Mt. Misery/Hill of Pines/Rattlesnake Hill/Black Rock Mountain Loop

Overview

This loop hike parallels a cascading stream and climbs to several panoramic viewpoints.

Details
Time:
5.5 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate to Strenuous
Length:
7.5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Waterfall
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Orange
State:
NY
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Web Map:

Map:

Black Rock Forest map (may be available from kiosk at trailhead)


Buy Book:
Publication
First Published:
06/29/2004

Updated/Verified:
10/14/2012
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


View Black Rock Forest in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.41857, -74.01014
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern terminus at the Bear Mountain Bridge and continue north on US 9W for 8.8 miles. About half a mile after passing a parking area marked with a blue sign, turn right onto Mountain Road. Immediately, turn right again and proceed through a very narrow underpass beneath US 9W (large vehicles may not fit in this underpass). Continue ahead for 0.2 mile to a parking area on the right side of the road, just before a locked gate.

Description

Cascade along The Reseoir Trail. Photo by Daniel Chazin.From the bulletin board at the end of the parking area, proceed ahead on the red-blazed Duggan Trail. In about half a mile, the red trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Reservoir Trail. Continue ahead on the blue trail, which immediately crosses Ben's Bridge (a wooden footbridge) and climbs along a picturesque stream, with cascades and waterfalls, following an old woods road. When the blue trail ends, bear right and continue ahead on the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail.

Soon, the Stillman Trail reaches the dirt White Oak Road. Here, it is joined by the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail, which comes in from the left. The joint Highlands/Stillman Trails now turns right and follows the road for 100 feet, then turns left and begins a steep climb of Mt. Misery on a footpath. At the top, you’ll reach a viewpoint to the west and northwest which is partially obscured by trees. Continue ahead for a short distance, and you’ll come to a much better viewpoint, with Black Rock Mountain visible directly ahead, and Aleck Meadow Reservoir below to the left. You’ll want to stop here for a few minutes to savor the view and take a break from your arduous climb (you’ve climbed nearly 700 feet from Ben’s Bridge).Black Rock from Mt. Misery. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

Continue ahead on the yellow/teal diamond trail, which begins its descent of Mt. Misery, first gradually and then more steeply. In a rocky area at the base of the descent, you’ll notice a triple white blaze, which marks the start of the Scenic Trail. Turn left and follow the white-blazed Scenic Trail, which crosses the blue-blazed Swamp Trail at the end of the rocky area and begins a steady climb of the Hill of Pines, passing through attractive mountain laurel and hemlock.

At the top of the climb, the trail comes out on open rocks, with a spectacular west-facing view. Black Rock Mountain may be seen on the right, and the Black Rock Forest fire tower is to its left. (Despite the name "Hill of Pines," there are only two pine trees near the summit, which is mostly covered with oaks). You’ll want to spend some time at this magnificent vantage point.

Bog Meadow Pond from Rattlesnake Hill. Photo by Daniel Chazin.The trail climbs a little to the true summit, descends the hill, and soon crosses the dirt Carpenter Road diagonally to the right. It now begins a gradual climb of Rattlesnake Hill. After about ten minutes, you’ll reach a viewpoint to the right of the trail (the best view is from a rock ledge adjacent to a large pine tree). The fire tower may be seen straight ahead, and Bog Meadow Pond is to the left. After a short but steep descent and a relatively level stretch, you’ll reach a second viewpoint – this one marked by a cairn and a gnarled, nearly horizontal pine tree. Continue ahead through a dense mountain laurel thicket to the third viewpoint on Rattlesnake Hill, which offers a panoramic view from open rocks. Bog Meadow Pond is below on the left, with the rolling hills of Orange County beyond.

After pausing to enjoy the view, continue ahead on the white trail, which begins to descend, first steeply, then more gradually. The trail briefly runs along the southern boundary of Black Rock Forest, with Bog Meadow Pond visible through the trees to the left. After crossing the inlet stream of the pond, the trail reaches the dirt Bog Meadow Road. Turn left and continue along the road, which is marked with the white blazes of the Scenic Trail.

After about five minutes, you’ll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Tower Vue Trail, marked by a cairn. This junction – which is easily missed – is just before a large rock outcrop. Turn right and follow the Tower Vue Trail over undulating terrain, through mountain laurel with an understory of blueberry. In about a third of a mile, there is a view through the trees of the fire tower from a rock ledge to the left of the trail. The trail now begins to run above Arthurs Pond, with views of the pond through the trees on the left.The White Oak. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

When the Tower Vue Trail ends at the northern tip of the pond, by the dam, turn left onto the white-blazed White Oak Trail, cross below the dam, and continue along a gravel road. Soon, the White Oak Trail reaches Continental Road at a T-intersection. Turn right onto the road, continuing to follow the white blazes, but when the white blazes turn left and leave the road, proceed ahead on the road. Just beyond, you’ll come to a junction, marked by a huge white oak tree. Here you should continue ahead on Continental Road, as White Oak Road leaves to the right.

In another third of a mile, you’ll reach a complex intersection, with a cable barrier straight ahead. Turn right and continue on the yellow-rectangle-blazed Stillman Trail (also the route of the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail). Just ahead, as the woods road bears left, bear right and follow the yellow and teal diamond blazes, which begin a gradual climb of Black Rock Mountain on a footpath.

View from Black Rock Mountain. Photo by Daniel Chazin.After a short but very steep climb, you’ll reach the summit of the mountain (1,410 feet) amid scrub oak and pitch pines. The panoramic view from the summit includes Schunemunk Mountain and the Metro-North Railroad’s Moodna Viaduct to the west, and the Hudson River (crossed by the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge) to the northeast. Again, you’ll want to take a break to appreciate the view – the broadest of the entire hike.

The trail turns right and descends gradually. With the wide White Oak Road visible ahead, the trail bears left and joins a woods road. A short distance beyond, the yellow and teal-diamond blazes turn right, but you should continue ahead on the road, now following the white-blazed Black Rock Hollow Trail. This trail continues to descend along the road, with portions rerouted to bypass very eroded sections of the road.

At the base of the descent, the white-blazed trail ends at a filtration plant. Turn right onto the blue-blazed Reservoir Trail and follow it around the plant and along the brook to a junction with the red-blazed Duggan Trail just before Ben’s Bridge. Turn sharply left onto the red-blazed trail and follow it uphill to the parking area where the hike began.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Some discrepancy in trail description possible

Just did this hike (end of December 2013).  Loved the hike -- and the views!  We had trouble at the part of the description which references the cairn marker ("easy to miss").  After backtracking several times, we gave up the search and took a few turns down woods roads.  Not ten minutes after we did so, we stumbled across the cairn, and all of the subsequent directions guided us where we wanted to go. I don't have a map of the area.  I'm curious whether, had we continued down the trail, we would eventually have come across the cairn via a longer route... definitely longer than 5 minutes from the junction.  Below is the description of the route we took, for those interested: (from original directions) After pausing to enjoy the view, continue ahead on the white trail, which begins to descend, first steeply, then more gradually. The trail briefly runs along the southern boundary of Black Rock Forest, with Bog Meadow Pond visible through the trees to the left. After crossing the inlet stream of the pond, the trail reaches the dirt Bog Meadow Road, which it crosses on a slant. Turn right onto the woods road, and continue for a few minutes until you reach an intersection with another woods road.  Take a left at the intersection.  After a short distance, you will see white blazes reappear on the trees.  Keep an eye out for the cairn to your right -- it is a good-sized cairn, with clearly marked yellow blazes on the tree above. Turn right and follow the yellow-blazed Tower Vue Trail over undulating terrain, through mountain laurel with an understory of blueberry. (continue with original directions) Eliminating our backtracking to try and find the cairn through the original instructions, this adjustment took about 10 minutes. We tend to walk at a good clip. If you try the hike in the winter, note that crossing below the dam can be tricky due to ice.  We crossed on a log further downstream. Love this hike & this area! Hope to be back soon.

Your hike

I read your comment on my hike and tried to follow the route you describe on my map. To begin with, I note that you state that "I don't have a map of the area."  While I consider my directions quite accurate, I would never do a hike in an area that I'm not familiar with -- or even generally in an area that I am familiar with -- without having a map with me.  This is particularly the case when it comes to Black Rock Forest, which is criss-crossed by unmarked woods roads.  I would highly recommend the Trail Conference's West Hudson Trails map set, which includes all the trails in Black Rock Forest.  But if you don't want to purchase this map, Black Rock Forest makes available a free trail map at the trailhead kiosk.  A map is also available online. Getting back to your description of where you think you actually went, you say:  "After crossing the inlet stream of the pond, the trail reaches the dirt Bog Meadow Road, which it crosses on a slant. Turn right onto the woods road."  Two things are incorrect there.  First, the Scenic Trail does not cross the dirt Bog Meadow Road on a slant.  Second, the trail turns left, not right, onto the road.   Initially, I was completely puzzled as to what you did.  After thinking about it some more and carefully reexamining the map, I think I know what you must have done.  You must have turned right onto Carpenter Road, which the Scenic Trail intersects between Hill of Pines and Rattlesnake Hill (thus completely eliminating Rattlesnake Hill from your hike).  If this is what you did, your alternative route makes complete sense.  But that also means that if you had actually followed the route of the hike as described, you would have had no trouble following the cairn -- as you admit that the cairn was quite obvious once you reached its actual location.

Did this hike a couple weeks ago

Did this hike a couple weeks ago (July 2013) and unfortunately we missed all the views due to crazy thick fog and clouds, but it was still a great day. Saw three ribbon snakes and a few cute chipmunks. Some of the uphill parts really got our hearts pounding! Everything was clear and well-marked.

Hunting at Black Rock

Just a reminder, Black Rock Forest is closed to hikers during the regular deer hunting season which runs Nov 17 through December 9, 2012.

Just finished today

We did this hike today.  Amazing!!  Great views and well marked.  Rattlesnake hill lived up to its name (We saw a big rattler sleeping under a rock at the top of the hill).  We did not see the marker for the Tower Vue trail on the left side of the road.  We did see the trail markers on the right side.  Overall a great hike!!

I hiked this trail on August 7th 2010

I found that the trail description was very accurate, I picked up the map at the trail head, but I didn't open during the entire hike. The 2nd and last mountian had the best views. I took the recomendation to wear pants, and I am SO glad I did (I was going to wear capris) There is a lot of brush that gets about knee-high for a decent portion of the hike. Climing up to the first summit was deff VERY difficult; this was the most strenuous I have ever done (and I just got back from Acadia National Park where I hiked up 4 mountains, including Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the island) If you are not a legit hiker, I would not attempt this trail. I would say that the time given to complete the 7.5 miles was off though, I finished it in 4 hours, not 5.5... however, while I did stop a bunch to rehydrate my dog and myself, and stopped breifly for pictures and to take in the views, i didn't stop for more than 10 minutes at a time, so if you are the type to really take in the scenery (which most people are, I'm just a speed hiker) then it might take you to full amount of time given... all in all the hike was enjoyable and described clearly...the only things I would like to comment on are: When you reach the tower vue trail there is no arrow on the left side of the road, but there is a cairn on the right side of the road with a trail head blaze marked in yellow on a tree behind the cairn, it is not as easy to miss as noted... when you decend the last mountain and it tells you to join a woods road, follow the description to go to the left, don't go on the actual road that you can see to the right. I got a little confused here, but maybe it was just me... have fun! bring LOTS of water! (and a camera)

Hike description has been updated

I did this hike again today and have updated the description.  You are correct that there is no longer an arrow on the left side of the road to indicate the start of the Tower Vue Trail, and the description has been changed accordingly.  As far as the time for the hike is concerned, it took us 5 hours and 20 minutes to complete the hike today.  This includes over 15 minutes at the top of Hill of Pines and 25 minutes at the summit of Black Rock Mountain, but the whole point of the hike is to take your time and enjoy the views.  If you are a fast hiker and don't spend much time at the viewpoints, you could certainly finish the hike in only 4 hours.

Re Hike description has been updated

Daniel, thank you for your hike postings, they are really useful. By any chance does this hike have a big parking lot and facilities?   thank you again

Parking lot at trailhead

There is a medium-size parking lot at the trailhead.  I believe that there would be room for about 20 cars there, and I have never seen the parking lot filled to the point that no spaces were available.  To the best of my recollection, there are no restroom facilities (not even a port-a-john) at the trailhead parking area.

Hiked this late July 2009

Great description and details about where to find the best views. Pretty strenuous to begin with, and the first view (Mt. Misery) was so-so. After that, it calmed down to moderate, and the views from Rattlesnake Hill and Black Rock Mountain (pictured above) are super.

Some comments on the trail as I found it: 

  • The junction onto the Tower Vue trail had a cairn on the right; I did not see an arrow. The trail had a lot of undergrowth creeping onto it, so wear long pants.
  • It says that when the White Oak Trail reaches Continental Road at a T intersection, you should turn right on the road and not follow the blazes. The blazes currently DO go to the right, so you will follow them at this part.
  • When you reach the top of Black Rock Mountain, the views are to your left, and it looks like the trail goes off that way, too. It does NOT. That is an old trail, marked with painted footprints that peter out. Note where you leave the real trail BEFORE you check out the views. It has an arrow with two points painted on the rock.
  • I completely lost the white-blazed Black Rock Hollow Trail at a pile of deadfalls. I wandered downhill for maybe 200 feet before I found it again. 

 

Black Rock Forest map here: http://www.blackrockforest.org/html-files/imagemap.html

My photos from the hike here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kleepet/tags/blackrockforest/