Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, New York

YBS, Bombastic, Xi and I left Queens around 9:15 a.m., arriving at Schunemunk Mountain State Park about 1-1/2 hours later. This is one of many New York state parks that is not even listed on the state’s website. I still haven’t figured out why the state is so incompetent as to omit a large percentage of their parks from their own website.

The park is in Orange County, on the west side of the Hudson River, and is to the west of Black Rock Forest, where we were hiking recently. We parked at the parking area on Taylor Road, at around 320′ elevation.

10:44 a.m.: We started out hiking to the southwest on a path shared by three trails, the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail, the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail, and the teal-blazed Highlands Trail. After 0.3 miles the path curved to the northwest, but after another 0.1 mile the white-blazed trail split off to the left from the other two trails.

Trailhead, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

The hike begins *

10:51 a.m.: We followed the white-blazed trail as it continued across a grassy field for 0.4 miles to the southwest.

Crossing a field, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Crossing a field *

11:01 a.m.: The trail then turned to the west and entered forest, where we quickly found a nice stone wall:

Stone wall, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Stone wall *

11:09 a.m.: After 0.25 miles, we had gained about 100 feet in elevation. The forest was briefly interrupted by the right-of-way for the Metro-North line. This is an active rail, so we looked and listened carefully to be sure no train was nearby and then hurried across the tracks.

Metro-North Line, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Metro-North Line **

11:09 a.m.: Almost immediately upon re-entering the woods on the west side of the railroad tracks, the white-blazed trail intersected the red-blazed Otterkill Trail. [We didn’t see any otters, so I guess they killed them all.] We took the red-blazed trail to the left (southwest), and after walking a couple of hundred feet we encountered this small waterfall at Dark Hollow Brook, the waterway running east-west at this point.

Dark Hollow Brook, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Dark Hollow Brook *

We then crossed the brook. The spot where the red blazes indicated we should cross had a small log across the brook, but none of us felt that it was a suitable place to cross. I was tempted to suggest returning to the nearby railroad grade and descending on the south side of the brook, but we were able to find a place to cross the brook by balancing on stones.

The red-blazed trail then ended almost immediately at the Dark Hollow Trail, which is black-blazed (a white background with a black mark in the center of it). We turned onto this trail, which traveled in a roughly southwestern direction. This trail gained around 1,100′ in elevation over 1.4 miles, so it was a good workout. Along the way were a couple of nice scenic views.

11:49 a.m.: This was the first scenic view on the Dark Hollow Trail, at around 860′ in elevation.

Dark Hollow Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Dark Hollow Trail *

11:53 a.m.: We saw that someone had placed rocks on a fallen tree. I don’t know if there was a reason for that or if it was just someone’s idea of fun.

Stones on a fallen log

Stones on a fallen log *

The trail crossed a branch of Dark Hollow Brook which had an island in the middle of the stream. I found stepping stones to cross to the island, while Xi walked through the water. I felt bad, because perhaps I should have provided instruction to her to cross on the stepping stones rather than to walk through the water. Plus, I was wearing boots that are waterproof up to the top of the tongue, so I can walk through a couple of inches of water if I need to, whereas Xi was only wearing sneakers that probably became soaked at that point.

Having reached the island in the middle of the stream, I turned to watch YBS and Bomby navigate the stepping stones and then heard a splash behind me. I turned and saw that Xi had attempted to cross from the island to the other side of the stream and had fallen in the water, getting her legs wet. I felt bad, because perhaps I should have provided instruction to her not to fall into the water, which I imagine was cold. The rest of us were able to complete both legs of the water crossing without problem.

12:16 p.m.: We arrived at the second scenic view on the trail, at around 1,300′ in elevation.

Dark Hollow Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Dark Hollow Trail *

12:18 p.m.: Here’s the nice view, with a sliver of the Hudson visible in the upper left.

This was around 2/3 of the way up the Dark Hollow trail, which now turned west-northwest. The trail then crossed Dark Hollow Brook.

Dark Hollow Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

*

12:46 p.m.: The caprock of Schunemunk is a reddish-purple matrix studded with pebbles of white quartz and pink sandstone:

Caprock, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Caprock *

12:52 p.m.: I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. Clockwise from right: YBS, Bomby, Xi and me.

Shadow figures, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Shadow figures ***

12:54 p.m.: Clockwise from upper left, Xi, me, YBS and Bomby. I don’t wear designer socks or pretty shoes while hiking, so Xi won the contest with her pink socks (not visible here).

Hiking footwear

Hiking footwear **

12:58 p.m.: A hornets’ nest:

Hornet's nest

Hornet’s nest *

We reached the end of the Dark Hollow trail, around 1,580′ elevation. We turned left (southwest) onto the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail.

1:21 p.m.: After 0.3 miles of walking on relatively flat ground, we approached the peak of Schunemunk Mountain (at 1,664′). A short white-blazed path led northwest to the Megaliths. Here’s the view to the west from the Megaliths.

View from the Megaliths, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

*

Here are the Megaliths, boulders which sheared off from the rest of the mountain:

Megaliths, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Megaliths *

 

Megaliths, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Megaliths *

 

Megaliths, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Megaliths **

1:57 p.m.: My first thought was to have lunch at the Megaliths, but it was windy/chilly there, so we backtracked to the yellow-blazed trail, where there was not as much wind, and enjoyed lunch there at a big flat area:

Yellow trail near Megaliths, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

*

Yellow trail near Megaliths, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Yellow trail near Megaliths *

2:30 p.m.: After lunch we continued on the yellow-blazed trail. Schunemunk Mountain has a double crest, with two ridges running parallel to each other for nearly three miles. The western ridge is at about 1,400′, or 200′ lower in elevation than the eastern ridge. In between, at about 1,300′, is a valley through which runs Baby Brook. The yellow-blazed trail runs northeast-southwest on the eastern ridge, while the Long Path runs northeast-southwest along the western ridge. At the valley floor is the red-blazed Barton Swamp Trail, which runs parallel to the trails along the mountain crests.

Having enjoyed a bit of the eastern crest, our goal was to cross to the Long Path and enjoy a bit of the western ridge. Thus, after another 0.2 miles on the yellow trail, we turned right (northwest) onto the blue-blazed Western Ridge trail. This is a short trail on private property that descends a bit to the red-blazed Swamp Trail, of which the southern portion is also on private property. At one point, we found a swampy area into which someone had placed sections of logs as stepping stones/puncheon.

Swamp Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Swamp Trail *

We also found a hunting blind. I think it’s deer hunting/archery season. We didn’t see any deer or hunters, though maybe they saw us.

Hunting blind

Hunting blind *

3:05 p.m.: From the Barton Swamp Trail, we took a very short connecting trail to the aqua-blazed Long Path, which we followed to the northeast.

Long Path, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Long Path *

3:14 p.m.: We had a nice scenic view to the west from the Long Path.

Scenic view from Long Path, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Scenic view from Long Path *

3:26 p.m.: An interesting rock:

Rock with lichen

Rock with lichen *

3:48 p.m.: As the sun was rapidly descending, we wondered if there was any other shortcut to take to return to the car. I had originally wanted to make an 8-mile loop to the northeast, but looking at the map we thought it would be shorter to take trails to the southeast. (Though now that I am measuring the routes with a ruler, I think they are about equal.)

So after 0.8 miles on the Long Path, we turned to the southeast onto the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail, which over the course of 0.4 miles descended into the valley between the two ridges, and then ascended back to the top of the eastern ridge, where we were rewarded with additional scenic views:

Scenic view from Sweet Clover Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Scenic view from Sweet Clover Trail *

3:56 p.m.: Another view.

Scenic view from Sweet Clover Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

*

4:19 p.m.: The white trail turned southwest for about 0.2 miles, before again turning east-southeast and beginning a steep descent from about 1,500′. I found another spot of water for one last photo.

Water on Sweet Clover Trail, Schunemunk Mountain State Park, Orange County, NY

Water on Sweet Clover Trail *

While descending the trail, Bomby slipped and twisted her ankle, reducing us to a crawl. I asked for a show of hands of people who had flashlights. Unfortunately my hand was the only one that was raised. It was also a moonless night. At least Bomby’s ankle was not broken, so we didn’t have to call for rescue. She very slowly worked her way down the white trail, about 1.1 miles to the railroad crossing. By this time it was pitch black, and my Petzl e+LITE came in very handy.

At this point we were back on the 1.05-mile stretch of the white-blazed trail where we had been on the morning, cutting across the wooded area and the field back to the car. On level ground, Bomby was able to walk at a good pace. Xi, a city girl, was amazed to look up on a moonless night 50 miles from a big city and see how many stars were visible. The sky was pretty. I think we arrived back to the car around 6:00.

My car’s brakes had seemed to become spongy just as we were arriving that morning, so I drove very cautiously back to Queens. I took it to the shop the next morning and discovered that I needed a new master cylinder. So now it’s repaired and ready for our next great hiking adventure.

* Taken by me with my Panasonic GF1.
** Taken by YBS with a Canon SD1000 IS.
*** Taken by Bomby with a Canon SD780 IS.

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