didn’t get a very good wide-angle view of it, but here’s a stitched panorama and a few more shots:

Mineral Spring Falls, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Falls *

Mineral Spring Falls, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Falls *

Posing at Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Posing at Black Rock Forest ***

Mineral Spring Falls, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Falls *

Posing at Mineral Spring Falls, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Posing at Mineral Spring Falls ***

Mineral Spring Falls, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Mineral Spring Falls ***

[Edited September 2012: This was the upper falls. I don’t think we realized there was also a lower falls. On my return trip on September 23, 2012, I also visited the lower falls.]

Aware that the days are getting shorter and that we were off to a late start, we began our return trip. There were no loop trails here, so we backtracked east on the Scenic trail. At one point we walked through a stand of young trees that made for an interesting effect.

Scenic Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Scenic Trail ***

We backtracked 1.6 miles, then continued on the blue-blazed Compartment trail for about 0.2 miles, and then took a detour to the right onto the white-blazed Split Rock trail. After 0.1 miles, we reached a lookout over Sutherland Pond, though it was a bit hard to get a good photo of the pond through the trees:

Sutherland Pond, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Sutherland Pond *

Sutherland Pond, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Sutherland Pond ***

[Edited September 2012: On my next trip to the forest, I hiked about 100′ farther, and the trail climbed a rock ledge and afforded a beautiful view of the pond. See my entry for September 23, 2012.]

We then backtracked to the Compartment trail and continued to the right. After another 0.2 miles it intersected the a branch of the square-yellow-blazed Stillman trail that we had not been on earlier. That ran for 0.5 miles and then intersected the Sackett trail, which afforded us a few nice photos as the day was coming to an end.

Sackett Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Sackett Trail *

Scenic view from Sackett Trail, Black Rock Forest, Orange County, New York

Scenic view from Sackett Trail ***

After 0.4 miles, we reached the Mine Hill trail and took that back to the car. So I believe the hike was about 7¾ miles.

* Taken by me with my GF1.
** Taken by YBS with my GF1.
*** Taken by YBS with my FX35.
**** Taken by Bomby with my FX35.

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