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Appalachian Trail/Blue Trail (Clear Lake) Loop from Route 301
This loop hike follows an historic mine railbed and traverses several interesting ridges with views.
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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern terminus at the Bear Mountain Bridge. Cross the bridge and proceed north on N.Y. Route 9D for 8.0 miles to Peekskill Road at the southern end of Cold Spring (just beyond the Boscobel Restoration). Turn right and follow Peekskill Road for 0.5 mile to its terminus at a junction with N.Y. Route 301, then turn right and follow Route 301 for 7.0 miles to a parking area on the left side of the road on a small peninsula that juts into Canopus Lake.
You will notice three blue blazes on the guardrail along Route 301, opposite the parking area, which mark the start of the blue-blazed Three Lakes Trail. Climb over the guardrail. The Three Lakes Trail heads straight into the woods, but you should turn right and proceed southeast along an old paved road (known as the Philipstown Turnpike) that parallels Route 301 and soon crosses a stream on a wide bridge (built when this road was the main highway).
Just beyond, you will see a brown wand below to the left. Turn left, leaving the road, and continue along a path built into the side of the hill, marked with the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T). This was the route of a narrow-gauge railroad, built in 1873 to transport iron ore from mines in the area to Dump Hill, at the intersection of Philipstown Turnpike and Dennytown Road (from where it was transported to the foundry in Cold Spring by horse-drawn wagons). Below, to the left, is a wetland traversed by Canopus Creek.
In about two-thirds of a mile, you'll reach a particularly interesting section of the railbed which crosses a low area on a curved stone causeway. Just beyond, the A.T. turns left, leaving the railbed, and heads gently uphill on a woods road through dense mountain laurel.
In another quarter of a mile, the A.T. crosses the blue-blazed Three Lakes Trail (the junction is marked by a cairn). Continue ahead on the A.T., which descends, first moderately, then more steeply. At the base of the descent, the A.T. passes a wetland to the right, then ascends to the right of a cliff. After a short descent, the trail proceeds through a level area overgrown with barberry thickets, then bears right to skirt a wetland.
The A.T. now climbs steeply to the top of a ridge covered with mountain laurel, hemlocks and pines. After descending slightly along a rocky ledge, it continues along the ridge, with a hemlock ravine to the right. Unfortunately, many of the large hemlock trees on the ridge have succumbed to the ravages of the wooly adelgid.
At the end of the ridge, the A.T. descends a rocky slope covered with pine needles. This section of the trail can be very slippery, so be sure to exercise caution. A short distance beyond, the trail follows stepping stones over the outlet of a wetland to the right of the trail, with a beautiful waterfall immediately downstream.
After a short climb, you'll reach dirt-and-gravel Sunk Mine Road. Here, the A.T. turns right, but you should turn left onto the road, which is marked with the red blazes of the Candlewood Hill Trail (as well as the blue "HT" blazes of the Hudson Trail). The road heads downhill to cross Canopus Creek (note the stone causeway - probably a remnant of an old narrow-gauge mine railroad - to the left, just before crossing the bridge), then continues along the side of a hill, with a deep ravine to the right.
At the end of the ravine, the rocky Bell Hollow Road begins to the right. Continue ahead along Sunk Mine Road, which bears left and begins to climb. Just beyond the highest point on Sunk Mine Road, turn left onto an unmarked woods road that leads into Clear Lake Scout Reservation, and follow that road past a sign which shows the trails in the reservation that are open to the public.
At the crest of the rise, with several camp buildings visible below to the right, you'll see three blue blazes on a tree to the left. These blazes mark the start of the Blue Trail. Turn left onto the Blue Trail, which climbs to the crest of the ridge. As of this writing, the blazing of this trail is rather sparse, but if you continue along the ridge, you should be able to locate the blazes.
After a relatively level stretch, the Blue Trail climbs steeply to reach a narrow south-facing viewpoint. It continues along the ridge, with views through the trees on both sides of the trail (the views are broader when there are no leaves on the trees). The trail descends a little, then climbs briefly. At the top of the climb, there are unobstructed views of Clear Lake from open rocks to the right of the trail. A little further along, Oscawana Lake can be seen in the distance to the south.
Three blue triangles on a tree to the right mark the start of a side trail that leads down into the private camping area of Clear Lake Scout Reservation, but you should continue ahead on the Blue Trail (marked with blue rectangles). The Blue Trail (which is clearly blazed beyond this point) now descends through dense hemlock and laurel thickets.
In half a mile, the Purple Trail begins to the right, but you should continue ahead on the Blue Trail, which continues through dense vegetation. Then, in another third of a mile, the dense vegetation abruptly ends, and the trail descends through an open deciduous forest, soon reaching a T-intersection. Here, the Blue Trail turns right, but you should turn sharply left, now following the Green Trail, which begins at this intersection.
Leaving Clear Lake Scout Reservation and reentering Fahnestock State Park, the Green Trail descends steadily on a woods road bordered in places by old stone walls. The Green Trail turns right at the base of the descent and soon ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Three Lakes Trail. Continue ahead on the road, now following blue blazes, with a large wetland to the left.
Towards the end of the wetland, the trail bears right, climbs a little, and passes several openings of the Philips Mine. First worked in the late 1700s, this was one of the earliest iron mines in the area. Soon, the sounds of traffic on Route 301 may be heard. The Three Lakes Trail crosses the old Philipstown Turnpike, and it ends opposite the parking area where the hike began.