ORAK Ruins, Jackie Jones Fire Tower and Big Hill Shelter


3 hours
4.5 miles
Route Type:
Allowed on leash
Views, Historic feature
First Published:

Daniel Chazin


Big Hill Shelter in Harriman State Park


View Gate Hill Road Rt. 106 Harriman in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway north to Exit 14 and turn left onto Willow Grove Road (County Route 98). In about two miles, the road joins County Route 106, which comes in from the right. Continue for another 0.2 mile, and park in a parking area on the left, just before crossing a bridge over a stream.

Alternatively, you can take N.J. Route 17 north to the New York State Thruway and take the first exit, Exit 15A (Sloatsburg). Turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto N.Y. Route 17 north and continue through the Village of Sloatsburg. Just beyond the village, turn right at the next traffic light, following the signs for Seven Lakes Drive and Harriman State Park. Continue to follow Seven Lakes Drive for about seven miles to the Kanawauke Circle. At the circle, turn right onto County Route 106 and follow it for 3.2 miles to a parking area on the right, just beyond a bridge over a stream.


From the parking area, walk west along Route 106 for 300 feet, crossing over Minisceongo Creek. Turn left at the gated paved road and proceed uphill, following the yellow blazes of the Suffern-Bear Mountain (S-BM) Trail. You will be following the S-BM Trail for the next two miles – all the way to the Big Hill Shelter.

In a quarter of a mile, the S-BM Trail bears left onto a woods road and soon reaches the stone ruins of a large estate. Known as ORAK, the mansion was built in 1923 by George Briggs Buchanan, a vice president of the Corn Products Refining Company, which manufactured Karo syrup (Orak is Karo spelled backwards). After Buchanan died in 1939, his heirs sold the mansion to the park, and it was demolished in 1973.

Soon, you’ll reach a fork in the trail. The unmarked woods road that comes in from the left will be your return route, but for now, bear right to continue on the S-BM Trail. The trail soon bears left, leaving the woods road, and climbs to a large open rock ledge. A short distance beyond, it passes communications towers on the right and soon arrives at the 1,276-foot summit of Jackie Jones Mountain, marked by a steel fire tower. Built in 1928, the 60-foot-high tower offers a panoramic view over Lake Welch to the north and the Hudson River to the southeast. (Some of the steps leading to the top of the fire tower are in poor condition, so use caution if you choose to climb the tower)

The S-BM Trail now descends, steeply in places. After crossing a stream, it climbs a little and then resumes its steep descent. At the base of the descent, it crosses another stream and then the Old Turnpike – a wide woods road, which is now the route of a gas pipeline. After ascending slightly, it reaches a junction with the aqua-blazed Long Path, which comes in from the left.

Continue ahead on the joint S-BM/Long Path, which turns right onto a woods road. A short distance ahead, the joint trails turn left and climb to the Big Hill Shelter. Built in 1927, this stone shelter offers a panoramic view to the south, with the New York City skyline visible in the distance on a clear day. This is a good place to take a break.

When you’re ready to continue, go back and descend on the S-BM/Long Path, following the same route you took up to the shelter. When you reach the fork where the two trails diverge, bear right and continue on the Long Path. The Long Path climbs a little and then begins a steady descent, passing a vernal pond along the way. After crossing a stream, you’ll reach the wide Old Turnpike, with posts marking its use as a gas pipeline.

Leave the Long Path route here and turn left onto the Old Turnpike, which heads uphill for about 500 feet. At the crest of the rise – just before reaching a post with the number 712 – turn right onto an unmarked woods road, which heads north, uphill. In about 0.3 mile, you’ll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed S-BM Trail. The yellow blazes head both right and straight ahead, but you should turn right, now retracing your steps along the S-BM Trail. Follow the trail downhill past the ruins of ORAK and back to Route 106, then turn right on Route 106 to reach the parking area where the hike began.

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Absolutely gorgeous hike - great for kids

Went on this beautiful hike with my two older kids (9,11). The weather was perfect, the trails are very well marked and the description is very accurate (thank you Mr. Chazin). I camped with the kids at Beaver Pond Camp on Lake Welch which is very close to the start of the trail as described; I believe you could also start the hike directly from inside the campground following the camping trail (on most maps). I would classify this more on the side of easy vs. moderate but very enojable. At time the trail is really narrow so we made sure to make plenty of noise and used a walking stick to alert any sleepy reptiles. I found the ruins to be the least enjoybale part of the hike so we moved on. We did not go up the fire tower following the advice of many not so much for the hornets issue (none visible) but because the steps did not look that solid to us. From the fire tower you have to look closely to see where the trail continues (opposite from the lake views). All the brooks were dry but still clearly identifiable. I was very surprised to find no one at the leanto! We enjoyed the top of the hill rest and had the view all for ourselves. We did cross a few hikers (a group of Japanese and a father with a small child). 3 hours from start to finish including the rest stop at the top of the hill. The kids loved it and will sure go back.

Rose Redard estate

I plan on doing the hike described above and also want to visit the Rose Redard estate. The unmarked trail that leads to the Rose Redard estate, how difficult is it? Is it a somewhat easy bushwack, is it clear or is there a better way to reach it?

Redard ruins

Park at same place as was described but instead of turning left to go up the gated paved road that leads to the communications tower (and ORAK) go across the street and go to the right up SBM trail. Follow it past the Irish Potato and continue for a bit till you reach a woods road that goes to the right and down to Upper Pound Swamp. Not exactly sure of distance but 2 miles or so may be a good estimate. Go past the swamp which is actually now a shallow lake (very nice place) and continue on woods road uphill a bit till you come to a left turn on another woods road and you will see the Redard ruins. Check out these ruins . They are quite extensive. The views up there are very nice. There is no bushwacking involved at all. Only issue is you have to either head down that woods road you came in prior to turning left to the ruins and go back to Rte 106 then walk along the road 1 1/2 miles back up 106 to where you parked or you can simply back track the way you hiked in originally . .A great alternative way to do this hike is to get a ride from 106 parking lot and leave you car there then get dropped off at Lake Welch Drive. The entrance to the woods road to Upper Pound Swamp and the ruins  is pretty obvious and I use the pdf maps on my Iphone along with hard copy trail maps offered on this site.  Years ago you used to just be able to park a tiny bit up the road from woods road entrance on Lake Welch Drive. Don't have too much info on Redard estate as to what these structures actually were...however if you do go to ORAK I know lots.   About ORAK (Orak Rock Estate, Orak Rock Farm, Buchanan Mansion...all past names) If you head up the way the trail description tells you to get to ORAK, as soon as you make the left turn from paved gated road onto SBM trail pay attention to the swimming pond on the right as you pass. Once you go beyond that you will see a guard house and opposite of that house was the superintendent quarters. If you look closely you can see the superintendent quarters  foundation. Just beyond that on the left is the ruin of a structure which behind it has an old skelton of a green house/hot house  built later on. Opposite of that are two structures which were workers qtrs. You have to envison all of this being cleared out.  Follow the road uphill  a bit and you will see extensive ruins where the main house was on the left. At one time this was the summer home of George Briggs Buchanan.  Walk till you come to a worn and partially over grown driveway circle and that is where the main house was. At the circle look to the right you will see a faded trail that lead to an observation deck area overlooking the Hudson and Haverstraw. Mr Buchanan was originally from Haverstraw but he left home at an early age.  Look closely because the border of the faded trail is lined with rocks. Walk along the trail (short trail) and you will se the ruins of the observation "deck". The views here are wonderful and way back when there were not too many tall trees. 


did this hike with my 12 year old, we spent the night at the leanto , we stopped at the fire tower on the way up and on the way down , Luke was very scarred to go up when we first got there, we hung out for awhile and he finally over came his fear and loved it, wish the hatch was open to go in tower, im sure the floor was not safe so i guess it was best ( I thought of climbimg up any way, i did come to my senses and didn't do it, we hike/camp mid weak to avoid crowds , at the leanto 4 campers showed up 2 dads and there boys which was pretty cool, the 3 boys had a great time , they had tents and we hooked our hammock tent up in the leanto , we did this spring "15" now that fall is here we will try to do at least one more over night, we have done 2 leanto this one and Tom Jones, (which I went to as a boy in early 70's) I thought memories would flood back, they didn't , we will try to hike to and overnight all 9 leanto's , the ruins were nice, the view from tower were nice and the NY skyline was awesome  !

No Hornets!

Thankfully the Hornet's nest is gone. The Fire Tower does need some stair replacement. Lot's of people hiking this trail and many campers up at the Shelter. There was at least 20 people when I was there and it was gonna be a cold night so I can only imagine how crowded it must be on a warm Summer night! The Moderate rating is correct, a very enjoyable hike. The trail is well marked and directions are accurate.


       Just got back from the trail.  There are 2 Hornet nests on the Jackie Jones Fire Tower. I did'nt see them until it was too late. I walked right between them and was swarmed. I was stung several times  as I swatted and climbed up and past. This was a big mistake for now I would have to go back down and through them again. I made it to the top. Actually the top is blocked; you can only reach the floor below the top. The hornets stopped swarming me after about 3 flights of stairs. I rested near the top while I watched the skin around my sting bites begin to puff up into welts (I could'nt see the ones on my face).        After about 5 minutes I summed up the coourage to go back down. I was wearing shorts and short sleeves. I pulled my socks as high as I could and my hat as low as possible then began my desent. I made it down two flights when they attacked like kamakazi pilots. I was swarmed again but even worse. It was as if they were waiting for me. They attacked every part of my body, but they seemed to aim mostly for my eyes, forhead and neck. They were able to sting right through my polyester shirt. They were huge and black. They stayed with me for at least 5 flight of stairs. I speeded my decent by jumping 4 steps at a time. By the way there are several steps missing and some very shaky ones. I believe that I recieved at least 20 stings. My left eye swelled 1/2 shut and my knee cap swelled quite a bit. I shutter to think what would have become of me if I was alergic to bee stings or slipped and fell as I desended. I finnished the hike anyway. It really is a very interesting hike.        Please take my warning and do not assend the Jacky Jones Fire Tower! The Nests need to be destroyed.          


I hiked this trail on Sep 14th and noticed one nest on the tower.  Thankfully, I was taking the walk up the tower very slowly, and happened to notice the hive before they noticed me.  I thought about running past it quickly, but decided against it.  They didn't bother me at all.   The hike is still amazing, and the view from the Big Shelter is fantastic.  I would still highly recomend the hike to everyone.   Also, at the starting point, if you take S-BM trail north, you can see the Irish Potato (giant potato-shaped rock), and Upper Pound swamp, which is a huge lake.  Be careful climing to the top of the Irish Potato.  There's a make-shift ladder built out of old tree trunks, but it's fun if you're daring!


Oh my! I hope you heal fast! That is terrible. I have never seen hornets on the tower and done the loop many times! I'm heading out today and thanks for the warning. Somebody needs to fix this problem fast because I always see young children climbing the tower. Thanks for the heads up!

Harriman's Hike

Great directions and a enjoyable hike!  I went solo on Feb. 14th.  I should have wore my snow shoes - instead did the hike in hiking boots with Yak Trax. Doable... but the snow shoes would have been more efficient.I extended the trip by 2 miles to visit the reservoir (see map in the images), past the Big Shelter along the Yellow blaze. View my images from this hike:http://www.flickr.com/photos/sph001/sets/72157625981587509/show/