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Rocks Trail at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
This loop hike follows the scenic Rocks Trail along the southern end of the reservation, passing several historic features and viewpoints.
Moderate to Strenuous
Allowed on leash
Views, Historic feature
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
From the George Washington Bridge, proceed north on the Henry Hudson Parkway, which becomes the Saw Mill River Parkway. Take Exit 4 and continue on the Cross County Parkway, which becomes the Hutchinson River Parkway. After about eight miles, bear left and continue on Interstate Route 684. Take Exit 6 (Cross River), which briefly joins the Saw Mill River Parkway, then exits to N.Y. Route 35. Turn right and follow Route 35 east for 3.7 miles to N.Y. Route 121. Turn right onto Route 121, cross a bridge over the Cross River, then immediately turn left and enter Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Continue for 0.7 mile to the tollbooth (a parking fee is charged on weekends, daily in the summer). Make the first right beyond the tollbooth onto Michigan Road, and continue for 0.7 mile to a parking area just before a turnaround circle at the end of the road (if this parking area is full, additional parking is available uphill to the left).
This is an update of a hike originally submitted by Geof Conner on October 5, 2010
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, the largest park in Westchester County, was opened in 1938. Over thirty farms were acquired for the park, and old stone walls, which once marked the boundaries between the various farms, criss-cross the reservation. Most intersections are marked by numbered signs posted on trees. These numbers are shown on the park map and referred to in the description below. Since the trail system in the park is complex, hikers should obtain a copy of the free park map before beginning the hike.
For most of the way, this hike follows the Rocks Trail – so named because it links six historic and scenic features, each of which has “Rock” as part of its name! This trail was constructed by volunteers in 2010 and, for much of its way, follows a newly built route (rather than old woods roads).
From the circle at the end of Michigan Road, bear right and follow a road blocked by a wooden gate. Just beyond, you’ll pass a kiosk on the right with a colored map of the major trails. Bear right at the fork (junction #70), following the red and green arrows, then bear left at the next junction (#53), continuing to follow the Green Trail (the Red Trail and a branch of the Green Trail turn right here).
The Green Trail climbs steadily on a woods road, then descends to junction #35 (the number is on the back of a tree and may not be immediately visible).Turn left here onto the Red Trail, but just ahead, at junction #36, turn right onto the Rocks Trail, marked with the letters “RT” on a white background. You will be following the Rocks Trail for the next four and one-half miles (with a side trip to Dancing Rock on a white-blazed trail).
The Rocks Trail proceeds uphill on a woods road through laurel thickets. In about half a mile, you’ll reach junction #37, where a white-blazed trail begins to the left. Turn left and follow this white trail uphill to Dancing Rock – a large flat rock (marked by a few cairns), where farmers used to dance to celebrate the conclusion of the harvest season. Continue to follow the white trail, which loops behind the rock, passing some interesting stone ruins, and descends to rejoin the Rocks Trail at junction #60 (the continuation of the white trail beyond Dancing Rock and junction #60 are not shown on the park map).
Turn left and continue along the Rocks Trail, which climbs a little and crosses under power lines. It briefly parallels the power lines, then bears left and descends through the woods. On the way down, you’ll pass Bear Rock, just to the right of the trail. This rock is named for a petroglyph – a carving in the shape of a bear – on the west side of the rock, reputed to have been made by Native Americans.
After once again paralleling the power lines, the trail reaches junction #39. Here, it turns left and soon crosses two interesting stone walls. A short distance beyond, a yellow-blazed horse trail, maintained by the Bedford Riding Lanes Association (BRLA), continues ahead, but you should follow the Rocks Trail, which turns left and descends. At the base of the descent, turn right and cross a seasonally wet area on puncheons and rocks. After crossing two more stone walls, the Rocks Trail turns sharply left and parallels a stone wall, while a yellow-blazed BRLA trail continues ahead.
The Rocks Trail soon bears right, away from the stone wall, and climbs to Spy Rock, with south-facing views through the trees. During the Revolutionary War, this rock ledge was used by the Americans to observe the movements of British troops. Unfortunately, the recent growth of vegetation limits the views from this location.
The Rocks Trail now descends, passing a ledge to the left, with more views. It continues down into a gully, with impressive cliffs to the right, then climbs out of the gully and crosses a level area. It soon begins a steady descent, first gradually, then more steeply on a series of about 80 rock steps, and continues through a mixed forest of fir and beech trees.
At the base of the descent, the Rocks Trail joins a BRLA trail (marked with yellow blazes) that comes in from the right. The joint trails now head northeast, following a level woods road through a pretty valley (the BRLA yellow blazes appear infrequently).
Just past a fence on the right, the Rocks Trail turns sharply right, leaving the woods road, and continues on a footpath (this location is shown on the park map as “junction with BRLA trail”). It briefly parallels the road, then begins to climb. After crossing an intermittent stream and an old stone wall (with some cut stones), the trail climbs more steeply. It levels off, then continues on an undulating route along the side of the hill, with several rather steep ups and downs.
After briefly joining an old woods road, the Rocks Trail crosses an intermittent stream and climbs to once again pass beneath the power lines. Just beyond the power lines, it passes a huge boulder to the left, known as Castle Rock (visible behind the trees). The trail now follows a woods road to junction #59, where it turns right (ahead, the woods road is the route of a white-blazed trail).
The Rocks Trail crosses two intermittent streams on rocks, descends a little to cross a third stream, then climbs steadily to reach a high point, where the trail is marked by paint blazes on the rocks. It then descends a little and continues along the edge of the escarpment, with views to the right through the trees across the Stone Hill River valley.
About a quarter mile from the high point, the Rocks Trail reaches Raven Rocks – a spectacular south-facing unobstructed overlook from a cliff (use caution, as there is a sharp drop here!). This is the best viewpoint on the hike, and you’ll want to take a break and enjoy the views (a bench has been placed along the trail here).
The Rocks Trail now heads northwest and climbs to junction #48, where the Red Trail is on the left. Continue to follow the Rocks Trail, which turns right and descends steadily through laurel on a well-defined footpath. At the base of the descent (junction #58), the trail turns left and climbs rather steeply on a wide, very rocky route. After crossing an intermittent stream, it reaches junction #49, where a white-blazed trail begins on the right. Continue ahead on the Rocks Trail.
Immediately after passing junction #18 (where another white-blazed trail begins on the left), you’ll come to the Indian Rock Shelter (on the right) – the last of the six “rock” features along the hike. Native Americans frequented this spot because the overhanging rocks offered protection from the rain. Continue ahead on the Rocks Trail, which crosses two streams on wooden bridges.
After crossing the second bridge, bear left, uphill, to reach intersection #19, at a junction with the Red and Yellow Trails. Here, the Rocks Trail ends, and you should turn right onto the joint route of the Red and Yellow Trails, soon passing dramatic cliffs to the left. Continue to follow the Red and Yellow Trails along a wide woods road for about a mile, returning to the parking area where the hike began.